November 2017 Month in Review – State News

What did Florida’s elected officials do last month in preparation for the 2018 legislative session that begins January 9th? What amendments is the Constitution Revision Commission considering for our November ballot? Have our local state representatives been in the paper lately? November’s Month in Review shares some of the stories I found that address these questions.

As you read this post, consider what each bill, budget proposal or amendment says about its sponsor’s view of state government vs. local control, social policy or fiscal/tax policy. As informed voters, it is important to be aware of what’s being introduced and to let your representatives know if you do or don’t agree and/or how you want them to vote.

Top stories – the Florida Legislature

In my last post about state news, I wrote that state senate and house committees had been meeting and legislators had begun filing bills ahead of the 2018 session and shared some of the early-filed bills that interested me. In this post, I’ll share reports on several more of the almost 2000 bills submitted to date.

This month, several articles were published about the controversial “Hope Scholarship” bill filed by Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Naples. It would allow public-school students to receive voucher-like scholarships to attend private schools if they have been bullied, harassed or subject to violence. (HB 1)

Supporters say it’s to help students who are victims of bullying. Critics say it’s more about expanding voucher programs, long one of the most-controversial education issues in Florida. News Service of Florida

Top stories – The governor’s budget proposal

Due to term limits, Gov. Scott cannot run for reelection next year. This month, he released his final budget proposal. Scott is widely expected to run for the U.S. Senate, challenging incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson. Treasure Coast Newspapers editorialized that “It’s easy to be cynical about Gov. Rick Scott’s final budget.”

The budget will likely not be finalized until the final days of the legislative session in March.

Top stories – Florida’s Constitution Revision Commission

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The Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) is a group of 37 people appointed to review and recommend changes to the Florida Constitution. It’s one of five ways Florida can amend its constitution, and it only happens once every 20 years. Proposals it approves will be on our ballots next November. Learn more.

In all, 782 public proposals and 103 commissioner proposals were submitted for the Commission’s consideration. In last month’s post, I reviewed the CRC timetable and some of the then–40+ proposals that had been submitted by commissioners. Here’s my pick of November’s top stories:

Commissioner Erika Donalds’ views about the role of government are evidenced by the amendments she proposed and will become clearer when she votes on each proposal as it moves through the approval process.

Those views are relevant to Collier voters to the extent they shape her goals and actions as a School Board member. School Board members are elected by voters county-wide in non-partisan elections; the next School Board elections are in August 2018. Donalds’ current Board term ends next year; she has not yet filed for reelection.

Five of Donalds’ proposals, including those mentioned above, were included in last month’s post. These are her final three:

  • EDUCATION – P 45 –  specifies that no provision of the State Constitution may be construed to limit the Legislature from making provision for other educational services that are beneficial to the children and families of this state
  • EDUCATION – P 71 – specifies that the Legislature is authorized to enact general laws providing alternative processes to authorize the establishment of charter schools in the state
  • P 77 – a placeholder stating that the CRC intends to revise provisions in the Constitution’s Article VIII – Local Government

Other state news

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 November’s top local government and school district news.

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