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In Tallahassee today, it's teachers, texting and reptiles

TALLAHASSEE — Firing teachers. Gambling. Banning dangerous reptiles and texting while driving.

Today will feature a grab-bag of legislation in the second week of the Legislature's 60-day lawmaking session.

The action starts early in the Senate Regulated Industries Committee, where lawmakers will start crafting a bill that would allow the Florida Lottery to expand its games. The committee is expected to hear an update on the star-crossed Seminole Tribe of Florida gaming agreement that could net the state $435 million next year.

Meantime, in the House Roads, Bridges & Ports Policy Committee, Rep. Doug Holder, R-Sarasota, gets to present his legislation that would penalize people for texting while driving.

Expect a few chuckles in the House Natural Resources Appropriations Committee, where Rep. Trudi Williams, R-Fort Myers, has scheduled a hearing for her own bill that prohibits any person from possessing, importing, selling, trading, or breeding certain specified reptile species, including reptiles designated as "reptiles of concern'' by the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The most highly charged political debate bill will likely happen in the Senate PreK-12 Education Policy Committee. It will consider legislation to toughen high school graduation standards and a proposal to overhaul the way classroom teachers are evaluated, paid and fired.

Wednesday is the first public airing of SB 6, sponsored by Sen. John Thrasher of St. Augustine, one of six Republicans on the eight-member committee — a composition that ensures it will sail through to its second (and final) committee before a Senate floor vote.

The proposal would revamp teachers' due-process rights and require that they work under one-year contracts in which half of teachers' and administrators' salaries are tied to how well their students perform on tests, including the FCAT and end-of-year exams.

The bill, supported by former Gov. Jeb Bush's education foundation, prohibits school districts from using a teacher's years in the classroom in setting pay, but it allows districts to develop pay incentives for teachers who work in high-need subjects or impoverished areas.

The legislation also specifies how end-of-course exams are to be developed, and outlines more stringent requirements for teacher training and certification in different subject areas.

Districts and charter schools would face fines for noncompliance. Counties that don't comply could lose a portion of state education money and have to raise local property taxes to make up for the loss in revenue.

The graduation bill, sponsored by Sarasota Republican Sen. Nancy Detert, requires higher-level algebra, geometry and science courses for students seeking a high school diploma. It also phases out the FCAT and brings in end-of-course exams, and requires all high schoolers to take one online "virtual school'' course to graduate.

Times/Herald staff writer Shannon Colavecchio contributed to this report. Marc Caputo can be reached at mcaputo@MiamiHerald.com.

In Tallahassee today, it's teachers, texting and reptiles 03/10/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 10, 2010 6:00am]
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