Today's news -- November 30, 2017





Ban on aid to religious groups could get erased *

A ban on state support for religious groups would be removed from the Florida Constitution under a proposal approved Wednesday by a Constitution Revision Commission panel. In a 5-1 vote, the commission’s Declaration of Rights Committee endorsed a measure (Proposal 4) that would eliminate the Constitution’s so-called “no-aid” provision, which prohibits public funding “directly or indirectly” for any church, religious group or “sectarian institution.” The no-aid provision, which dates to Florida’s 1885 Constitution, has been invoked in recent years in legal fights over using publicly funded vouchers to send students to private schools. A state appellate court in 2004 cited the provision in striking down a voucher program, though the Florida Supreme Court later found the program unconstitutional on other grounds. Constitution Revision Commission member Roberto Martinez of Miami said he sponsored the proposed change because he believed the no-aid provision was being used to prohibit churches and other groups from performing non-religious activities based solely on their statuses as religious organizations. Martinez said the ban was unnecessary and that using state funding by a group to promote religious activities would violate another constitutional provision prohibiting laws involving the “establishment of religion.” “If the church was going to use it in a way that would promote a particular religious objective, then I think it would run afoul of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment,” Martinez, an attorney, said. Marco Paredes, associate director for the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops, said his organization supported the proposal as a way to let church-related groups participate in other activities. “We believe this proposal is good public policy,” Paredes said. “It restores an equal and rightful place to faith-based organizations in the public square.” Paredes also said if the no-aid provision remains, it potentially could jeopardize other programs, ranging from hospitals to housing programs to natural-disaster relief, that receive public funds but are run by religious groups. “All these programs face an uncertain future because at any time someone could challenge (them),” he said. Mary Adkins, a law professor at the University of Florida and the author of a recent book on the development of Florida’s Constitution, said there is debate over whether no-aid provisions across the nation were the result of anti-Catholic sentiment in the 19th century. But she said there was “no hint of anti-Catholic animus” in Florida. Florida is one of 37 states that has a no-aid provision in its state constitution. Adkins warned commission members that adding a “controversial” provision like the no-aid proposal could jeopardize the commission’s entire slate of measures. She noted a similar no-aid constitutional amendment failed in 2012 with only 44.5 percent support from voters. Commissioner Arthenia Joyner, a former Democratic state senator from Tampa, cast the only vote against the proposal, saying it would “gut” court rulings that have blocked the expansion of school vouchers. Martinez’s proposal next heads to the commission’s Education Committee. If it moves forward to the full 37-member commission, it will need at least 22 votes to go before voters in November 2018.



Excuse me, who’s in charge of today’s scam?

This is your shindig. Or at least it’s supposed to be. The Constitution Revision Commission was created a half-century ago just so you, the Florida voter, would have a chance every generation to consider major changes to how the state is run. Unfortunately, we put politicians in charge of choosing the party’s soundtrack. And that means we get the same ol’ song-and-dance. Let me explain: The folks in charge of the commission — chosen almost entirely by the governor, Senate president and House speaker — spent months listening to ideas from Florida residents about possible constitutional amendments to be put on the ballot in 2018. They heard thousands of ideas. Literally, more than 2,000. And of all those proposals, do you know how many were chosen for further consideration? Six. Or, if you’re mathematically inclined, about 0.3 percent. The last time a commission was put together, back in 1997-98, it seemed to take its obligation to residents more seriously. About 18 percent of the public proposals advanced to the committee level. So, OK, maybe they’re just being picky this time. Maybe they are determined not to overwhelm the ballot with unnecessary amendments. Maybe, when it comes time to offer their own proposals, they’ll be just as finicky as they were with the public suggestions. And then we get days like Wednesday. The folks on one committee approved a potential amendment that would repeal a ban on sending taxpayer money directly to religious institutions, including private schools. Now if that sounds familiar to you, it should. The Legislature put a similar amendment on the ballot in 2012. And it was defeated by voters. With emphatic fervor, I might add. Constitutional amendments need 60 percent of the vote to pass, and this stinker got 44.5 percent in 2012. In other words, it got a lot fewer votes than Mitt Romney did in Florida. And I’m not hearing a lot of groundswell for his comeback. This isn’t an argument against the merits of the amendment. There will be plenty of time for that discussion if the proposal gets the necessary approval from the entire commission and finds its way onto the 2018 ballot. Instead, this is an argument against the process. The commission is supposed to give voters an opportunity to have their say. It’s not supposed to be a second chance for failed legislative priorities. And, yet, that’s exactly what we’re seeing. Wednesday’s proposal to repeal the ban on taxpayer money going to churches, synagogues and mosques is only one of several that would lead the way to universal school vouchers and the subsequent bankrupting of Florida’s public schools. Because the courts have slapped down other attempts at expanding vouchers, lawmakers are doing an end-around with the amendment. The commission is doing a similar ploy to resurrect a 24-hour waiting period on abortions that the courts have also deemed unconstitutional. It might also mess with a previously passed class-size amendment. These are ideas that your career politicians in Tallahassee have been trying to force through for years. And, instead of taking no for an answer, they are repackaging their proposals in cheerful new language with the hope that you’re not paying close attention. It’s a heck of a way to run a commission that was created ostensibly to give Florida residents a greater say in how the state is run. But, you know what they say in Tallahassee: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try to scam the voters again.


House panel to hear views on voucher oversight *

A Florida House panel will hear about “oversight and monitoring” in the state’s school scholarship programs next week. These programs, often called school vouchers, were the subject of an Orlando Sentinel investigation published last month. A subcommittee of the House education committee will hear about requirements and outcomes for the scholarship programs — which pay for private school tuition for students with disabilities and those from low-income families — at the December 6 meeting. Lawmakers will also hear a “panel discussion on oversight and monitoring in scholarship programs,” according to a meeting notice. No other details were yet available. The Sentinel’s “Schools Without Rules” series documented how 2,000 private schools will receive nearly $1 billion this year through the scholarships with little oversight from the state. Private schools don’t have to follow public school standards when it comes to whom they hire, what type of facilities they operate in or the curriculum they teach. The Sentinel found that some private schools hire teachers without training or even bachelor’s degrees, meet in tiny storefronts and falsify health or fire inspection documents they submit to the state. After the series was published, a spokesman for House Speaker Richard Corcoran said the House would hold a hearing about Florida’s three scholarship programs — Gardiner, McKay and Tax Credit. “In the coming weeks the House will look at many issues, including some raised by the Sentinel, to ensure the goals of these programs are being met and if not, to offer improvements,” said Fred Piccolo, Corcoran’s spokesman earlier this month. The meeting of the House’s Pre-K-12 Innovation Subcommittee is slated for 10:30 a.m. December 6 in Tallahassee.


Classrooms need some controversy for learning


Palm Beach district, union agree to 3.2 percent average raise for teachers (Justin Katz quoted)


Superintendent: Hillsborough teachers are “positioned very well” on pay (Stephanie Baxter-Jenkins quoted) (James Stewart quoted)

Legislative lessons: Help needed, but is anybody paying attention? (Don Peace quoted)


State teacher shortage continues


Questions remain about math behind Scott’s “record” K-12 spending


Community schools provide evidence-based approach under ESSA (NEA and AFT mentioned)


Speculative charter school growth


Jeb Bush’s privatization ball: You are not invited


What really happened at the D.C. high school where every senior got into college


FAMU Board of Trustees votes to make Robinson permanent president


USF adjunct professors protest for better conditions


Why you should be worried about Congress trying to tax graduate students


A Republican tax proposal would make academia even whiter


No more “toughing it out”: Let’s end sexual harassment on campus


California attorney general sues for-profit Bridgepoint Education


Senate staffer who accused Latvala of sexual harassment goes public


Latvala denies “touching” women, says he may have made offensive remarks


Renner: “5 or 10 percent” of Tallahassee pols have “personal conduct” issues


State Supreme Court rejects Scott request to remove Pariente from case


Floridians can help restore ex-felons’ voting rights. It’s only fair.


Florida to get $615 million in federal relief for Hurricane Irma


Assisted living facilities face $280 million tab for generators


Thousands of boats wrecked by hurricane could pollute state's ecosystems


Florida closes the books on rough hurricane season


Data shows hurricane deaths in Puerto Rico could be 20 times higher


Puerto Rico relief has been an utter failure


A controversial “oversight board” could take over Puerto Rico’s rebuilding effort


Online job board set up to help employ Puerto Rico evacuees in Florida


Prominent Republicans say Scott killed CFO proposal to help political ally


Everglades is now most critically endangered site in country


Senate GOP clears key hurdle on taxes


It started as a tax cut. Now it could change American life.


CBO releases report that should worry Collins and Murkowski


Five big problems the Senate Republican tax bill creates


Five ways the GOP tax plans help wealthy whites and hurt minorities


Why are Republicans raising taxes on millions of Americans?


GOP tax plan would widen wealth gap


A “Main Street” tax speech becomes a Trump riff on the rich


Trump says the tax bill will “cost me a fortune.” That’s false.


Trump sells tax plan with false claims


Wavering senators buy Trump’s assurances on taxes. Really.


Kansans beg Moran: “Why take this failed experiment nationwide?”


How tax bills would reward companies that moved money offshore


A business tax fight erupts over the “haves” and “have-mores”


The Senate is rushing to pass its tax bill because it stinks


Kill the tax bill


No serious lawmaker should support this tax bill


A moment of truth for our country’s financial future


Does the GOP understand tax policy anymore?


Republicans may add a “trigger” to their tax bill. It won’t work.


Nelson: Collins shouldn’t use our bill to justify vote for tax cuts


White House dismisses Rubio plan to beef up child tax credit


Rubio bucks Trump, proposes higher corporate tax rate


Special counsel delays grand jury testimony amid signs of Flynn deal talks


Kushner met with special counsel about Flynn


Prince testimony could shed light on secret Russia meeting


Maryland, D.C. get subpoena power in Trump emoluments suit


Political humorist identified as Stone's link to WikiLeaks


Putin ally is tied to one of D.C.’s swankiest mansions


Kobach wants to make it harder to vote -- but he’s failing in Kansas


Top Democrat ratchets up government shutdown fight over “Dreamers”


Trump still hasn't mastered the art of dealing with Democrats


Rubio on shutdown: “It’s possible. But I hope not.”


Trump's new team of judges will radically change American society


GOP senator suggests Trump is strong-arming judicial nominees through Congress


Conservatives should oppose expanding the federal courts


Justices seem to favor more restraints on government access to digital info


An economic fair housing act


U.S. spends twice as much on tax break for rich as on rent for the poorest


House panel votes to expand right to carry concealed guns in victory for NRA


Air Force failed to report dozens of service members to gun database


Trump says pharma gets away with murder. Azar wields the hatchet.


Lawmakers confront FBI director over report on black extremists


Sessions says he supports new legislation to strengthen DEA enforcement


Trump nominates conservative economist for Fed board


Federal contractors are offshoring at a fast clip under Trump


U.S. warns North Korean leadership will be “utterly destroyed” in case of war


White House: “Additional sanctions” on North Korea coming “very shortly”


Are we headed toward a new Korean war?


US, China hold low-key military talks amid North Korea tensions


Trump plans Tillerson ouster soon; Pompeo would replace him


The national security emergency we’re not talking about


Trump shares anti-Muslim videos and Britain’s leader condemns them


Sarah Huckabee Sanders tacitly endorses using anti-Muslim propaganda


British far-right group exults over attention from Trump\


Trump’s anti-Muslim and anti-media tweets demonstrate deep insecurity


You don’t have to be a Muslim to be horrified by Trump’s anti-Muslim bigotry


The true cost of Trump’s basketball intervention in China


NBC receives at least two new complaints about Lauer


Men who shaped 2016 election coverage keep being accused of sexual misconduct


Keillor fired by Minnesota Public Radio


NPR chief news editor departs after harassment allegations


CNN producer fired over misconduct allegations


Woman’s effort to infiltrate The Washington Post dated back months


Meet the people bankrolling James O’Keefe’s group


Lashing out at news media, Trump brings up Scarborough conspiracy theory


Brzezinski: Trump's Scarborough tweet “crossed another deeply disturbing line”


Could Scarborough sue Trump for libel?


Justice Department shuts down question from CBS News about affirmative action


Time, the Koch brothers and the fiery populist roots of their new business partner


Journalism is under siege


Trump veers past guardrails, feeling impervious to the uproar he causes


Trump’s belief in wild conspiracy theories shows he’s out of touch and in chaos


Trump clings to conspiracy theories — and strengthens the case for his removal


Trump's behavior raises questions of competency


Time to talk impeachment


Our political foundation is rotting away


Kelly’s losing battle with Trump’s Twitter feed


The Trump allegations




 0 user(s) rated this page
Login to leave a comment
No Comments yet