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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Teacher debate begins, with both sides preparing for the same outcome

16

March

Before the final debate over a major teacher reform bill began in the Florida House Wednesday, both sides were already preparing for the legislation's expected approval along party lines.

"We know that the guys on the other side have already made up their minds on this one," Rep. Ron Saunders of Key West, the minority leader, said at a House Democratic Caucus meeting.

He urged his colleagues to keep debate short and focused on big-picture concerns about funding and fairness. The broader political argument against Republicans, he noted, was this: "Their agenda is to go after teachers, cops and firefighters, to bust the unions," Saunders said. "When you start screwing with teachers, you get the voters' attention."

Meanwhile, Republican leaders plan to celebrate the bill's expected passing Wednesday night with a show of unity among Gov. Rick Scott, House Speaker Dean Cannon and Senate President Mike Haridopolos.

Details of the planned event were still in the works Wednesday, but any celebration will mark an key point in Scott's tenure: Senate Bill 736 would become the first proposal the new governor would sign into law.

--MICHAEL C. BENDER AND PATRICIA MAZZEI

[Last modified: Wednesday, March 16, 2011 2:25pm]

    

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