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Guest opinion - HB 7069: Does our legislature get a free pass to violate our Florida Constitution?
June 16, 2017

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Article III, Section 6 of the Florida Constitution is something with which you would think all legislators are familiar. It is pretty straight forward. Commonly referred to as, "One Bill, One Topic", it states: "SECTION 6.?Laws.-Every law shall embrace but one subject and matter properly connected therewith, and the subject shall be briefly expressed in the title. No law shall be revised or amended by reference to its title only. Laws to revise or amend shall set out in full the revised or amended act, section, subsection or paragraph of a subsection. The enacting clause of every law shall read: "Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:"

Seems simple, yet our Legislature has found a new way to pass legislation that is unable to pass through the established process. They wait until the very end of the regular 60-day session - or a special session that becomes necessary because of their inability to get their jobs done in the time they have - and cram all of their pet legislation into a single bill and ram it through in the last moments of the session or special session.

The most recent example of this is HB 7069. This bill is a poster child for violating the "One Bill, One Topic" mandate of the constitution. Fifty-five (55) bills have been combined into this single bill. It ballooned to 278 pages and covers everything from charter school legislation to bonus programs to school recess to student's rights to bring and apply sunscreen! It also dictates how school districts can utilize federal Title 1 funds! It will also, despite a nationwide teacher shortage, usurp local control from school districts who want to automatically renew teachers rated Effective and Highly Effective. The ability to award automatically renewing contracts to these teachers is in the best interest of students, teachers and school districts. Some of the 55 bills combined into HB 7069 could not even get out of committee; much less pass a vote of one or both houses. And yet, HB 7069 has made it to Governor Scott's desk - and he has signed it.

He was lobbied hard to both VETO this bill and to sign it! The lines were clearly drawn in this debate. Public school advocates urged him to veto the bill. Pro-Charter, anti-public education forces asked him to sign it. By signing the bill, he will be held in higher regard by those who want to privatize and profiteer off of public schools and vilified by public education supporters.

As the public has heard from Dr. Greg Adkins, Lee County Superintendent of Schools, and our school board, this bill is bad for kids, public schools, and public education employees. If you are not familiar with what this bill will do to public schools I urge you to look closely at the impacts it will have, especially on our students with the greatest needs.

I do not support this terrible piece of legislation and fear the impacts it will have on our school district. Yet, I have an equally deep concern. How does our Legislature get away with violating our state constitution? It is blatant and brazen, but it is also illegal! I believe it is time to hold our elected officials, at the very least, to this simple low standard: Obey and follow the constitution!

-?Mark J. Castellano is the president of the Teachers Association of Lee County

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