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Attempt to revive recess bill withdrawn from Florida Senate committee


Sen. Alan Hays' effort to bring back to life a proposal that would mandate elementary-school recess was short-lived today.

The Umatilla Republican withdrew an amendment he had filed last night on a sweeping re-write of an education bill (SB 1166) by Sen. Don Gaetz. Gaetz's rewrite broadens the education funding bill to now include more than a dozen policy issues.

But not recess.

Hays said he "really, really believes that our students deserve recess," but will "wait for a better day," after talking today with Senate Majority Leader Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, and Sen. John Legg, the Trinity Republican who chairs the chamber's education policy committee.

Hays' bill mandating recess stalled before Legg's committee, when Legg refused to take it up. Legg calls it "a local issue," although passionate "recess moms" are imploring lawmakers to take action. (The measure passed the House last week, 112-2.)

Legg told the Tampa Bay Times today that he "respectfully brought up" a Senate rule that would've required Gaetz's entire bill to be re-referred back to committee, if Hays' amendment were adopted.

Legg was standing in the corner of the Appropriations Committee room for much of the committee's marathon meeting today, which began at 10 a.m. He did not appear to be in the room when SB 1166 was taken up.

With no other discussion or debate, the 19-member Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously sent Gaetz's revised version of SB 1166 to the Senate floor. It now includes several House priorities that were also moving through Senate committees: open enrollment for public students, charter school accountability measures, youth suicide and prevention, and high school athletics proposals, among others.

One amendment that was approved on the bill, though, was a proposal by Sen. Joe Negron -- a Republican from Stuart who is set to serve as Senate president starting in November. He wants to re-name the Florida National Merit Scholar Incentive Program into the "Benacquisto Scholarship" after Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers.

Benacquisto is the Appropriations Committee's vice-chairwoman and was leading the meeting when the amendment was adopted.

SB 1166 is the second of two sweeping education bills Gaetz got through the Appropriations Committee today. More here on the first one.

Times reporter Jeffrey Solochek contributed to this report.