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Evelyn Lynn’

‘Parent trigger’ bill triggers passion, procedural maneuvering

Saturday, March 3rd, 2012 by Dara Kam

A controversial “parent trigger” bill backed by powerful GOP leaders and education reform icon Jeb Bush is headed to the Senate floor for a vote in the final week of the legislative session over the objections of the measure’s critics over the way it is being handled.

The Senate Budget Committee signed off on the bill (SB 1718), already passed by the Florida House, largely along partisan lines with a single Republican – Sen. Evelyn Lynn of Ormond Beach – joining Democrats in opposition.

Lynn and Democrats on the committee complained that GOP leaders were railroading the bill after Democrats and a cadre of Republicans led by Jack Latvala blocked the it from being yanked from the committee and sped to the Senate floor. Read about the Latvala-Thrasher leadership struggle – leaving its imprint on the final days of the legislative session – here, here and here.

Senate Rules Chairman John Thrasher, R-St.Augustine, set two hours for the rare Saturday morning meeting to hear the bill. No one objected then, but that was before another measure was added to the agenda, eating up nearly 45 minutes this morning.

After Thrasher ordered a 9:59 “time certain” vote on the bill, the grumbling began.

Sen. Gwen Margolis, a former Senate president, asked that the time be extended to hear from audience members. The “Parent Empowerment” legislation is being pushed in 20 states by the Los Angeles-based “Parent Revolution” organization but is opposed in Florida by a coalition of parent-led groups including the PTA.

Thrasher said that was impossible because Senate rules prevented the meeting from being extended except on the Senate floor.

The irascible Lynn piped up, reminding Thrasher, a former House speaker close to Bush, of a questionable 4-3 committee vote she intended to challenge because she believed the vote came after another “time certain” vote by the Senate Education Committee this week. She did not fight the vote, and Thrasher ruled that it was legit.

This morning’s vote came after heated debate and after less than five minutes of public testimony during which a parent from Gainesville voiced her opposition.

After the votes were cast and he adjourned the meeting, Senate budget chief JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales, allowed members of the audience to continue the dialogue.

Shirley Ford, a Los Angeles parent and one of the founders of Parent Revolution who still works for the group, told the panel why Florida needs the process, approved in California by voters two years ago.

Lynn didn’t buy it. She pointed out that Florida has a variety of measures to help turn around failing schools, including vouchers that allow students to attend any school their parents choose. And, she said, Florida just last year launched a sweeping education reform that among other things did away with teacher tenure. It’s too early to know what the impact of those changes will have on low-performing schools, she argued.

In addition, the state Board of Education this week approved a new school grading system that will nearly triple the number of failing schools.

“For somebody from California to come here and tell us what we should be doing is a laugh and a half,” Lynn said after the meeting.

Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich and her caucus will hold a press conference Monday morning before the floor session begins to voice their objections to the proposal, also opposed by the state teachers’ union.

After scolding, second anti-abortion bill headed to governor

Thursday, May 5th, 2011 by Dara Kam

After being scolded by two Republicans, the Florida Senate sent to Gov. Rick Scott a second abortion bill this morning that would require women to have an ultrasound before they get an abortion.

Sen. Evelyn Lynn harshly rebuked her colleagues for wasting time with emotional issues and failing to do enough to create jobs and boost the economy.

“I didn’t come up here to come and tell you what you must do with your bodies,” Lynn, R-Ormond Beach, said. “I don’t want to have to continually talk about these issues on this floor when I have people pleading with me to help me please find money to keep my lights on…I will vote for every one of those bills. That’s not why I came up here. And I will vote no not only on this bill but every other bill we have on abortion. It is the wrong thing for us to be discussing and taking endless amounts of time on.”

Sen. Nancy Detert, a Venice Republican, said she resented having to vote on the issue.

“I personally resent writing legislation that acts like I’m too stupid to confer with my own doctor on what I should do. This is not what we were sent up here to do. I have no intention of telling you my faith, my personal problems, and I frankly don’t want to hear yours either,” Detert said.

The ultrasound bill (HB 1127) is one of four measures making it harder for women to get abortions lawmakers have passed during the legislative session making it more difficult for women to get abortions. Last year, Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed a measure similar to the ultrasound bill the Senate approved by a 24-15 vote, with three other Republicans joining Lynn in opposition. Gov. Rick Scott has said he would have signed the measure into law.
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