Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Rick Scott's "Nuclear Option"

They are busy as beavers building it. When it's complete, at the stroke of a pen it can obliterate a governing body of your elected officials, anywhere in the state.
Comes the resurgence of a bill we saw die during the last session under the guise of Senate Bill 90; now resurrected from the dead as SB 368; what can only be described as “the governor’s nuclear option” bill.
SB 368 was introduced straight out of the gate , Jan 11, 2012 by Senator Don Gaetz of Niceville. When you read the thing, you can hardly believe your eyes and ears.
What it essentially says is, the governor can come along and look at the balance sheet for any governmental agency in the state of Florida from your city council to your school board, and begin dismantling it with managerial brutality and red tape thuggery, under the guise of a declared “financial emergency”.
What constitutes a "financial emergency"? 'Meh,' says officialdom 'let's keep that sort of loosy goosey for now. We want the governor to feel comfortable in setting those parameters after he sends the state auditor to your town for a look see.'
The bill was reworded slightly from last year, in that in place of naming “county commission” or “city council” it used the term “governing body”. Hopefully you won't be able to connect the dots that "governing body" covers all of the above. Not just a special taxing district but, say, the entirety of your county government if the governor so decides.
It is here we noticed that the concept of charter schools is enjoying more visible use within the language of this and other bills.
“District School Board, charter school, or charter technical career center” etc.
Question: is “charter technical career center” the new model for “college” or “university”? Or, is this the modern day equivalent of the Dickensian “workhouse?” Or is it perhaps a little of both?
We’ll have to come back to this later as this develops.
Everyone in the media ignored this bill during the last go round in 2011 when it was removed from discussion as SB 90. Likely because a team of hardworking bloggers (me, myself and I) was the first to notice the power this thing had.  And well Big Media doesn’t like to follow bloggers down any path. They have to consider what this does to their cache of course, so best to ignore dangerous power grabs using chunks of nearly inscrutable legalese; particularly if someone as lowly as a “blogger” can at least partially untangle them.
Yes, well, that bitterness out of the way let us further dissect the madness in this thing.
It gives the governor the power to swoop in and begin demanding things from a local government entity owing to a financial emergency following a report of fiscal distress from the auditor general’s office.
The governor, his appointee or the commissioner of education working on his behalf can stipulate a poison pill timeline for “complying” and should they fail to do so, they can strip any and all administrative powers from that governing body, fire one or the lot of the elected officials, set up a separate entity to handle that body’s affairs.
In sum, an end run around your vote installing these people in the first place all at the touch of a buttom.
Truly, His Lordship, seeks control of all. And he does so very quietly through his solicitor, Senator Gaetz, the heir apparent to replace former fair haired child, Senator Mike Haridopolos.
The papers however did mention the power grab by the governor. The Miami Herald touched on it in their article of Jan. 15, 2012. [i]
And while they noticed Scott was going after the power held by judges, and pushing for his top finance man’s increased power to review state contracts, they barely hinted to the powers this bill would afford the governor's office.
In essence, it is a nuclear option. As we said before, it’s all well and good to have the right to collectively bargain in the state of Florida.
But when the governor can come in under the flimsiest of circumstances, issue a poison pill directive or two, then dismantle your school board or your city commission, who you gonna bargain with? Empty chairs?

[i] “Florida Legislature Could Give Scott more powers” Miami Herald Jan. 15, 2012

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