Writes Jim Turner in Sunshine State News:
The failure of a single bill to reach the Senate floor — a controversial one that Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty claimed would lower workers’ compensation costs for businesses — doomed the “parent trigger” for school choice in the final days of the 2012 session.
Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, one of the original supporters of the Parent Empowerment Act, cast his vote against the act in the waning hours of the regular session on March 9, causing the bill, better known as the parent trigger act, to die in a 20-20 vote.
The act would have allowed parents to seek wide-ranging changes at low-performing schools, including changing a traditional neighborhood school into a charter school and giving parents an alternative to sending their children to “F” graded schools.
Hays took a firm stance against the parent trigger act in defiance of Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, who kept another of his bills, SB 668, workers’ compensation, from reaching the Senate floor.
State economists estimated — though they could never could back up with hard numbers — that SB 668 could have saved businesses collectively $62 million next year, with the state government’s impact from workers’ compensation claims dipping by $1 million.
Backed by the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Florida but opposed by a health-care industry software company from Miramar, SB 668 cleared two committees, and narrowly survived the Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services Appropriations.
Haridopolos blocked both the bill from being added to the Budget Committee calendar and allowing the House-approved version of the workers’ compensation bill to be placed before the full Senate. Hays then took the position that he would vote against the parent trigger if workers’ compensation was not allowed to advance.
“The president, who said he wasn’t going to help or hinder the (workers’ compensation) bill when it got to budget, refused to release it,” Hays said.
Haridopolos was not immediately available for comment Monday.
The chamber also supported the parent trigger.
So much for Hays standing on some sort of principle. Haridopolis blocked his bill and Hays retaliated. Its clear Hays wanted his worker’s comp bill more that the parent trigger bill of which he also sponsored. At any rate, had Hays been turned after the vote by leadership, a senate source confirms that the votes were not there for the bill to be reconvened.
This does nothing to sully the mountain-moving done by a handful of real Florida parents in defeating parent trigger. But the reality of today’s revelations are sobering. The battle against privatization of public schools is being fought in state capitals. The main stream media still perceives the philanthropic charter school cash infusion by the Gates, the Walton family and Eli Broad as pure. The billionaires pay scores of full-time mouthpieces. Parent trigger will be back in the next session in Florida and elsewhere. Duplicating the Florida defeat of parent trigger will be difficult, but doable. It will take the acceptance on the part of opponets that they will have to play hardball politics.