Eighth and last in a series of columns on key votes taken by the Florida Legislature since the last election.
Whew! Today we come to the end of our review of some the Legislature's most controversial votes over the past two years. Next Sunday we'll sum everything up.
Without a doubt, the biggest issue of the Legislature's 2010 session was Senate Bill 6, which abolished tenure for public schoolteachers in Florida and linked teacher evaluations to student scores on standardized tests.
I would like to point out that this dramatic, sweeping, even radical reform of the entire Florida educational system came only after careful deliberation …
In-depth study …
And mature discussion, with important input from all parties.
I would like to be able to say all that.
Instead, SB 6 was rammed through the Legislature on the fly just a few weeks after it first saw the light of day, with no changes or meaningful interaction allowed.
It was, in short, a triumph of ideology, sloganeering and snap judgment.
After all, we all "know" what's wrong with public education. Let's stick it to those rotten teachers, but good.
SB 6 was the creation of state Sen. John Thrasher, R-Jacksonville, who, not coincidentally, is the chairman of the Florida Republican Party.
In the House, the sponsor was our own state Rep. John Legg, R-New Port Richey.
The whole thing was so much of a rush job that the actual tests, the specific method of evaluating teachers, were left undefined. We were going to come up with that part later.
It was too much even for some of the Republicans who hold the majority in the Legislature, and several Republican legislators defected to join the Democrats in opposition.
The vote therefore was unusually close: in the Senate, 21-17; in the House, 64-55. The House imposed a "no amendment" rule to make sure the bill passed intact, so as not to risk further changes or opposition in a Senate revote.
The bill then landed in the lap of Gov. Charlie Crist, and the whole Florida political establishment held its breath waiting for his decision.
Crist vetoed it.
He compared the way SB 6 was rammed through the Legislature with the way that "Obamacare" health reform was rammed through Congress by Democrats.
Crist's decision to veto the crowning achievement of the Republican Legislature (not to mention a bill that was the heart's desire of former Gov. Jeb Bush) contributed to Crist's final break with the Republican Party, and his decision to run for the U.S. Senate as an independent. Although many teachers at the time said they would vote for Crist, today he is still trailing in the polls.
As for the supporters of SB 6, they say the issue is not going away.
Here's how the lawmakers of the Tampa Bay area voted on the bill:
Senators voting yes:
Victor Crist, R-Tampa; Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey; Ronda Storms, R-Brandon.
Senators voting no:
Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland; Dennis Jones, R-Treasure Island; Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa; Charlie Justice, D-St. Petersburg.
Area House members voting yes:
Kevin Ambler, R-Tampa; Tom Anderson, R-Dunedin; Rachel Burgin, R-Tampa; Jim Frishe, R-Belleair Bluffs; Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton; Rich Glorioso, R-Plant City; Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater; John Legg, R-New Port Richey; Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland; Ron Reagan, R-Bradenton; Rob Schenck, R-Spring Hill, Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel.
House members voting no:
Janet Cruz, D-Tampa; Faye Culp, R-Tampa; Bill Heller, D-St. Petersburg; Ed Homan, R-Tampa; Rick Kriseman, D-St. Petersburg; Janet Long, D-Seminole; Peter Nehr, R-Tarpon Springs; Betty Reed, D-Tampa; Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg; Ron Schultz, R-Homosassa.