TALLAHASSEE — Following controversial presidential searches at some Florida public universities, the House Government Operations Subcommittee voted 9-1 Tuesday to approve a bill (HB 223) that would offer confidentiality to candidates during the early stages of searches for new college leaders.
Under an amendment made Tuesday, information about finalists would be shielded from public view until 30 days before the meeting at which action is taken on selecting a candidate.
The bill sponsor, Rep. Neil Combee, R-Polk City, argued that the move would increase the pool of applicants to become president, provost or dean at public colleges or universities. He said Florida’s Sunshine Law, which requires information about candidates for public positions to be made public, keeps the best candidates from applying.
Opponents — including the First Amendment Foundation, the United Faculty of Florida and the Florida AFL-CIO — argued that the bill would violate the rights of people with stakes in the future of universities. The most-controversial recent presidential search involved a months-long process that led to Florida State University hiring former Sen. John Thrasher as its leader.
Also Tuesday …
DOC corruption probe: Testifying under oath, Gulf County Sheriff Mike Harrison told the Senate Criminal Justice Committee that, as a corrections investigator, he was twice told by “upper-level management” in the inspector general’s office of the Department of Corrections not to pursue criminal charges against corrupt, high-ranking officials. Investigators were encouraged to pursue administrative cases, which could end in firings but not criminal charges, “to make it look favorable upon the department,” Harrison said. Chairman Greg Evers, R-Baker, who has sponsored a sweeping prison overhaul (SB 7020), said he wants “to dig deeper” into Harrison’s accusations.
Tax projections up: Lawmakers facing the pressures of a potential loss in federal health-care funding on one side and Gov. Rick Scott’s drive to slash taxes and raise education spending on the other got little relief as state economists added $145.4 million in tax revenue for the budget year that begins July 1. Amy Baker, the Legislature’s chief economist, said the changes aren’t significant enough to alter lawmakers’ plans. Lawmakers still appear to have a surplus of about $1 billion to work with. But between the health-care showdown, Scott’s call for record per-student spending in education and conservative hopes for tax cuts of $500 million or more, that funding could dry up quickly.
Medicaid dental: A House panel Tuesday rejected a proposal to revamp the Medicaid program’s system of providing dental services to children. The House Health Innovation Subcommittee deadlocked 6-6 on the proposal (HB 601), filed by Rep. MaryLynn Magar, R-Tequesta. A tie kills a bill. Under the state’s new Medicaid managed-care system, HMOs and other types of managed-care plans are responsible for providing dental services to children. Magar’s bill called for carving out pediatric dental services from the broader Medicaid managed-care system and providing the care through what are known as prepaid dental plans. Magar argued her proposal would lead to better dental care and help lead to more dentists treating children in Medicaid. But critics, including officials from Medicaid HMOs, said dental services should not be removed from what is designed to be a comprehensive Medicaid managed-care system.
Post wire reports.