Advertisement
  1. Florida Politics

William March: Rouson files bill to ban gay discrimination in schools receiving vouchers

Sen. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, filed legislation Monday to prohibit discrimination against gay students by private schools receiving public money in the form of tuition vouchers. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
Published Jun. 19

State Sen. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, is filing legislation to prohibit discrimination against gay students by private schools receiving public money in the form of tuition vouchers.

Rouson filed the bill Monday, responding to a June 14 Orlando Sentinel story about millions of state dollars going to religious schools that expel or refuse to admit gay students.

Rouson said he doesn't know whether there are schools in the Tampa Bay area that do so.

"Florida is a very diverse state that should be very inclusive, particularly this month when Pulse is being remembered and pride is being celebrated," he said. "We should be tolerant of human beings who have a different sexual orientation."

The bill's fate in the Republican-controlled Legislature is at best uncertain.

Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, didn't respond to requests for comment.

One Republican who would discuss the issue, Rep. Jamie Grant of Tampa, said he would oppose it based on religious freedom.

"I don't like discrimination of any kind, but I'll always defend the First Amendment," he said. "This is not the state funding a school, this is a family receiving a voucher. Where they choose to use that voucher is a decision for that family."

He said anti-gay discrimination by religious schools isn't comparable to racial discrimination because, "In one case you're talking about somebody's skin color. In another case you're talking about behavior that some people consider sinful."

Hattersley, Learned consider switch

State Rep. Adam Hattersley of Riverview, who's currently running for re-election, may switch races with fellow Democrat Andrew Learned, who's running for the U.S. House District 15 seat.

Both confirmed they're considering it, but said no decision is imminent.

Hattersley acknowledged that whether he decides to take on the Congressional race may hinge on the outcome of an investigation of possible campaign finance irregularities by incumbent U.S. Rep. Ross Spano, R-Dover.

"Obviously the race is risky, but the numbers are interesting," Hattersley said.

"We're keeping options open and looking for the best way to serve," said Learned. "We have a lot we need to get done in both Tallahassee and Washington."

Bryan Farris, a political consultant who works with Hattersley, said the switch would be "a good fit for both candidates," and expressed confidence that Hattersley could beat Spano, whom he called "ethically compromised" because of the investigation.

But some Democrats aren't crazy about the idea.

In 2018, Hattersley delighted Dems by capturing the state House seat, held for decades by Republicans including Spano and Ronda Storms. That marked a Democratic beachhead in traditionally conservative East Hillsborough.

They're concerned they could lose that prize if Hattersley leaves the seat after only one term to challenge an incumbent in the GOP-leaning Congressional District 15, which covers parts of Polk and Lake counties as well as east Hillsborough. Spano, backed heavily by his party leadership, could be tough to beat as a well-funded incumbent.

"I'm discouraging it," said Ione Townsend, Hillsborough County Democratic Party chairman. "I think Adam has the possibility of a great career in front of him and I just think it's a timing issue."

Kristen Carlson, who lost to Spano in 2018, is still interested in the seat, but said she would bow out in favor of another viable Democrat such as Hattersley.

Charges against Valdes dismissed

The state Ethics Commission has found no probable cause in two ethics charges against state Rep. Susan Valdes, D-Tampa, a former Hillsborough County School Board member.

The charges were filed by Bill Person, a retired educator who ran against Valdes for the school board in 2016, and Person's wife, teacher Laurie Rodriguez.

The Rodriguez complaint alleged that Valdes used her influence as a school board member to get free daycare service for her grandson in a program for district employees at Leto High School in 2015.

Investigators found that Valdes's son's family did receive the daycare service without paying $3,885 in fees after Valdes asked Larry Sykes, then district chief of schools, to provide the family with "guidance" in the matter.

No one else received this "preferential treatment," the investigation report said. "However, there is insufficient evidence to show how respondent used her position to have her family receive the benefit."

Person's complaint alleged that in 2016, Valdes violated board procurement policy to steer a $3.5 million-plus purchase of laptop computers to United Data Technologies Inc. and another company whose executives had contributed to her campaign, rather than to a lower bidder.

The investigative report says Valdes did violate district policy in objecting to the agenda item to award the contract to the lower bidder, and doing so prior to the board's consideration of the item. But it said other district employees took responsibility for making the decision to withdraw the agenda item.

"Some folks abuse the ethics process by filing false claims," Valdes said. "I'm glad it turned out the way it did because I didn't do anything wrong, and now I can move on."

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Scott Israel, former Broward County Sheriff speaks during a news conference on Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019, in Davie, Fla. A Florida Senate official is recommending that the sheriff, suspended over his handling of shootings at a Parkland high school and the Fort Lauderdale airport, should be reinstated. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson) BRYNN ANDERSON  |  AP
    Because Israel is a constitutional officer elected by voters, state law requires that the Senate approve or reject the governor’s decision to remove him from office and gives Israel the opportunity to...
  2. El gobernador de Florida, Ron DeSantis, hace una declaración sobre el hecho de responsabilizar a los funcionarios del gobierno en Fort Lauderdale en el Complejo de Seguridad Pública Ron Cochran el 11 de enero, luego de que nombró al ex sargento de la policía de Coral Springs. Gregory Tony reemplazará a Scott Israel como sheriff del condado de Broward. (Al Díaz / Miami Herald / TNS)
    Several Senate leaders told the Times/Herald they are prepared to accept new evidence during a daylong hearing scheduled for today. They could decide against DeSantis when they vote Wednesday.
  3. District 3 City Council candidates Orlando Acosta, left, and Ed Montanari. Scott Keeler, Chris Urso
    The St. Petersburg City Council races are supposed to be nonpartisan. Partisan politics are leaking into the campaign anyway.
  4. Protesters gathered outside the federal courthouse in Tallahassee on Monday, Oct. 7, 2019, while a federal judge heard arguments for an against the the Legislature's bill implementing Amendment 4. LAWRENCE MOWER  |  Lawrence Mower
    It’s unclear how state and county officials plan on complying with the judge’s order, however. The “poll tax” issued wasn’t addressed, either.
  5. The Florida Capitol. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times] SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The job entails being a part-time lobbyist, part-time expert on the Florida Sunshine Law.
  6. Florida K-12 Chancellor Jacob Oliva presents the state's second draft of academic standards revisions during an Oct. 17, 2017, session at Jefferson High School in Tampa. Gov. Ron DeSantis called for the effort in an executive order to remove the Common Core from Florida schools. JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |  Times staff
    ‘Our third draft will look different from our second,’ the chancellor explains.
  7. Igor Fruman, hugs Florida Governor elect Ron DeSantis, right, as Lev Parnas looks on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018 in Orlando at the watch party for DeSantis. Fruman and Parnas were arrested last week on campaign finance violations. CHRIS URSO  |  Times
    Florida’s governor has shrugged off past donor controversies. This time, there were photos. Now it’s not going away.
  8. The sun sets over a slab which once served as a foundation for a home on Mexico Beach in May. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Area leaders fear lower population numbers will lead to reduced federal funding and political representation.
  9. Senador de Florida, Rick Scott.  Foto: AP
    “The FBI has failed to give me or these families an acceptable answer, but I’m not going to allow that,” Scott said, adding that the FBI didn’t share pertinent information on shootings at Pulse, the...
  10. Courtney Wild, 30, was a victim of serial sexual offender Jeffrey Epstein beginning at the age of 14. Epstein paid Wild, and many other underage girls, to give him massages, often having them undress and perform sexual acts. Epstein also used the girls as recruiters, paying them to bring him other underage girls. Courtesy of Royal Caribbean
    Courtney Wild’s relentless quest for justice has led to a bipartisan push for sweeping reforms.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement