Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

State: Voucher advocates should register as lobbyists

Ex-Pinellas School Board member Glen Gilzean withdrew papers to register as a lobbyist.

Ex-Pinellas School Board member Glen Gilzean withdrew papers to register as a lobbyist.

TALLAHASSEE — For months, the top executives of Step Up for Students, the nonprofit that runs Florida's tax credit scholarship program, have been leaning on state lawmakers to expand the program.

But neither president Doug Tuthill nor vice president for advocacy and outreach Glen Gilzean has registered as a lobbyist — despite a November opinion saying both would need to sign up with the state.

Tuthill, a former Pinellas teachers union leader, told the Times/Herald he had received a separate verbal opinion saying registration was not necessary. He said he planned to file the paperwork this week anyway.

"I do not need to register, but I am going to, so we can talk about kids and policy again and not be distracted by the process," he said.

The situation is particularly tricky for Gilzean, a former Pinellas School Board member, who filed his registration Friday, but withdrew it Monday.

Gilzean has been named to the Florida A&M University Board of Trustees, and state law prohibits him from holding "any employment or contractual relationship as a legislative lobbyist requiring annual registration and reporting."

He is scheduled to have a confirmation hearing before the Senate Education Committee today.

Gilzean did not return calls seeking comment.

The tax credit scholarship program provides private-school scholarships to children from low-income families. The scholarships are funded by businesses, which receive dollar-for-dollar credits on their corporate income taxes.

The current cap on tax credits is set at $286 million. It funds about 60,000 scholarships annually.

The cap is already scheduled to grow to $874 million over the next five years. But lawmakers are considering a bill (SB 1620, HB 7099) that would enable the program to grow more quickly than it otherwise would.

The proposal would also allow businesses to receive credits on their sales taxes.

Before this year's 60-day session began, the contract lobbyist for Step Up for Students, Denise Lasher, asked the Office of Legislative Services for an opinion on whether Step Up employees would be required to register as lobbyists.

"During the 2014 session, there will be a substantial bill which expands the Tax Credit Scholarship Program and employees of the Florida School Choice Fund (the business name for Step Up for Students) will be especially active advocating with lawmakers about the legislation," Lasher said.

Lasher said both the organization's president and vice president for advocacy and outreach had been "directly advocating for legislation with legislators and executive branch staff."

Replied attorney Allison Deison: "Based on your description of the president and the vice president of advocacy and outreach, I am of the opinion that these individuals will need to register as lobbyists."

After the Nov. 14 opinion was issued, Gilzean continued his advocacy work around the capitol. He had meetings with Democratic Sen. Bill Montford of Tallahassee, and Democratic Reps. Mark Danish of Tampa; Ricardo Rangel of Kissimmee; Joe Saunders of Orlando; Elaine Schwartz of Hollywood; Linda Stewart of Orlando; and Alan Williams of Tallahassee, according to the lawmakers' offices.

"He's been in the hallways for some time," said Stewart, an opponent of the expansion, "Almost every day, you see him."

Tuthill met with Saunders at least three times, Saunders said.

Tuthill also gave public testimony on the bill March 6. He did not indicate that he was a lobbyist on his appearance card, records show.

Tuthill said he was still not persuaded he needs to register. He plans to be in Tallahassee today, when the House Choice and Innovation Subcommittee will hear the bill, he said.

Contact Kathleen McGrory at [email protected]

State: Voucher advocates should register as lobbyists 03/17/14 [Last modified: Monday, March 17, 2014 10:43pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Bucs-Bills journal: Breakout game for Bucs tight end O.J. Howard


    ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — It's obscured by the final score and a disappointing loss, but Bucs rookie tight end O.J. Howard had a breakout game Sunday, exceeding his season totals for catches and touchdowns in one afternoon.

    Bucs tight end O.J. Howard (80) celebrates a touchdown catch with quarterback Jameis Winston (3) during the second half. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  2. Vladislav Namestnikov is Lightning's top-line 'secret'

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Nikita Kucherov is piling up the goals. Steven Stamkos is an assist machine. They make for an impressive pairing in a league that favors scoring pairs over the more traditional three-player scoring lines.

    Tampa Bay Lightning center Vladislav Namestnikov (90) reacts after scoring during the third period of the game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Florida Panthers at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla. on Friday, Oct. 6, 2017.
  3. Bucs-Bills report card: Grading the Bucs' 30-27 loss at Buffalo


    ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Hard to believe, but this was only the second time in their history that the Bucs played a regular-season game in Buffalo. After Sunday loss, they wouldn't mind going another 40 years without playing here again.

    Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter, seen during the first half, had a heck of a day calling plays, Tom Jones writes. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  4. Passing motorists pull three from burning home in Tampa


    TAMPA — Two men in a passing car rescued two children and a woman from a burning home late Sunday morning.

  5. Bucs-Bills: Social media reactions to the Bucs' 30-27 loss


    Here's a sampling of reactions from the media and fans to the Bucs' 30-27 loss Sunday at Buffalo:

    Buffalo Bills kicker Stephen Hauschka (4) is mobbed by teammates after kicking the game-winning field goal late in the fourth quarter. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]