Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Wow! It's Been Awhile. Checked my last entry and didn't realize it had been this long since I've posted.

I'm writing from the K-12 Education Funding Conference Committee, which is currently in recess. Rumor has it that an agreement has been reached and that it will be unveiled shortly. I have no way of knowing what it included (or excluded) from the bill. I do know that the Governor has not been involved in the negotiations, making the bill's ultimate prospects rather iffy.

It's been a crazy couple of weeks. We are know inside the "two-week warning," and it's difficult to determine whether the Legislature's 2-minute offense can score on the Governor's prevent defense (or vice-versa). It's a bit of a mish-mash to say the least.

The Governor has remained at Ye Olde 30,000 foot level as he is insisting that the Legislature send him a balanced across-the-board budget before he will agree to negotiate with them on specifics. The problem the Legislature has right now that it appears presenting an "all cuts" budget is more difficult than originallly thought. Not that it couldn't be done, but in order to do successfully accomplish it, the K-12 budget target would have to be reduced and the Health and Human Services Budget would have to experience further reductions from those the Legislature has already made.

One prospective trend that we've seen over the past two weeks is the stripping of policy items out of the omnibus K-12 funding bill with them either being folded into the omnibus K-12 policy bill or sent to the respective legislative floors as individual bills. This may serve a couple of purposes. First, it will lighten the funding bill, at least at this stage of the game, of some of the reform provisions that are currently part of the bill. The Legislature taking this tack appears to be a fairly large concession, as removing reforms from the funding bill to stand alone (or in a group that the Governor likely has very little interest in passing) makes the "hill" to approval much steeper.

As it stands right now, HF 1381 is the omnibus education policy bill. It passed the House floor yesterday on a vote of 74-55. It is currently in the Senate Rules Committee, where it is being compared with the Senate version, which is markedly different. The Senate will undoubtedly pass its version and there will be an education policy conference committee after the House refuses to accept the Senate's approach. The House bill has several provisions inspired by the changes made in Florida over the past decade, including the grading of schools on an A through F grading scale and retention in third grade of students who are not reading at grade level.

A vast majority of the bills that have been sent to the floor as separate measures are extremely (and I mean extremely) non-controversial. The complicating factor for the bills going this route is that they are so non-controversial they might get lost in the shuffle or more controversial bills. It will be incumbent on the authors of these bills to shepherd them through the process. There will likely be no conference committees on any of these bills, so that means unless there are amendments attached to these bills (and that is indeed a possibility as they may be used as "vehicle" bills that serve to carry more substantive measures or collections of measures), they will go directly to the Governor after passage by both bodies.

We're all waiting for the conferees to return from their recess and unveil the bill and I will be back with more when that happens.

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