State Capital Briefs (Evening Edition): Thursday, May 18, 2017

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The Florida School Boards Association asked Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday to veto the state's main funding stream for public education, a move aimed at forcing lawmakers to reconsider a decision to increase per-student spending by just 0.34 percent in the budget for the year beginning July 1. A letter from Tim Harris, president of the organization, and Andrea Messina, the association's executive director, requested that Scott use his line-item veto to strike the Florida Education Finance Program, or FEFP. That would wipe out $20.4 billion in education funding and likely spark a special session for lawmakers to replace it. "We believe the Legislature can and should do better to commit the resources necessary for school boards to deliver high-quality education to all of their students," Harris, a member of the Polk County School Board, and Messina wrote. The Florida School Boards Association had already asked Scott to veto HB 7069, a sprawling education measure packed with $419 million for teacher bonuses and other targeted spending outside of the FEFP. The letter suggests the money from that bill could be used to bulk up the main formula. It also says lawmakers could undo a decision to roll back local education property tax rates, holding tax bills steady even as the underlying property values rise. "This roll-back rate ignores the fact that some portion of the increase in property values is directly attributable to new development --- new homes, new businesses, property improvements --- which require the provision of new or additional services," the letter says. "There is no credible reason why these property owners should be excused from sharing in support of our education system which is tasked with shaping Florida's future citizenry." Lawmakers have not sent the budget and HB 7069 to Scott. Once the measures hit the governor's desk, he will have 15 days to sign them or use his veto power.

A bill authorizing the creation of memorials for the victims of the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys was sent to Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday. The monuments would be placed at the Capitol complex in Tallahassee and in Jackson County, the site of the now-closed reform school where hundreds of boys said that they were physically and sexually abused. The House and Senate passed the legislation (HB 7115) and a formal apology for the Dozier abuses. The bill authorizes the reburial of victims of a 1914 dormitory fire in the Boot Hill cemetery at the former school. It also directs the reburial in Leon County of unclaimed bodies, which were discovered as part of an extensive forensic investigation at the site led by University of South Florida researchers. The legislation also authorizes the Department of Environmental Protection to explore the 1,400-acre Dozier site for additional unmarked graves. The bill provides $1.2 million for monument and reburial costs. The governor has until June 2 to act on the measure.

A proposal to open the tap on BP oil-spill settlement money for Northwest Florida counties hard hit by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster has reached Gov. Rick Scott's desk. The measure (HB 7077), which allocates to eight Gulf Coast counties $300 million of $400 million received by the state last year, was among 37 bills sent to Scott on Thursday. The eight counties --- Bay, Escambia, Franklin, Gulf, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Wakulla and Walton --- are also slated to get three-fourths of the remainder of the $2 billion the state is expected to receive for damages associated with the BP disaster, which dumped millions of gallons of oil less than 100 miles off the Florida coast. Scott on Thursday also received a number of measures known as “claim” bills, which typically stem from lawsuits filed against government agencies because people have been injured or killed. Among the claim bills is a measure (HB 6515) that would provide $1.8 million to the family of Devaughn Darling, a Florida State University football player who died during a training session in 2001. Another claim bill (HB 6529) would direct the St. Lucie County school district to pay $1.5 million because of the 2012 death of 9-year-old Aaron Beauchamp in a school-bus accident. Scott has until June 2 to sign, veto or allow the bills to become law without his signature.


© 2017 The News Service of Florida. All rights reserved. Posting or forwarding this material without permission is prohibited.