Cracks in House Democratic caucus exposed by vote on university 'sunshine' exemption
Today, the House approved a proposal to shield universities' discussions about prospective donors from the state's "sunshine" laws. In the process, rifts inside the Democratic caucus were on display for all to see.
House Bill 115 has mostly flown under the radar. The First Amendment Foundation, which champion's the state open meetings and open record laws, chose not to oppose or support the measure. The foundation is also neutral on the Senate counterpart, SB 318, which is one committee away from a floor vote.
The bill would allow university direct-support organizations -- think foundations and booster clubs -- to privately discuss plans to seek research funding or strategies for supporting research.
Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda of Tallahassee had opposed HB 115 all along, casting the lone "no" vote during an early committee meeting. The other two committee votes were unanimous with numerous Democrats voting in favor of the bill.
But spirited discussion at today's caucus meeting before the afternoon session seemed to have encouraged most Democrats to take a stand in solidarity. If nothing else, they would have sent a message and reminded the Republican majority that Democrats could still shake things up.
But that didn't happen.