December 2017 Month in Review – State News

Published 12/27/17; updated 12/31/17

Perhaps the most stunning news in December was the resignation of Republican Senator Jack Latvala, a long-time Tampa Bay leader and candidate for governor, amid an ever-growing scandal involving sexual harassment charges by female staff and lobbyists. Unfortunately, I fear these are not the last harassment stories to come from our state capitol:

Meanwhile, our elected officials continued preparing for the 2018 legislative session that begins on January 9. Committees have been meeting since September, hearing background presentations and considering proposed legislation. To-date, more than 2500 bills have been filed in the House and Senate. The filing deadline is the first day of session, and the last-minute flurry of activity is still to come.

Separately, the Florida Constitution Revision Commission continued holding committee meetings leading up to its ultimate decision on which of the 103 commissioner-proposed amendments to place before voters in November.

And some notable decisions were handed down by the courts this month as well.

In this post, I’ll share news stories, editorials and opinion pieces I’ve read about these and other activities. Consider what each bill, proposal or amendment says about its sponsor’s view of the role of government and public policy, or what an article tells you about state government as a whole. Let your representatives know if you do or don’t agree with what they’re doing and/or how you want them to vote. Now more than ever, it is important that informed voters let their voices be heard.

Top stories – state legislature

As in prior years, there continue to be efforts in Tallahassee to change how education is provided and paid for in Florida. These are some stories about activities to be aware of. I’ve provided a link when a proposed bill is involved.

I’m also watching legislation that will affect the environment:

How everything will be paid for is a third area I’m following. Like most states, Florida’s constitution requires a balanced budget, and every year its a challenge. For example:

Top stories – the Constitution Revision Commission

Top stories – the courts

Three justices on the Florida supreme court will reach mandatory retirement age in 2018, and Gov. Scott intends to appoint their replacements on his last day in office. See my July 2017 post “Florida League of Women Voters and Common Cause sue Rick Scott.” This month:

I am also watching the lawsuits that challenge the massive education bill signed into law last year. The courts ruled on two in December: one which challenged the law’s constitutionality in its entirety, and one which challenged the requirement that districts share property tax revenue with charters:

Both cases are now with the Leon County Circuit Court.

There was also a ruling on an appeal of a lower court ruling that claimed Florida public schools were not adequately funded and did not provide a solid education to all students in violation of the Florida Constitution.

In other state news…

Remember: it’s important to let your representatives know whether you agree or disagree with bills or proposals that will come before them and/or how you want them to vote. Find how to contact each of your representatives on the “Your Elected Officials” page of the Sparker’s Soapbox website.

In my next post, I’ll report on December’s top local government and school district news.

Update 12/31/17: 
As originally published, the first paragraph of this post referred to “A shocking discovery by Naples Sen. Kathleen Passidomo” and included a link to an NBC-2 post titled “Resigned state senator kept list ranking female colleagues’ looks.” A reader made me aware of a series of tweets by Politico reporter Marc Captuo that revealed the NBC-2 story to be untrue. I have removed reference to that story from this post, and apologize for having unwittingly shared “fake news.”

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