Welcome to The Dean's List -- an Ed Dean-style look at who Florida's political achievers were (and weren't) in the last seven days. What you see here is strictly my opinion, not necessarily the editor's or the rest of the staff at Sunshine State News.
THOSE WHO MADE THE LIST
Gov. Rick Scott. Florida individuals with disabilities got a major boost when Scott signed into the Florida Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act. Based on the federal bill of the same name championed by U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., it’s modeled approach resembles 529 education savings plans that help families save for college. The ABLE Act will allow families to have a tax-deferred vehicle to save for the care of people with disabilities, including or allowing for future services without losing any state and federal benefits.
St. Andrew’s Catholic School. This school in Pine Hills is showing the importance of the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship for low-income students and the McKay Scholarship for students with disabilities. St. Andrew’s earned a distinguished National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence award from the U.S. Department of Education and test scores show students consistently learning above the national level. Two-thirds of the students at St. Andrew’s are black or Hispanic and 75 percent of the students from pre-K-8th-grade are using FTCS or McKay to go to school. St. Andrew’s is giving these students -- most of whom come from families near the poverty line -- a chance.
Florida Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton. This up-and-comer in the Senate puts his money where his mouth is on education. After his father died of cancer in 1996, Galvano has been honoring him by hosting the Phil Galvano Golf Classic. The golf charity benefits the Manatee Education Foundation and gives scholarships to teachers who apply for classroom assistance. Over the years, money from the event has gone to local schools to help pay for classroom equipment, help finance field trips and to take students to statewide competitions.
THOSE WHO DIDN’T MAKE THE LIST
Organize Now. This liberal group out of Orlando wants to put two anti-business constitutional amendment proposals on the ballot next year. The first would mandate companies with five or more employees to offer paid sick time. The second would raise the state’s minimum wage to $10 an hour. Stephanie Porta, Organize Now’s director, said “We know this works for businesses and communities.” Really? That explains why oh-so-many business groups are lining up behind these proposals.
Holly Hill City Commission. Allowing Florida cities to have home rule is usually a good thing but the Holy Hill City Commission may be taking advantage of it and the voters. The commission wants voters to change some of the provision in their local charter including having the city conduct a charter review every 10 years and moving term limits for commissioners from two years to four years and getting rid of them on the mayor.
“By increasing lengths of terms, elected officials would be able to accomplish more and provide greater stability to the city,” said Mayor John Penny. Sure, just what voters want -- for politicians to stay in office longer.
Environmental Hypocrisy. Over the last few months, the Dean’s List has pointed out several fallacies associated with Amendment 1 which voters passed last year. The proposal was sold to voters as focused on land acquisition and water conservation. But in the special session which starts next week Senate Bill 7054 has arisen. This bill would designate around $50 million a year for SunTrail, a proposed statewide network of off-road paved trails. According to the office of Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, half of the funds will come from Amendment 1.
Florida environmentalists seem to be OK with that. Audubon Florida Executive Director Eric Draper says, “I don't think the $25 million is out of the realm as long as there is funding for other parks, water and wildlife habitats." So we went from saving the green to paving the green.Sheesh.
Ed Dean, a senior editor with SSN whose talk-show can be heard on radio stations across Florida, can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @eddeanradio.