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Will Crist veto the teacher bill?

There is a tide in the affairs of men,

Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.

Julius Caesar IV, 3

This is the big enchilada, this is the revolution. The Republicans who run Florida's Legislature have won the greatest battle in their history — unless their own Republican governor takes it away from them. Therein lies a drama of its own.

In a climactic vote held between midnight and dawn Friday, the Legislature passed a sweeping reform of public education in this state, done on the fly.

Two birds were killed with one stone: the end of tenure for Florida public schoolteachers, and a requirement that teacher pay be linked to student "progress," to be measured by Measures To Be Cooked Up Later.

Two birds? No, three — for no matter how much they denied it, this was the ultimate Republican victory over a state teachers union that has been unrelentingly Democratic, if not the alter-ego of the Florida Democratic Party.

It also was the triumph of Jebism, a process started by the former governor Bush a decade ago with his foray into standardized tests and school vouchers. Like Caesar's ghost, he never went away. He is the alt-governor, the uber-gubernator, presiding from afar.

And yet there is one tiny detail left before the victory is sealed. All eyes turn now to …

Charlie Crist.

Crist! He is the current governor, after all. He must sign the thing into law, or to allow it to become law without his signature — or in the alternative, to veto it.

"I don't know," Crist said last week, when asked what he would do.

He doesn't know! He will think about it!

Something very interesting is going on.

You might have noticed that the governor is getting trounced in the Republican U.S. Senate race by Marco Rubio, who has campaigned brilliantly from the right. In the latest report Rubio raised $224 trillion from enthused supporters, while Crist raised $1.99. Or something like that.

But wait. In recent days the governor has become increasingly confrontational with … his fellow Republicans three floors up in the Capitol. If Rubio is running against Obama, might Crist be running against the Legislature?

Last week, Crist vetoed a bill that would have allowed the Legislature's leaders to operate legal slush funds. They really wanted that bill.

He warned if the Legislature doesn't do something about public corruption (which it has not lifted a finger to address), he might force a special session to do it.

He made it clear he doesn't like two other important bills, one that would allow higher property insurance rates, and a House plan to remake the Public Service Commission.

And now — he doesn't know about the teacher bill? Tell you what. If he vetoes that puppy, then his break with the Republican Legislature will be complete.

All of which would support the idea that Crist was ready to bolt his party — except that Crist made it crystal clear last week he will not. Not in a box, not with a fox, not in a house, not with a mouse. (That's Shakespeare, too, I think.)

So he is thinking. Thinking! Yeah. He is taking every second to see how it is playing.

Is it that crazy to run against the Legislature, which fiddles this year with ideological wackiness? Which, in the face of 12 percent unemployment, passes tax breaks for yachts? Which blithely ignores the indictment of its own House speaker and a blistering grand jury report crying out for change?

Here was one trouble sign: Even 11 Republican members of the House, some of them in their own election battles, broke ranks and voted against the teacher bill. Here was another: The Republican leadership said there could be absolutely no amendments to the bill, nosiree — the thing was locked down and rammed through, sort of like … heck, I dunno, the health care bill in Congress.

So we have teachers vs. the Legislature, teacher unions vs. Republicans, Crist vs. the Legislature; Crist vs. Rubio, Crist vs. Bush, the executive vs. the legislative, dissenting Republicans vs. the party leadership, with the whole thing in play, hanging there, the state holding its breath while the governor makes up his mind. Who knew one-party rule was so fun?

Will Crist veto the teacher bill? 04/10/10 [Last modified: Saturday, April 10, 2010 9:50pm]
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