Mitch Perry Report 3.21.14: Expansion of school vouchers totally dead in Tally?


Bradenton state Senator Bill Galvano
  • Bradenton state Senator Bill Galvano
Welcome to the first full day of spring, and the second day of the NCAA College Basketball tournament. There were a couple of significant upsets in yesterday's full slate of games (and the #1-seeded Florida Gators certainly had their hands full in an unimpressive victory in Orlando), but please, folks — nobody really cares that your "bracket got busted" yesterday. Nor will they today. Nor tomorrow or Sunday. If it does happen, kindly don't share it on Twitter.

Speaking of upsets, who would have thunk that that big voucher proposal in the Florida Legislature would go down so ignominiously yesterday in Tallahassee? State Senator  Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton) said he pulled the bill because there wasn't enough time to develop accountability provisions that everybody could agree on, which was a big deal as voucher schools have somehow escaped accountability in the decade-plus that they've been growing in Florida. 

Doug Tuthill, who runs Stand Up for Students, the company that manages the tax credit scholarship program, said that he is still holding out for something to happen since Will Weatherford is so strongly behind the proposal in the House. But it takes both houses of the Legislature to pass anything, and the bill looks DOA in the Senate.

For most Democrats and their supporters at the Florida Education Association, however, there was happiness, though the FEA knows that with a full month to go before legislators end the regular session, this legislation might not be dead yet.

Meanwhile, it's pretty amazing to realize that just as Senator Galvano singlehandedly crushed the voucher plan, he might also do the same regarding a bill which would allow all Florida graduates to pay in-state tuition regardless of their immigration status. That bill passed the House yesterday, but the Tampa Bay Times might be getting a little ahead of itself with its "Historic vote on tuition" banner headline this morning. That's because the Senate's version must go through another committee chaired by that same Mr. Galvano, who has said he doesn't support the idea. 

What about putting it up for a vote with amendments? Well, that's apparently not how it works in Tally. Chairmen have an incredible amount of power, and as we're seeing with Galvano, exercise it with impunity. 

In any case, what happens to this issue will be closely scrutinized. If Florida were to pass the law (Governor Scott has already indicated he would sign it, though apparently not lobby for it), it would join 16 other states that have passed similar legislation. 

Meanwhile in Tampa yesterday, the City Council appeared to blow a lot of people's minds when they narrowly voted to kill the city's contract with the vendor responsible for their red-light camera system, joining St. Petersburg in doing so. The Tampa Tribune said the vote "defies all logic and common sense." That's because council members insisted that the dollars that come into the city's budget from the fines generated by red-light violators be put into a specific kitty to fix infrastructure issues.

We covered a meeting with Polk County-based GOP Congressman Dennis Ross on Wednesday night during which he blasted his own party (link is currently down but we hope to update this later).

And our story in the paper this week is on a feud between veteran journalist T.D. Allman and the Tampa Bay Times.

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