Gov. Charlie Crist effectively declared war on fellow Republican leaders in the Legislature Thursday when he vetoed a high-priority piece of legislation that would link teacher pay to student test scores and wipe out tenure for new teachers.
The political controversy that has ensued will usher Florida into the forefront of the national debate over education reform.
Crist, a Republican, compared the passage of the legislation to the way Congressional Democrats passed health reform by "jamming something down their throats." Crist pointed out that opponents, teachers, and Democrats had no chance to amend the bill in its final stages.
"I find the content of Senate Bill 6 and the manner of its passage significantly flawed," Crist said. "There is only one person who can accurately state the reason for the veto the one who holds the pen. I veto SB 6 because this bill is contrary to my firmly held principle to act in the best interests of the people of Florida."
Crist said the bill was too punitive to teachers, too inflexible and encroached on the power of local school boards.
A priority piece of legislation of former Gov. Jeb Bush, the bill will now play a key role in Crist's U.S. Senate campaign against Republican Marco Rubio, whom Bush is now certain to endorse. Crist is more likely than ever to withdraw from the Republican primary and run as an independent, though he'll technically remain a Republican. Asked if he'd be on the Republican primary ballot, Crist continued walking away.
Here's the veto message Download Sb6 and some excerpts:
"I veto this bill because of the process by which it was passed. This legislation sped through committee without meaningful input of teachers, students, superintendents and school boards. It was troubling to learn the bill could not be amended after it passed in the Senate, particularly when more and more concerns were coming to light."
“It is not only the substance of those issues that is important. It is also the attitude with which you address them.”
"I say we must start over. This bill has deeply and negatively affected the morale of our teachers, our parents and our students. They are not confident in our system because they do not believe their voices were heard."
The Florida Senate passed the bill 21-17; it got through the House of Representatives by a 64-55 vote. The bill had strong support among Republican Party leadership, but some in the GOP joined Democrats in opposition.
Crist has been inundated with messages about the bill, receiving more than 109,000. Though about 49,000 were still unread, almost 58,000 of the messages that had been logged were against the bill.
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