Florida Legislature Archives - Page 7 of 38 - Florida Politics

William Mattox: Let’s honor Mary McLeod Bethune with a K-12 scholarship program

Now that the federal government has decided to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill, the state of Florida needs to find a good way to honor one of our own: Mary McLeod Bethune, the legendary educator who founded a school for African-American girls that grew into what is today Bethune-Cookman University.

As some have suggested, it would be a fitting stroke of poetic justice for a statue of Bethune to replace Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall. (The Florida Legislature passed a measure earlier this year calling for Smith’s replacement.)

And while I certainly don’t object to this idea, my own hope is that Florida schoolchildren won’t have to travel to Washington, D.C. to see Dr. Bethune get her proper due.

Which is why I believe the most meaningful way to honor her legacy would be to name a new K-12 scholarship program after her, modeled after the recently adopted Gardiner Scholarship for special-needs children.

The Gardiner Scholarship is to 21st Century education policy what Bethune’s private school was to 20th Century educational practices — a much-needed departure from the status quo that elevates the unique worth of each child above the entrenched interests of the existing establishment.

Under Gardiner, per-pupil funds for special-needs students are placed into a “personal learning scholarship account” that parents can draw on to obtain educational resources tailored to their child’s unique needs. Importantly, these services can be bundled together at a single school or they can be obtained in an unbundled fashion from many providers.

As such, the Gardiner Scholarship expands the educational marketplace much like Bethune’s private school did a century ago. It gives new options to students whose needs are not being met by their local district school.

And by allowing parents to roll over unused funds for future educational needs (including college), the scholarship encourages parents to be resourceful and seek out educational programs offering the highest possible quality at the lowest possible price.

Rewarding resourcefulness in the pursuit of educational excellence is perfectly in keeping with Dr. Bethune’s legacy. For while she is best known for her courageous leadership elevating the lives of black schoolchildren, Dr. Bethune modeled resourcefulness in her work.

In the early days of her school, she and the members of her church made school desks and benches out of discarded crates, ink for pens out of elderberry juice, and pencils out of wood scraps. And throughout her educational tenure, Dr. Bethune made certain that her students gained both academic instruction that captured their imagination and practical skills that equipped them for the marketplace.

Adopting a universal Bethune Scholarship for all Florida K-12 students (modeled after Gardiner) would be a meaningful tribute to the legendary African-American educator. It would not only honor Bethune’s faith-informed belief in each child’s unique worth and dignity, but it would also signal that Mary McLeod Bethune’s pioneering work in education isn’t just a good lesson for an African-American history course.

It’s a legacy that ought to inspire Floridians of every background and color for years to come.

***

William Mattox is the director of the J. Stanley Marshall Center for Educational Options at The James Madison Institute. He served on the Tallahassee Civil Rights Landmark Committee and has moderated a number of educational programs on the methodology of the civil rights movement.

William Mattox: Let’s honor Mary McLeod Bethune with a K-12 scholarship program

Now that the federal government has decided to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill, the state of Florida needs to find a good way to honor one of our own: Mary McLeod Bethune, the legendary educator who founded a school for African-American girls that grew into what is today Bethune-Cookman University.

As some have suggested, it would be a fitting stroke of poetic justice for a statue of Bethune to replace Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall. (The Florida Legislature passed a measure earlier this year calling for Smith’s replacement.)

And while I certainly don’t object to this idea, my own hope is that Florida schoolchildren won’t have to travel to Washington, D.C. to see Dr. Bethune get her proper due.

Which is why I believe the most meaningful way to honor her legacy would be to name a new K-12 scholarship program after her, modeled after the recently adopted Gardiner Scholarship for special-needs children.

The Gardiner Scholarship is to 21st Century education policy what Bethune’s private school was to 20th Century educational practices — a much-needed departure from the status quo that elevates the unique worth of each child above the entrenched interests of the existing establishment.

Under Gardiner, per-pupil funds for special-needs students are placed into a “personal learning scholarship account” that parents can draw on to obtain educational resources tailored to their child’s unique needs. Importantly, these services can be bundled together at a single school or they can be obtained in an unbundled fashion from many providers.

As such, the Gardiner Scholarship expands the educational marketplace much like Bethune’s private school did a century ago. It gives new options to students whose needs are not being met by their local district school.

And by allowing parents to roll over unused funds for future educational needs (including college), the scholarship encourages parents to be resourceful and seek out educational programs offering the highest possible quality at the lowest possible price.

Rewarding resourcefulness in the pursuit of educational excellence is perfectly in keeping with Dr. Bethune’s legacy. For while she is best known for her courageous leadership elevating the lives of black schoolchildren, Dr. Bethune modeled resourcefulness in her work.

In the early days of her school, she and the members of her church made school desks and benches out of discarded crates, ink for pens out of elderberry juice, and pencils out of wood scraps. And throughout her educational tenure, Dr. Bethune made certain that her students gained both academic instruction that captured their imagination and practical skills that equipped them for the marketplace.

Adopting a universal Bethune Scholarship for all Florida K-12 students (modeled after Gardiner) would be a meaningful tribute to the legendary African-American educator. It would not only honor Bethune’s faith-informed belief in each child’s unique worth and dignity, but it would also signal that Mary McLeod Bethune’s pioneering work in education isn’t just a good lesson for an African-American history course.

It’s a legacy that ought to inspire Floridians of every background and color for years to come.

***

William Mattox is the director of the J. Stanley Marshall Center for Educational Options at The James Madison Institute. He served on the Tallahassee Civil Rights Landmark Committee and has moderated a number of educational programs on the methodology of the civil rights movement. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

Jack Edgemon: PRIDE Enterprises takes pride in reducing recidivism

April 24-30 is National Reentry Week, which provides a prime opportunity for communities across Florida to work together to reduce recidivism.

At PRIDE Enterprises, we believe it is vital to recognize this week because it aligns with our statutory missions and our role in the community. The Florida Legislature created PRIDE as a not-for-profit corporation in 1981. It works to make communities safer through a job-centered inmate training approach that lowers the number of repeat offenders and reduces criminal justice costs for all citizens, at no cost to the taxpayer.

Our role within the criminal justice system further contributes to Florida’s economy by creating jobs and stimulating the economy through the purchase of goods and services from local vendors.

PRIDE operates 41 work programs, as well as e-learning opportunities, which are used to train inmates with skills that are both transferrable and in demand in the workforce.

These programs combine on-the-job vocational training with real-world work environments inside correctional institutions, making it possible for inmates to receive training in diverse fields. These fields include manufacturing, graphics, sewn products, agriculture and processing services. Program participants were awarded 504 external certifications in 2015, which will help them stand out in their job searches.

PRIDE’s Transition Specialists work with inmates on an individual level to develop a plan for their release, which includes a portfolio of training certifications and a resume of job experiences.

Upon the release of PRIDE program participants, staff members strive to place them in full-time jobs and to assist them with basic life needs.  The most crucial part of the process is maintaining contact with  these ex-offenders for up to one year to help them stay on track in their jobs and to adjust to life outside prison.

We believe in training and rehabilitating inmates. This approach prevents individuals from falling into the “revolving door” of crime, and provides opportunity for them to come out on the other side as contributing members of society.

This method has proven to be effective. Almost 90 percent of PRIDE’s transition program participants do not return to prison within two years, and 77 percent are placed in full-time jobs.

We understand the importance of seeing the whole person, as well as their potential, instead of just their criminal justice record. During this National Reentry Week, we encourage everyone to consider doing the same.

***

Jack Edgemon is President of PRIDE Enterprises. Column Courtesy of Context Florida.

Jeremy Ring also floating run for governor in 2018

U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham rocked the Democratic side of Florida politics with her announcement Thursday morning she’s “seriously considering” a run for governor.

But of course, she won’t be alone in seeking to take back the Governor’s Mansion for the Dems for the first time since Gov. Lawton Chiles held the state’s highest post in 1998.

Margate Sen. Jeremy Ring said Thursday morning he’ll throw his hat in the ring as well.

“No door is closed for me. I am considering it, yes, and am in an exploratory phase,” said Ring, a former Yahoo! executive and moderate-leaning lawmaker, though he added, “I can’t imagine having a decision in 2016.”

Ring came out of the gate criticizing Graham for saying she was “disappointed” in the congressional redistricting decision that split her 2nd Congressional District in half, essentially evaporating her chances at re-election in the 13-county Panhandle district.

“The redistricting was done by the courts, and it’s not a conservative court. To blame the legislature, was someone disingenuous when you think all the court battles out there,” said Ring. “The court pretty much did the Legislature’s job but in the video, she blames the Legislature.”

While it’s not clear Floridians have much sympathy for the Legislature — where Ring has a long record of backing Republican-sponsored initiatives — he does make something of a valid point.

Although lawmakers were responsible for bungling redistricting in 2011, which gave rise to the yearslong court battle we’re just now untangling, it was the courts who gave us the congressional and state Senate maps pols will run on in 2016.

Ring is not well known outside of his South Florida district, but in 2018, who knows what voters’ predilections will be?

“In 2016, it comes down to fundraising. I feel I have the best bio of anyone who could possibly run,” Ring told the Tampa Bay Times. I have the best message of anyone who could possibly run — bring the innovation economy to Florida. Can I bring people to support me?”

Open roads: Florida preparing for self-driving vehicles

The future is here.

Gone are the days when self-driving cars were just a thing of science fiction. The technology is being tested across the country; and autonomous vehicles could be hitting Florida’s roads soon, thanks in part to a transportation bill signed into law last week.

Tucked into the omnibus transportation passed by the Florida Legislature in March was language that paves the way for autonomous vehicles to begin operating on Florida’s roads.

Among other things, the annual Department of Transportation bill removed language from state statutes requiring operators of autonomous vehicles to be designated as drivers for testing purposes. It also removed provisions that required a person be in the vehicle while it was being tested.

Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill April 4. It goes into effect July 1.

George Gilhooley, a Florida-based transportation consultant with engineering firm HNTB, said that change opens the Sunshine State up to more testing opportunities. Think self-driving cars on the open road, not just in the city environment; or trucking companies giving it a try in their platoons.

“Florida has set up the perfect environment for this to occur,” said Gilhooley. “Florida has always recognized the advantage of technology aiding transportation.”

Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican, has led the effort to get Florida’s transportation networks ready for self-driving cars. He’s been an outspoken supporter of the technology; and in 2012, he pushed the legislation encouraging testing and study of automated vehicles in Florida.

Brandes said that “over the last few years Florida has been very thoughtful,” about how it approaches the emerging technology. It was one of the first states to consider autonomous vehicles.

“We think it’s exciting that Florida is leading. We’re showing real leadership here,” said Brandes.

The Florida Department of Transportation has spent years studying the technology. Dick Kane, a spokesman for the Department of Transportation, said the agency has done significant research on the technology, including how automated vehicles can increase mobility for the state’s aging population and how automated vehicles can be used for transit.

“This is an emerging issue and we are following developments to ensure we are prepared to incorporate into Florida’s transportation network, even though it may be some time before the technology is adopted on a widespread basis,” he said in an email. “Planning for transportation infrastructure that accommodates and supports these new technologies will help Florida achieve its goals for mobility and safety.”

While there might not be a self-driving car in every driveway anytime soon, efforts are under way to make sure the country’s roadways are ready. Federal transportation officials announced they would begin working on guidance for deploying vehicles. Officials have said those guidelines could be completed by January.

Paul Mackie, a spokesman for the Mobility Lab, said federal guidelines being drafted will focus on vehicle technologies, infrastructure and safety. But those guidelines, he said, won’t include information about “how driverless cars could affect people and their day-to-day accessibility from place to place.”

Automakers are including the automated technology in new cars. The industry has committed to installing automatic brakes in all new vehicles. Gilhooley said manufacturers are also committed to putting short range radios in cars that would, essentially, allow vehicles to talk to one another.

But during a public hearing Friday, engineers and safety advocates said self-driving cars aren’t up to the demands of real-world driving. The Associated Press reported that several people told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that there were a host of issues the vehicles still can’t handle.

Legislation passed this year could make Florida a test lab for those real world situations going forward. Brandes said he believes the technology has the potential to make the state’s roads safer, reducing the number of distracted drivers or accidents caused by human error.

“There’s nothing I think of that would save more lives,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Rick Scott ceremonially signs Israel anti-boycott bill

Gov. Rick Scott once again threw his support behind a bill to keep Florida from doing business with firms that boycott Israel.

On Wednesday, Scott held a bill signing ceremony at the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County in Boca Raton. It was a ceremonial event only; Scott formally signed the bill into law on Mach 10.

“For many generations, Florida and Israel have been close partners and allies,” said Scott in a prepared statement. “The bill ensures the State of Florida will not support those that participate in campaigns fueled by intolerance and anti-Semitism, like the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction movement.”

The law requires the State Board of Administration to determine whether a company that wants to do business with Florida is boycotting Israel. If it does, the company is “ineligible to, and may not, bid on, submit a proposal for, or enter into or renew a contract with an agency or local governmental entity for goods or services of $1 million or more.”

The bill was sponsored by Senate President Designate Joe Negron and Reps. Ritch Workman and Jared Moskowitz.

“Those who seek to inflict economic harm on Israel or weaken Florida’s ability to conduct trade with Israel will not receive any support from the state of Florida,” Negron said in a statement.

Said Moskowitz: “Florida’s friendship and partnership with Israel is unbreakable, and we will not support acts of hatred in our state.”

The State Board of Administration and other state agencies must implement the new policy beginning Oct. 16.

Linda Cunningham: Carry your gun almost anywhere – except near politicians

In the spirit of “we ain’t got the good sense God gave a goose,” we’re fixing to tar-and-feather poor “Jim,” the West Coast anti-gun guy who started that petition to allow folks to carry guns inside the arena at this summer’s GOP convention in Cleveland.

By the time Jim fessed up to being the creator, more than 52,000 people had signed the online petition, which Jim (he’s not giving his last name to interviewers) says was satire.

Now everyone’s mad at Jim. The gun lovers are mad because Jim was poking fun at them. The gun haters are mad because, well, because they got taken, too.

Me? I think Jim’s wicked smart. He got a ton of folks exercised — and made it abundantly clear that geese have more sense than Americans when it comes to guns. The Secret Service stepped in and did a bit of face-saving for the Republicans by saying “no guns” inside the arena in Cleveland.

That way the Republican National Committee and assorted candidates — gun lovers all — didn’t have to actually tell their minions to leave the guns at home, please.

The Democrats said they’d not planned on having guns anyway, which, I suspect, is not a surprise to anyone.

Why in the world are we mad at Jim? He’s just having some fun and making a point. Ought we not, instead, be wondering why our gun-carry laws make absolutely no sense? States, including Florida, are working at breakneck speed with their beloved NRA to make it perfectly permissible to casually carry – either openly or concealed — weapons everywhere people go.

The Florida Legislature missed by a heartbeat giving the go-ahead to campus carry this last session, despite the opposition of almost three of four state residents. But, don’t try to bring your gun to a meeting with those same legislators. They frown on armed constituents.

Here’s another good one from Florida. Back in 2012, when Tampa hosted the GOP national convention, the city banned masks, brass knuckles, clubs and water guns in the eight square miles around the convention center.

But, as the Tampa Bay Times reported at the time, Gov. Rick Scott said “no way” when Tampa asked for a temporary gun ban in the same area. Bring your water pistol; go to jail. Tote your loaded side arm? AOK, as long as you’ve got a permit.

It gets crazier because the state and federal legislators make sure no one’s carrying guns where they happen to be, but they work hard at getting guns in the hands of school teachers, on campus and in public gathering spots.

You cannot bring a gun to the U.S. Congressional offices or the Florida legislative venues. Wouldn’t be safe. Bringing them to Key West’s Smathers Beach on Spring Break? Well sure. What could possibly go wrong?

Two more for instances of geese-have-more-sense:

Ohio, where the brouhaha started over the GOP convention, traditionally has allowed you to walk around with a “long” gun slung over your shoulder pretty much anywhere and anytime you want. You don’t need a permit or license. Just grab you favorite rifle or shotgun and strut your stuff. You cannot do the same with a handgun. You’ll need a concealed handgun permit to strap on that bad boy before you can mosey around.

Except, of course, at the GOP convention. Apparently, you can stop in at the neighborhood coffee shop or saunter through assorted retail shopping areas, though we advise staying clear of schools, government buildings and places that sell alcohol.

In Pennsylvania, where the Democrats will do their thing in Philadelphia, as long as you have a permit to carry, you can wander the byways with your gun at will. It doesn’t matter whether you strap it across your shoulders or conceal it under your armpit.

And, here’s a delightful quirk in Pennsylvania law: There’s no law specifically banning open carry of weapons. That means as long as you keep the guns where they can be seen, you don’t need a permit to carry and you’re free to wander.

Except, of course, at the Democratic convention because the Secret Service isn’t going to allow guns there, either.

***

Linda Grist Cunningham is editor and proprietor of KeyWestWatch Media, a digital media solutions company for small businesses. The last thing Key West needs is gun-toting drunks on Duval Street. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

Governor signs 68 bills into law, including ones to help veterans

Nearly six dozen new laws went on the books Friday.

Gov. Rick Scott signed 68 bills into law, including ones that clarify when physicians’ assistants can prescribe medication, a bill revising the state’s building codes and a host of local laws. The Naples Republican also vetoed his first bill, which would have created the Gainesville Regional Utilities Authority.

The governor also signed a bill to reduce registration fees for vessels equipped with safety features, such as an emergency indicator radio beacon. That bill was a direct response to the loss of two Florida teens this past July.

“It is heartbreaking to consider the grief of a family losing a child. I hope these important safety measures we signed into law today will help ensure that this kind of tragedy never happens again,” Scott said in a prepared statement. “We have made it a priority to make Florida the safest state in the nation, especially for those sailing and enjoying our beautiful waters.”

The teens went missing in July 2015 while they were sailing in the Jupiter Inlet. The bill (HB 427) was sponsored by Rep. MaryLynn Magar and Senate President-Designate Joe Negron.

“I want to thank Governor Scott for signing this legislation to protect Florida boaters from experiencing tragedies such as the heartbreaking loss in Jupiter last summer,” Negron said in a prepared statement. “I hope the lower registration cost for boat operators encourages more Floridians to purchase these important safety features.”

Scott also signed a bill (HB 1157) that provides more options for veterans and service members to earn college credit. The bill also helps Purple Heart recipients and other distinguished military members receive tuition waivers. He also signed a measure to allow active-duty military members serving in the United States and abroad to pay in-state tuition.

“There is no doubt that Florida stands by the members of our military and their families during their service and as they transition to civilian life,” said Maj. Gen. Michael Calhoun. “These new laws open more educational opportunities for our service members so they can pursue their dreams in Florida.”

Florida Legislature eases transfer rules for high-school athletes

The state’s oversight panel for public high-school athletics can breathe a collective sigh of relief after this past legislative session.

Conservative lawmakers have had the Florida High School Athletics Association in their crosshairs for the last five years. They’ve said constituents have long complained about their children not being able to play certain sports because of strict transfer rules.

In fact, some bills filed last year would have eliminated the organization, which oversees 32 male and female high-school sports played by 285,000 Florida students. But the group escaped harm this session.

Language from bills filed for the 2016 Legislative Session made it into a late-session education “train,” a bill that becomes a mélange of bits and pieces of related, leftover legislation otherwise doomed to die.

That bill (HB 7029), passed by lawmakers but not yet delivered to Gov. Rick Scott, contains a section for school districts to amend their eligibility requirements for high school athletes.

The provision is substantially the same as legislation pushed in the House and Senate that gave student athletes more freedom to transfer schools without incurring penalties.

Among other things, the provision allows student-athletes to be immediately eligible when they enroll in or transfer to a school and requires a local board to establish eligibility criteria.

Sen. Kelli Stargel, the Lakeland Republican who backed the legislation, said the goal of the bill is for districts to treat high school athletes “the same way as if they are in band or drama.”

“Kids are so mobile these days,” she said. “There were a lot of ways that kids were getting caught up in the process.”

But that ease of transfer was a concern for some opponents, who said it could make recruiting commonplace. Stargel said lawmakers added language to combat recruiting, including a provision that students generally can’t play the same sport at the new school.

The bill also lays out penalties for school employees who are found guilty of recruiting, requires teams to forfeit wins using recruited students and changes the threshold of proving eligibility to a “preponderance of evidence,” instead of by “clear and convincing evidence,” a tougher legal standard.

Corey Sobers, an FHSAA spokesman, said the relaxation of that evidence standard will make it easier to fine someone guilty of recruiting. Sobers said the same-sport transfer prohibition also acts as a safeguard.

The association is still reviewing the legislation; Sobers said he isn’t sure how aware member schools are of changes laid out in the proposal, and that many of the changes will be implemented at the district level.

Sobers also said he doesn’t know what other changes might be coming down the pike in future years.

“I think this, along with some changes made in the past couple of years, addresses a lot of the choice that lawmakers have been adamant about in the past couple of years,” he said.

Florida Politics reporter Jim Rosica contributed to this report.

Cohabitation repeal, All Aboard Florida beer bill among the 20 latest bills sent to Rick Scott

The stack bills on Gov. Rick Scott’s desk just keeps getting higher.

The Florida Legislature sent 20 bills — including ones to repeal the state’s ban on cohabitation, legislation to allow All Aboard Florida riders to drink beer on trains and a bill to create the Florida Holocaust Memorial — to Scott on Tuesday. The Naples Republican now has until April 6 to act on the legislation.

Among the proposal now on the governor’s desk is a bill (SB 498) that repeals a nearly 150-year old law that prohibits unmarried men and women from living together before marriage. The law currently isn’t enforced, and eight states have already repealed similar laws that made cohabitation illegal. Two states, according to a January staff analysis, still have cohabitation bans on the books.

The bill would go into effect immediately upon becoming law.

A second measure (SB 698) would allow the state’s Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco to issue licenses to railroad transit stations and operators of restaurants or other facilities that are part of a transit station. The bill would allow All Aboard Florida to offer alcohol on its trains, and would go into effect on July 1.

The Legislature also sent Scott a bill (SB 716) that calls for the state to create the Florida Holocaust Memorial. If approved, it would go into effect on July 1.

The Legislature sent Scott 17 other bills on Tuesday:

  • SB 88 – Relating to Gold Star License Plates
  • SB 90 — Relating to Natural Gas Rebate Program
  • SB 100 — Relating to Pollution Discharge Removal and Prevention
  • SB 218 — Relating to Offenses Involving Electronic Benefits Transfer Cards
  • SB 230 — Relating to Missing Persons with Special Needs
  • SB 288 — Relating to State Designations
  • SB 380 — Relating to Violation of an Injunction for Protection
  • SB 540 — Relating to Estates
  • SB 1106 — Relating to International Trust Entities
  • SB 1110 — Relating to the Central Florida Expressway Authority
  • SB 1170 — Relating to Health Plan Regulatory Administration
  • SB 1176 — Relating to Dredge and Fill Activities
  • SB 1202 — Relating to Discounts on Public Park Entrance Fees and Transportation Fares
  • SB 1274 — Relating to Limited Sinkhole Coverage Insurance
  • SB 1288 — Relating to Emergency Management
  • SB 1294 — Relating to Victim and Witness Protection
  • SB 1318 — Relating to Shellfish Harvesting

The governor now has 160 bills on his desk requiring action.

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