by Tampa Bay Times’ Kristen M. Clark
May 31, 2017
The First Amendment Foundation wants Republican Gov. Rick Scott to now also veto a third part of the 2017-18 budget over concerns of a lack of transparency: a priority bill of Senate President Joe Negron‘s that includes sweeping reforms affecting Florida’s 12 public universities and 28 state colleges.
The formal veto request from the non-profit foundation — of which the Miami Herald and the Tampa Bay Times are members — comes after similar requests by the organization, which called on Scott to reject the main budget act (SB 2500) and a controversial $419 million K-12 schools bill (HB 7069).
In a letter to Scott, First Amendment Foundation president Barbara Petersen blasted the fact that SB 374 was “decided in secrecy and seemingly in direct violation of the right of access to legislative meetings.”
“The secretive process precluded any opportunity for public oversight or input on major changes to Florida’s to (sic) post-secondary education policy,” Petersen wrote. “We are extremely concerned that not only were university and higher education officials shut out, but also legislators from key committees were unaware of changes made to this critically important bill.
Read the foundation’s full letter here.
After this post was published, Negron’s office offered a statement to the Herald/Times in response to the foundation’s criticism of the bill.
“Over the 18 months that we have been discussing elements of higher education reform, I am not aware of the First Amendment Foundation ever contacting me personally, any other Senator, or any member of the Senate professional staff to express any concern with this legislation whatsoever,” Negron, R-Stuart, said in the statement. ” As a result, today’s critique is completely ill-informed and inaccurate.”
Negron said he has “been discussing many of the reforms contained in Senate Bill 374 since my designation in 2015” and that other ideas in the bill resulted from feedback he received while touring all state universities last year. He argued “every component of the bill was vetted by three Senate committees and amendments by senators were offered and incorporated at every step of the process.” [READ MORE]