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15 posts from September 23, 2013

September 23, 2013

Gaetz wants new rules dictating where legislators must live to represent districts

Sen. Don Gaetz told Senate leaders on Monday that it is time to end the confusion over where a legislator can live while representing a district, announcing that he hopes to persuade the House to adopt a joint rule that will clarify the current requirement.

Gaetz, R-Niceville, would not elaborate what the requirement will be except to say “any rules that we have have to be rooted firmly in law.”

Current rules require that a legislator only be a registered voter in the district he or she represents, not have his homestead there. It is not clear whether the new rules will require that the homestead be in their district either.

“It’s not the British parliament, where you get to move to anywhere there is an open seat. You ought to be going to grocery store, an synagogue and church among the people that you represent. That’s what a representative democracy is about.”

He said that “any rules that we have have to be rooted firmly in law” but dismissed any suggestion that they would seek a new statute or constitutional amendment.

“Why use a jackhammer when a tackhammer will do the job?’’ he said. A Senate rule can be only enforced by the Senate, leaving it up to the body to dictate the reprimand and punishment.

Gaetz noted that the current requirement “may have been loose enough so that people may have had an honest misunderstanding as to what it means to live among the people you represent.”

The issue has many legislators anxious as redistricting last year forced many of them to set up temporary residence in districts that were outside of their original home territory. Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, came under such fire that this summer she changed her voter registration to a condominium in Delray Beach after listing her residence as a condo Fort Lauderdale for the last year. 

Read Rick Scott's Common Core letters, order. A Jeb Bush dis? Not quite. Will Legislature abide? Yes


Gov. Rick Scott today made a surprise decision to try to remove Florida from a consortium of states working to create unified tests benchmarked to what are known as Common Core standards (background here).

In between Scott's letters and an executive order (below), it's see some of this as helpful to former Gov. Jeb Bush, whose education foundation has made Common Core a top issue and who has gone out of his way to knock back suspicions that the standards amount to federal overreach.

Conservative activists fear, among other things, that the national consortium of 45 Common Core states and the involvement of the U.S. Department of Education amounts to potential federal control. And Scott echoes the concern at the top of his executive order, which begins:

"WHEREAS, the Federal government has no constitutional authority to unilaterally set academic standards for Florida, nor any authority to unilaterally direct local school board decisions on curriculum and instruction; and

"WHEREAS, Floridians will not accept government intrusion into the academic standards that are taught to our students in our classrooms and will not tolerate the Federal government using such standards to coerce policy decisions at the state or local level on the issues of assessments, curriculum, and instructional materials, which are within the Constitutional purview of Florida's state and local governments...."

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Scott: Florida should pull out of PARCC

Gov. Rick Scott is directing the state Education Board to withdraw from the national consortium creating tests to accompany the new Common Core State Standards.

Scott sent a letter to state Board of Education Chairman Gary Chartrand Monday recommending a six-point action plan for pursuing higher standards in education.

His first recommendation: pull out of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, and start the competitive bidding process to select the state's new assessment.

Scott also suggested the education department hold a series of public hearings on the Common Core benchmarks to "identify any opportunity to strengthen or risks for federal intrusion in Florida's standards."

In addition, Scott penned a note to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan informing the federal government of Florida's intentions to sever its fiscal ties with the PARCC. Florida had previously been named the consortium's "fiscal agent."

Scott reiterated his commitment to high standards in Florida to Duncan.

"In recent months, however, the debate over how to best accomplish this has devolved into whether Floridians and all Americans are simply 'for Common Core' or 'against Common Core,' with federal government involvement in PARCC a central part of the problem for states," he wrote.

The measure comes amid mounting controversy over the standards, which were developed by the National Governors Association and are being taught in schools statewide.

Critics, including Tea Party groups, say education decisions should be made on the local level, not by the federal government.


Rebecca Fishman Lipsey named to state education board

Gov. Rick Scott on Monday appointed a former teacher and Teach for America leader to the State Board of Education.

Rebecca Fishman Lipsey, 32, of Aventura, served as the executive director of Teach for America in Miami-Dade from 2008 to 2012. Before coming to South Florida, she taught fourth- and fifth-grade students in the New York City public schools.

“With an exceptional career in education, Rebecca is committed to student success and accountability, and it is clear she will be a tremendous advocate for all Florida students," Scott wrote in a statement. "Rebecca will help continue to ensure we are holding students to high standards in Florida and giving them the support they need to succeed in college and their career.”

Said Lipsey: “As a life-long educator, I am deeply committed to what is best for children and could not be more humbled to bring my experience to the table.  Having worked closely with principals, parents, educators and students from diverse backgrounds, I know that it is possible for all students to succeed.”

Lipsey will succeed Kathleen Shanahan, a one-time chief of staff to former Gov. Jeb Bush. Shanahan's term is up at the end of December.

Lipsey's appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

Rouson's fate at incoming House minority leader to be decided tonight

Whether or not Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, hangs on to his House Minority Leader job for 2014-2016 hinges on how he fares during a Monday night meeting. It starts at 5:30 p.m., but unlike other House Democratic Caucus meetings, this one will be closed to the public and held at the Florida Education Association, at 213 South Adams Street.

There will be a lot to discuss. Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant fired two staffers when it was discovered in early September that they had helped create a fundraising committee that only Rouson could control.

Rouson closed the committee and returned the $147,000 the committee had raised, but the damage was done and House Democrats, at the behest of their current leader, Rep. Perry Thurston, D-Plantation, scheduled a meeting tonight to discuss whether Rouson should remain the leader in 2014, a race he narrowly won with a 23-21 vote in February.

Thurston has told Democratic members to keep mum about the internal strife in hopes that Democrats will resolve their differences behind closed doors. That’s the one goal that Democrats can agree on heading into the meeting.

‘If (Rouson) stays or goes, what I’m concerned with is ‘Will we recover?’” said Rep. Jared Moskowitz, D-Coral Springs. “This fighting amongst ourselves is exactly what Republicans want to see. One way or another, we have to move on.”

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