Mitch Perry, Author at Florida Politics - Page 3 of 303

Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

Stephen Bittel concedes to Florida progressives – ‘it will take time for you to trust me’

Florida Democratic Party Chairman Stephen Bittel walked into political version of a lion’s den over the weekend in Tampa and came out it not only unscathed, but maybe even a bit emboldened.

“That was a warmer greeting than I was expecting,” the recently-elected leader said in reaction to the modest applause that he received after he was introduced to the 120 members of the Progressive Democratic Caucus at the Hillsborough County Classroom Teachers Association building on Saturday.

“I know my election doesn’t make everyone comfortable,” the wealthy real estate developer added, referring to the fact that he was the clear favorite among FDP establishment figures like Bill Nelson and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (who was booed whenever her name was mentioned at Saturday’s session) in the brief campaign for party leadership, following another disappointing cycle for Democrats statewide in 2016.

Bittel was elected party chair in January, getting 55 percent of the vote against four other candidates, but it was the controversial circumstances surrounding his election as Miami-Dade County that still sticks in the mind of a number of party members.

FDP bylaws mandate that only local party chairs or committeemen and committeewomen are eligible to run for the state party chair, positions that Bittel did not hold last December, as the race to succeed Allison Tant began heating up..

But a committeeman position magically opened up for him after Miami-Dade County state committeeman Bret Berlin voluntarily gave up his position less than a week after being elected by Miami Democrats.

In Tampa, however, Bittel played the self deprecating card.

“This is not my party, this is our party,” he insisted. “I don’t do a good job of managing my house. I don’t do a good job of managing my business. I try to find smarter better people than me. I want you to help manage me.”

Quoting Pinellas County Democrat Amos Meirs that the purpose of the Progressive Caucus is to build a bridge to the state party, Bittel said that bridge “has to be built from both sides.”

On substance, Bittel said the party needed structural changes, referring to his selection of an ad hoc committee currently reviewing reforming the charter bylaws. He also said he was “sad” to learn that the state party “had not spent investing ability into our email lists so we could reach out and have more small dollar contributions.”

He also said that beginning this week he’ll be speaking out on public policies now the the legislative session is underway, talking about ex-felon rights, mass incarceration and the death penalty (the caucus supported a resolution in support of embattle Orange/Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala for statement last week that she  would not seek the death penalty against alleged cop killer Markeith Lloyd).

“It will take time for you to trust me,” he later conceded, ultimately getting more than a third of the audience to stand and cheer him as he finished his speech.

Among the folks who Bittel was trying to win over was Zenia Perez, a member of the Miami Dade Democratic Executive Committee who was elected on Saturday as at large member to the Progressive Caucus.

Perez served as the Credential Chair for the Miami-Dade DEC during the saga that led to Bittel becoming a committeeman, a process she describes as a “fiasco.”

“I’m just a little ashamed of how we conducted ourselves,” she told FloridaPolitics on Saturday. “We kind of became an embarrassment to the state in a time where it’s critical that our leadership follow the rules, because they want us all to come together.”

Referring to Bittel’s appearance, Perez said it was his job to be there and listen to the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, adding, “but then you have to work on it.”

A grassroots supporter for Bernie Sanders who also worked on Tim Canova’s unsuccessful congressional campaign against Wasserman Schultz, Perez said she was impressed by Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who gave the keynote speech this weekend at the Progressive Caucus forum.

“I think he’s going to be a really fun candidate to see on the trail,” she says of Gillum, who was also in Jacksonville this weekend to introduce himself to Democratic voters.

Perez says she has also met potential gubernatorial hopeful Gwen Graham, and said that she felt after meting her she could definitely vote for her, meeting Gillum sort of knocked her socks off.

“I’m like whoa- I want to knock on doors for you. I want to work for you,”  adding that she likes his plans on educations, the economy and criminal justice reform.

Here’s a list of officers and board members selected by the progressive caucus on Saturday:

President- Susan Smith (Hillsborough)
Vice-President – Michael Calderin (Broward)
Secretary- Lisa Murano (Palm Beach)
Treasurer – Marilyn Cappiello (Hillsborough)

Board members

Paul Stolc (Leon)
Zenia Perez (Miami-Dade)
Melody Bernal (Osceola)
Mitchell Stollberg (Broward)
Hillary Keyes (Palm Beach)
Wendy Sejour (Miami-Dade)
Mario Piscatella (St. Johns)
Amos Miers (Pinellas)
Nancy Jacobson (Orange)

 

At gathering of progressives in Tampa, Andrew Gillum says Democrats won’t win in 2018 by being ‘Republican lite’

In his first appearance in Tampa since officially declaring his candidacy for Governor, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum said the Democratic Party can win back the Governor’s Mansion next year if it convinces the voters of Florida that it can make an impact in changing their lives for the better.

“What we have to do is convince them that voting for us will make a difference in our lives,” he told the member of the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida in Tampa on Saturday. “That we have an agenda that can actually impact that and impact that for the better, and I believe we can do that. As a matter of fact, I believe I can do that, if you all allow me to be the Democratic nominee for governor for the state of Florida,” as the crowd cheered.

Elected as mayor in August of 2014 at the age of 35, Gillum has been making decisions in office of late that would undoubtedly appeal to the progressive wing of the party. He successfully defended Tallahassee’s gun laws in court after two gun rights group sued the city to try to expand firearms in public parks, and has declared Tallahassee a “sanctuary city,” a move not many other Florida communities are embracing under the current administration in Washington.

Gillum used the first part of his half-hour speech to give a quick biography to the progressives who are gathering this weekend at the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association building in West Tampa. In referring to his public school upbringing (including the fact that he was the first in his family not only to graduate from college, but also high school), he gave a major shoutout to public school teachers, saying that what they do is “the most difficult work that happens on Planet Earth.”

He ultimately warmed up to  tossed some choice red meat for the liberal audience. Rick Scott? “Trump before Trump was Trump.”

Gillum savaged the Governor for his stance on climate change, declining Medicaid expansion and stimulus money for high-speed rail, and for his reluctance to accept Syrian refugees into the state.

“Never mind that the Governor has no right to say who’s welcome and who isn’t in the state of Florida, but since he took liberties, I took liberties,” he said to titters of laughter. “I said, come to the Capitol City, where you’re welcome,” adding, “Remember, these are people being forced out of their homes. Their lives are being threatened. Persecuted.”

On making Tallahassee a sanctuary city, he chided the use of the term “illegal aliens,” saying, “Illegal is not a noun. You don’t call people illegals,” he said, saying the term was a way of stripping away someone’s humanity.

He said Florida should be the capital of solar energy production, adding that if the private sector was too reluctant to be a leader in solar, municipal electric authorities should take the lead, and made sure to mention that his city is currently building a 200-acre solar farm.

Gillum is also against the construction of the $3 billion, 515-mile Sabal Trail Pipeline planned to run from Alabama through Georgia to Osceola County.

“I had to make a public statement against it. I thought it was a no-brainer, I didn’t know that you had to do that, but apparently you do,” he said, as the audience gave him a hearty round of applause. And he promised to put “the teeth” back into the state’s Department of Environmental Protection.

Regarding the governor’s race, he spoke to the progressive caucus’ language by saying that the Democrats wouldn’t win in 2018 by being “Republican lite.”

“When our issues on the ballot, absent the candidate’s name, people agree with us! They stand with us! So what is the disconnect?” he asked. “I believe we can win by leaning into our values and not running away from them.”

“Whether you are a working class white voter or a working class black voter or a working class Latino voter, if this economy isn’t working for you, you’re pissed off! We have to lean into that. This debate about whether we double down on our base or talk to working class white people is ridiculous. You have to go everywhere. We have to go everywhere and we have to talk to everybody.”

As proof that he’s not just all talk, Gillum mentioned his visit to The Villages last weekend, where he said he spoke to a crowd of 500 people (the Villages Democratic website reported it “overflowed the 350-seat recreation center)

Referring to the fact that Democrats suffer tremendously from a lack of participation in “off-year” elections which happen to coincide for when the state votes for governor and other cabinet positions, Gillum said one reason might be that the party hasn’t given voters sufficient motivation to turn out, before quickly emphasizing that he wasn’t attacking any recent Democratic statewide candidates.

Gillum is the first major party candidate to enter the race, and has since been joined by Central Florida businessman Chris King. Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine seems likely to announce his candidacy soon, as does former Tallahassee based Congresswoman Gwen Graham. The jury is still out on what Orlando attorney and fundraiser John Morgan will end up doing.

Julianne Holt expresses concerns about Rick Scott’s move on Aramis Ayala

After Rick Scott removed Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala from the case of accused cop killer Markeith Loyd after she announced she would not pursue the death penalty in his or any other case during her tenure.

Later, Dover House Republican Ross Spano called on Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren to condemn Ayala’s actions. 

Warren refused, saying that he would seek out the death penalty only in “rare cases that are so heinous, atrocious, and undeserving of mercy as to be considered the worst of the worst in our society.”

At the Tampa Tiger Bay Club Friday, Warren was asked again about his thoughts on the case. He responded with essentially the same thing — the issue was between the governor and Ayala.

Warren did acknowledge “prosecutors have the discretion to make charging decisions or the decision not to charge, the sentences that we seek, within each municipality, locality and jurisdiction. and the exercise of that discretion is critical to having a well-functioning criminal justice system.”

That prompted a more provocative reaction from Hillsborough County Public Defender Julianne Holt, a Democrat like Warren.

“As an elected constitutional officer, I am given broad discretion on how I  run my office,” she began. “If I abuse that discretion, if I do things that are illegal, unethical immoral, things of that sort that rise to a certain level, then the governor has the ability to remove me, suspend me. If I’m charged with a criminal offense, the governor can take action.

“But it is extremely scary to me to think that if one person is unhappy with the decision that Mr. Warren makes in our community, decides to hold a news conference and be critical of him, that the next thing he would get is a message saying you’re removed from that case, somebody else is going to come in to my community and take that case.

“The next time he’s in a similar position, is he going to exercise his discretion, or is he going to be doing because he’s fearful of what may come from Tallahassee?” she asked. “I want him to keep his discretion.”

Her response was met with loud cheers from the Tiger Bay audience.

Online poll finds majority of Floridians want ACA expansion, oppose GOP proposal

A majority of Floridians would like to expand the Affordable Care Act, or keep the law as is.

Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed in a new statewide poll released Thursday are concerned that people would lose health insurance if the law is repealed, according to the Florida Atlantic University Business and Economics Polling Initiative.

FAU asked 500 Floridians over the course of four days in the past week, including Monday, when the Congressional Budget Office reported that under the proposed “American Health Care Act,” the ranks of the uninsured could increase by 14 million people next year and over 24 million over the next decade.

When asked about the Affordable Care Act, 46 percent of respondents said they approve of the health care law, while 39 percent said they disapprove. Similarly, 39 percent of Floridians stated that they would like to expand Obamacare and 14 percent want to keep it as is; 18 percent want to repeal the law, and 29 percent reported that they would like to replace the law.

Overall, 73 percent were concerned that people would lose their health insurance if Obamacare were repealed. When asked if the government should be responsible for ensuring all Americans have healthcare coverage, 64 percent said “yes” while 19 percent disagreed.

Respondents also were asked about six specific health care proposals put forth by Republican lawmakers. Only one of the proposals, lifting the $2,600 cap on flexible spending accounts to allow workers to set aside more pretax money to pay out-of-pocket healthcare expenses, had net positive support with 43 percent approving and 29 percent opposing.

As for the repeal of the 3.8 percent tax on investment income, which helps fund Obamacare and affects households making more than $250,000, it garnered 31 percent support compared with 40 percent opposition. Likewise, a proposal to replace health care subsidies with a refund tax credit of $2,000-$4,000 depending on an individual’s age and income had 26 percent support and 38 percent opposition.

A proposal to reduce federal funding to the Medicaid program was opposed by 74 percent and supported by only 16 percent. Only 15 percent of respondents support a plan to increase premiums by 30 percent for a year for those who let their insurance lapse for at least 63 days, while 60 percent oppose.

Most respondents are not in favor of allowing insurers to increase what they charge older consumers. That was least popular, with 76 percent opposing and only 8 percent supporting.

“It is evident that Floridians oppose the new health care proposals,” said Monica Escaleras, Ph.D., director of the BEPI. “These proposals are perceived to be hurting low-income and older people, while benefiting those with incomes higher than $250,000.”

The online survey of Florida residents was conducted March 10-13, and administered by Survey Sampling International. The results have a margin of error of +/- 4.3 percentage points. Additional information and full cross-tabulations are available at www.business.fau.edu/bepi.

House Democrats demand Rick Scott speak up on CBO’s scoring of GOP health care plan

Since the Congressional Budget Office said the Republican health care plan would raise the ranks of the uninsured by 14 million people next year earlier this week, Gov. Rick Scott has been silent.

Florida House Democrats are now calling him out for his sudden reluctance to weigh in on a subject he’s never been shy about talking about before.

The governor has been a major critic of the Affordable Care Act and traveled to Washington last week to meet with President Donald Trump, Sen. Marco Rubio, and House Speaker Paul Ryan to discuss the American Health Care Act.

Scott told reporters later he was “encouraged” about the Act, adding that it was still a “work in progress.”

But after the CBO came out with their score card earlier this week that said that the GOP plan would raise the number of uninsured to 24 million over a decade and could have a huge impact on Florida’s Medicaid program, the governor has been silent.

Florida House Democrats now say it’s time for him to speak up.

“Rather than acting as a leader, the Governor took the path of a typical politician and ducked the question entirely,” says House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz. “If Governor Scott isn’t prepared to defend ‘Trumpcare,’ he at least owes Floridians an explanation about what exactly he’s been discussing with Republican leadership during his taxpayer funded trips to Washington DC.”

“Trumpcare would rip the rug out from under the millions of Floridians who have gained access to quality, affordable health care under the ACA,” says Coral Gables Rep. Daisy Baez. “This would be incredibly harmful to the overall health and well-being of all Floridians, and they deserve to know where Governor Scott stands on this issue.”

Democrats note that Florida leads the nation in those finding coverage through the insurance exchanges established by the Affordable Care Act, with over 1.6 million Floridians signing up during this year’s open enrollment period. They also not that the plan will be financed in part by cutting $880 billion to Medicaid, which could have a huge impact on states like Florida, which opted not to expand Medicaid under the ACA.

“Florida’s Medicaid system is already lacking the resources necessary to provide the level of care our citizens deserve, and these proposed cuts would be devastating for our state’s working families,” said Miami Rep. Nick Duran. “I would encourage the Governor to consider carefully how many Floridians stand to lose from the proposed billions of dollars in cuts to the Medicaid program.”

A former health care executive before entering the political stage, Scott savaged the ACA even before it was signed into law by Barack Obama in 2010, and his criticisms have never stopped.

“Other than President Obama and a few stragglers, everyone now realizes that Obamacare was a terrible notion,” Scott wrote in an op-ed in USA Today last fall. “It was sold on a lie. It was invented by liberal academic theorists who have no interaction with real families and businesses and therefore it doesn’t work.”

“This is no time for Republicans to go wobbly or get weak in the knees about repealing Obamacare,” the governor wrote in another column for CNN.com in January. “If we refuse to roll back the welfare state, what real purpose do we serve?”

However, a number of congressional Republicans, including Miami Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen are expressing serious doubts about the House proposal in the wake of the CBO report.

Joe Gruters says he’s a long shot for CFO position, but appreciates the mention

Sarasota GOP Chair and state Rep. Joe Gruters said he is a “long-shot” to be Gov. Rick Scott‘s choice to succeed Jeff Atwater as Chief Financial Officer once Atwater leaves the office in May.

On Wednesday afternoon, Gruters appeared on Tampa Bay area radio station News Talk 820 WWBA with guest host David Jolly, who formerly represented Florida’s 13th Congressional District.Gruters had shown loyalty to Scott and President

Jolly said Gruters had shown loyalty to Scott and President Donald Trump when he backed both candidates when they were considered outliers within the GOP, and Scott would reward such loyalty by picking Gruters to succeed Atwater later this year, Jolly said.

“Well, Congressman, that’s so nice of you to say,” Gruters responded, as Jolly laughed.

“Even to be mentioned with some of these other names that are being popped up is an incredible honor,” Gruters continued. “I don’t know who it’s going to be. My guess is that I’m a long shot candidate, there’s other great candidates like (Jacksonville Mayor) Lenny Curry, Pat Neal, who’s a great friend of mine in Manatee County who would be a strong 2018 contender.

“But here’s the deal: you never know. Listen, I’m going to continue to fight for jobs and economic development no matter what the position I’m in, whether it’s state House or anything else.”

“Joe, you’re a winner in Florida politics,” replied Jolly, who was guest-hosting for Dan Maduri. “It wouldn’t surprise me if either now or in the future, we’re talking about Joe Gruters in a Cabinet position.”

Atwater announced he will leave the CFO position after the regular Legislative Session ends in May. Scott has given no indication about who he will select to replace him.

Kathy Castor one of six Democrats calling on EPA IG to probe potential conflicts of interest with Scott Pruitt

Tampa Representative Kathy Castor is one of six Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee who reached out to the EPA inspector general earlier this week, calling on him to investigate the agency’s conflict of interest policies and procedures in the wake of reports of a close relationship between industry groups and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.

The letter to Inspector General Arthur A. Elkins, Jr comes in response to Pruitt’s rejection of scientific evidence that human activity is a significant contributor to global warming, as well as reports that he coordinated closely with the oil and gas industry while serving as attorney general of Oklahoma, and the fact that he has sued the government because of environmental rules in the past.

“It is critical that EPA and all federal agencies maintain effective conflict of interest policies and ethics requirements in order to ensure government operates in an honest and transparent manner,” the letter said. “Your investigation will help us better understand the role your office will play in ensuring strict adherence to such rules and guidelines, and how EPA and its new management will address these concerns.”

In addition to Castor, the letter was signed by New Jersey’s Frank Pallone, the ranking member of House Energy and Commerce Committee; Illinois’ Bobby Rush, the energy subcommittee ranking member; New York’s Paul Tonko, the environment subcommittee ranking member; Oversight and Investigations Ranking Member Diana DeGette of Colorado and Maryland Representative John Sarbanes. 

As part of the investigation, the Democrats say that they want the answers to these questions:

What conflict of interest policies, procedures, and laws exist to ensure Pruitt and all other current political appointees do not have conflicts of interest with their positions at EPA or with EPA enforcement actions?

Do these policies specifically consider whether Pruitt or other political appointees or their spouses maintain any financial holdings (including but not limited to stock holdings or mutual fund holdings) in the oil and gas industry or electric utility industry

What agency ethics trainings and certifications are Pruitt and all other current political appointees required to complete in order to join the agency

How do agency conflict of interest policies, procedures, and any relevant laws restrict Pruitt’s ability to coordinate, fundraise, or otherwise support organizations in which Pruitt previously served in a leadership capacity?

You can read a copy of the letter here.

 

 

Dana Young says Bob Buckhorn should support utility legislation

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn says a bill co-introduced by Tampa state Senator Dana Young would take away local control of public spaces, but Young says that the mayor has it wrong in his concerns about what the bill will actually do.

“Telecommunications companies are pushing SB 596 and HB 687, legislation that would allow them to place small refrigerator-sized equipment, and even towering poles, on public rights of way. If passed, local governments would have no control over where this communications equipment would be placed or how it would look,” Buckhorn writes in an op-ed published in the Tampa Bay Times. “This idea tramples on the authority of the very local officials you entrusted to make decisions about how your community, and all others in Florida, look and feel.”

The bill, named the “Advanced Wireless Infrastructure Deployment Act,” is being sponsored in the Senate by Palm Coast Republican Travis Hutson, chairman of the Senate Regulated Industries committee. It would prohibit the Department of Transportation and certain local governments from prohibiting, regulating or charging for placing small wireless facilities in rights of way. It also says that local governments can’t require applicants to perform services unrelated to the approval that’s being sought, like reserving fiber or pole space for the governmental agency. It also says that local governments can’t ask the applicant to “provide more information to obtain a permit than is required of electric service providers and other communications service providers that are not wireless providers.”

“When public officials consider where structures may be located, they evaluate many factors, including a community’s character, the safe installation of such facilities, and the cost to the taxpayers,” Buckhorn writes in his op-ed. “The proposed legislation directly negates this by allowing telecom companies to construct equipment with no concern about how they affect our neighborhoods, public safety, or local budgets.”

Buckhorn adds that the legislation also “diminishes communities. The legislation would interfere with a community’s ability to maintain its unique character, and would hand the telecom companies license to create permanent eyesores.”

But Young says that the legislation only addresses wireless equipment that would be installed in “existing right-of-ways where utility infrastructure exists today.”

“The bill does nothing to change a local government’s ability to preserve historic areas like our own Ybor City, nor does it affect the power of cities and counties to regulate siting of new infrastructure and equipment as they do now,” Young tells FloridaPolitics.

“This bill originated because once providers began to upgrade to 5G infrastructure some local governments put in place a moratorium to actually block innovation. If the mayors of our cities and towns want to stay on the edge of innovation and for their constituents to have access to the highest speed wireless services they will support this bill,” Young says in a statement. “This bill will bring our state into the next generation of wireless technology with many applications. To do this we must be flexible so Tampa can stay on the cutting edge of technology.”

The bill is being sponsored in the Florida House by Lake Wales Republican Mike LaRosa, where it was heard in the House Energy & Utilities Subcommittee on Wednesday.

The bill has the backing of telecommunications giant AT&T, among other pro business groups. Associated Industries of Florida called it “good public policy” in a statement offered Wednesday, saying that it “will spur increased investments in the state, attracting innovative and technologically advanced companies to Florida.”

Sean Shaw and Darryl Rouson attempt to deal with Florida’s ban on voting rights for ex-felons on the front end

Under current Florida law, those who are convicted of any felony lose the right to vote, the right to sit on a jury, the right to hold public office, and the right to possess a firearm, unless they are granted the restoration of their civil rights by the state Office of Executive Clemency.

Legislation being sponsored by Tampa Bay area Democrats Darryl Rouson and Sean Shaw would end the automatic suspension of civil rights for those convicted of a non-violent felony.

“Even if the sentence has been served, a felony conviction in the State of Florida is a lifelong punishment,” says House District 59 Representative Sean Shaw in a statement released by the Florida House Democrats on Wednesday. “It is unreasonable to expect someone to fully reintegrate back into society when they are being treated as a second class citizen. If we are serious about sustaining a fair system of justice, we must send a message that if a person is convicted of a non-violent crime, their rights won’t be permanently taken away.”

St. Petersburg’s Daryl Rouson is sponsoring an identical bill (SB 848) in the Senate.

The bills are part of a whole series of criminal justice reforms that are being debated this session in the Florida Legislature, but whether they can get GOP buy-in is another story.

Florida is one of just a handful of states that does not automatically restore voting rights once a felon has paid his or her debts to society, a fact of life in the Sunshine State for decades. There are 1.6 million Floridians currently disenfranchised — the highest state total in the nation — and over 10,000 are waiting for a hearing on their restoration applications.

A class-action lawsuit filed earlier this week aims to automatically restore former felons’ voting rights and eliminate Florida’s rights restoration process.

The Fair Elections Legal Network and the law firm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC filed the lawsuit on behalf of seven former felons. It targets all four members of the Cabinet, and six other state officials, including Secretary of State Ken Detzner and Department of Corrections head Julie Jones.

As of March 1, the backlog of applicants for voting rights restoration stood at 10,513, but the suit alleges that the Clemency Board only hears an average of 52 cases per quarter. “At this rate, if no new applications were submitted, it would take the Clemency Board almost 51 years to hear the entire backlog of applicants,” the plaintiffs write.

The suit also says that the number of applications granted has dropped significantly since Scott took office in 2011, with only 2,488 applications having been granted.

There is also an effort to get a constitutional amendment on the 2018 ballot by the group Floridians for a Fair Democracy that would automatically restore voting rights to nonviolent felons.

Senate advances high school financial literacy bill

A proposal by Port Orange Republican Dorothy Hukill to require high-school students to take a half-credit of instruction in personal financial literacy and money management easily won approval in the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Pre-K-12 Education on Wednesday.

However, several lawmakers expressed reservations about the fact that unless lawmakers extend the hours of the school day or school year, the inclusion of this required course will eliminate another course, potentially exposing how Florida students are behind the curve compared to others around the nation and the world.

The quest to get Florida high school students more financially literate began in 2013, when the Legislature approved a feasibility study conducted by the Department of Education about implementing such a course in Florida high schools.

Tallahassee Democrat Bill Montford said he strongly supported the legislation, but he expressed concerns that by requiring that such a class be part of the regular curriculum in Florida high schools, another program may have to be jettisoned.

“We’re still stuck on the same number of hours a day, 180 days a year, and every time we add something in as a graduation requirement, something else has got to fall out, and in the past that has usually been art, music, and physical education,” said Montford, a lifelong educator.

Montford said that if students in Florida are going to have to compete nationally and even internationally in 2017, “we’ve got to bite the bullet” and begin adding more time in the classroom over, mentioning that children in other countries go to school for eight hours a day and “200 something days out of a year.”

Eastern Hillsborough County Republican Tom Lee agreed in part, saying that the Legislature has also been working on other bills that would be added to the regular curriculum, such as making computer coding a second language to study, as well as a recess bill. But he said that the need for financial literacy was paramount.

“There are too many people who reach adulthood,” Lee said, “and very shortly thereafter, are in big trouble and spent the next seven years of their life trying to dig out of debt.”

There is a similar bill in the Florida House (HB 955) sponsored by Seminole Republican Larry Ahern and Fort Myers Republican Heather Fitzenhagen.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons