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It's almost 10pm, and the Florida House is about to take up #HB7123 a bill that would strip local control from school districts and force tax levies to be shared with charter schools.
There is no good reason for them to be taking the bill up at this time of night; they've been in session since 10:30 this morning, and the bill was placed on 2nd reading a full week ago. You can follow along here: thefloridachannel.org
#HB7123 is now being discussed. Rep @BryanAvilaFL is introducing the bill. There will be five proposed amendments to the bill to be discussed.
The next question is from Rep. @ShevrinJones who asks, How can this bill make school districts defy the will of the voters who intentionally left charter schools out of their referenda?
Rep. @BryanAvilaFL says the recent referendum in Miami was "so vague" voters didn't know if they $ would be for charter schools or not. This simply isn't the case. Charter schools openly opposed the referendum b/c they knew they weren't included.
Weeks before the election the Miami Herald ran this article with the title, "Charter Schools aren't included in the ballot measure. They are not happy with it." miamiherald.com/news/local/edu…
Rep. @ShevrinJones asks a good question--"How do we make sure that charter schools use the funds for the purpose of the levy?"

Rep. @BryanAvilaFL says the bill addresses that.

Rep. Jones again asks, but WHO makes sure they follow the law?

Rep. Avila: 🤷‍♂️
Rep. @BryanAvilaFL, "We don't want school districts acting on their own."

We're old enough to remember when the Legislature did want districts "acting on their own" with regards to arming teachers.
Rep. @TinaPolsky points out that some districts have already negotiated how to spend the tax levy $. She asks how many contracts would this bill force to be violated?

Rep. @BryanAvilaFL: 🤷‍♂️
Rep. @TinaPolsky says teachers in Palm Beach stand to lose $1,000/year if this bill passes. She further asks how will charter schools be held accountable for using the $ for the voter-approved purpose.

Again @BryanAvilaFL doesn't have an answer.
Rep. @TinaPolsky points out that the Palm Beach referendum was very different from the Indian River referendum that was mentioned earlier which lead to a lawsuit.
Rep. @Javierfor114 now has a series of questions about the charter school referendum potion of the bill. He reads from a charter school contract with a district that reads the district "may" provide tax levies not "shall."
Rep. @DotieForFlorida is next up in questioning. She asks, "Are you aware charter schools advocated against the Miami referendum?

Rep. @BryanAvilaFL says he never heard. He must not read the @MiamiHerald miamiherald.com/news/local/edu…
Rep. @DotieForFlorida now asks the opposite question--"Are you aware of any charter schools that lobbied for the referendum?"

Rep. @BryanAvilaFL says he is not aware of any charter schools that supported the amendment.
Rep. @DotieForFlorida is placing the blame where it belongs--she says the reason districts like Miami-Dade have had to have referenda is b/c the state is underfunding public schools--the base student allocation last year increased by only 47 cents.
Rep. @ALJacquet is up next in questioning. He asks about other portions of the tax bill. Specifically, he asks What % of the tax breaks in this bill go to working families as opposed to corporations.

Rep. @BryanAvilaFL 🤷‍♂️
Rep. @ALJacquet tries again, "Do we have any permanent tax breaks for families in the bill?"

Rep. @BryanAvilaFL: When we cut taxes for business, that reduces taxes for families.
Rep. @ALJacquet tries again for a third-time: "I would consider that trickle-down economics. Is there anything comparable--directly, not trickle down in this tax bill?"

Rep. @BryanAvilaFL: The back to school sales tax (However, that's not a permanent tax break).
Having concluded with questions, the House is now taking up amendments to #HB7123. There will be five amendments in total.
The first amendment, from Rep. @AmyMercado deals with "combined reporting" of taxes which would close loopholes used by corporations to avoid paying taxes. The amendment fails.
The next amendment from Rep. @BryanAvilaFL removes a tax break for "telehealth"

Amendment is adopted.
Rep. @Javierfor114 has the next amendment which would put teeth into the requirement that charter schools use the tax levies for voter approved purposes.
Rep. @BryanAvilaFL says this is "of course, an unfriendly amendment. This is not needed."

The amendment to hold charter schools accountable to voters fails.
The next amendment, from Rep. @AmyMercado would create a "Working Families Tax Rebate Program" to help address Florida's regressive tax structure. She points out Florida is 48th in the nation in tax fairness
It's no surprise that an attempt to provide tax breaks to working families failed.

There is one amendment left. This one is from Rep. @mattwillhitefl. He points out if the bill goes into effect as it it will be a $20 million hit to the Palm Beach School District.
Rep. @mattwillhitefl's amendment would make the proposed changes to charter schools and tax referenda "prospective not retrospective."
Rep. @BryanAvilaFL asks, "Won't the $20 million you just mentioned go to school security and teacher raises at charter schools?"

Rep. @mattwillhitefl correctly answers, There is no way to know how charter schools will spend the money.
Rep. @BryanAvilaFL is again using the Indian River lawsuit to justify why the Palm Beach referendum is "flawed." This is despite the fact earlier in the meeting Rep. Avila acknowledged the fundamental difference btw the two districts' referenda.
In debate on the amendment Rep. @Javierfor114 appeals to local control. Says not supporting this amendment "tramples on the will of the voters."
In debate on the amendment, Rep. @BenDiamondFL points out, "the voters in Palm Beach County liked it (the referendum), and the voted for it...this amendment is constant with the oversight of public funds."
Rep. @DotieForFlorida, "What happened he was simple. Tallahassee failed us (public schools). Voters knew that...now we're sticking out hands in the purse. These are discretionary funds."
"Make no mistake about it. This is smoke and mirrors. This is foolishness," concludes Rep. @DotieForFlorida.

Rep. @mattwillhitefl is now closing on his amendment; "I believe the will of the voters in Palm Beach County is not being followed. I'm very fearful."
The amendment fails 45-64 (votes are below).

The bill is now on third reading. The final vote will take place sometime around midnight. Again, there is no reason for it to be heard at this time of night other than the House didn't want to debate this in the daytime.
First in debate was Rep. @TinaPolsky who gave an impassioned case for respecting the will of the voters instead of usurping local control as the tax referendum language in #HB7123 does.
Next in debate is Rep. @ShevrinJones who says, "If we are so concerned w/teacher compensation we should have given more than 47 cents last year."

He concludes, "Please vote down on this bad piece of legislation."
Next in debate is Rep.@ALJacquet who points out he voted for #HB7123 in committee, but as a resident of Palm Beach he cannot support the bill that would overturn the will of the over 70% of voters from his county as this bill would do.
Rep. @ALJacquet continues, "Over 75% of the tax breaks in this package are for businesses; we'd like to see that flip. We'd like to see 75% of tax breaks go to families."
Rep. @BryanAvilaFL is now closing on #HB7123 who says this bill is necessary to ensure there is clarity "going forward" while leaving out this bill actually would go backwards and override the will of voters.
At 11:41pm #HB7123 passed 69-44.
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