The Tallahassee Power Grab

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Lawmakers in Tallahassee are currently in the middle of the annual 60-day legislative session. While the Florida Constitution only requires them to do one thing, adopt a budget for the state, lawmakers have spent a lot of time discussing ways to shift the balance of power in our state by taking away local control from our communities. Some bills look to transfer power away from elected officials on city commissions, county councils and school boards, while others are trying to curtail the power of the courts. As we all learned in school, our government has 3 branches of Government for a reason — to ensure that no one branch gets too much power.

As we all learned in school, our government has 3 branches of Government for a reason — to ensure that no one branch gets too much power.

Cities and counties have long had the right to implement the will of their citizens in laws regarding how tax dollars are spent. Some cities and counties heard their citizens and implemented laws that when tax payer money is used for projects, local companies are often given preference, as are those companies who provide their employees (residents) with fair wages and benefits.

They have done this because the citizens in their communities have decided that local dollars should be spent on supporting the local community and the families that reside there. House Bill 599 (Senate Bill 534) in Tallahassee would not allow local communities to make this decision. In fact, this power grab by Tallahassee pre-empts our right to petition our local governments for laws that benefit our local families and communities.

Another bill HB 373/SB856 being pushed by Tallahassee lawmakers is aimed at school boards and their right to have policies and rules in place that help them recruit and retain the best teachers. Many school boards have negotiated agreements with teachers that say if a teacher is performing at an effective or higher level, they will have a job the following school year. It seems fair that if you are doing a good job, you should not have to worry about your job ending at the end of the school year.

You may not know this, but a teacher’s job ends at the end of every school year. The school board must vote to rehire them for the next year if they want to. That means in some cases teachers do not know until the last day of school, or sometimes into the summer, if they will have a job next year, even if they have demonstrated that they are an effective teacher.

With a critical teacher shortage, many districts have agreed to add some stability for teachers who demonstrate their effectiveness by guaranteeing them a job from year to year as long as they are rated effective or higher. Tallahassee lawmakers want to take this right away from school boards, who are acting based on their constituents’ wishes and in support of their community.

Tallahassee lawmakers want to take this right away from school boards, who are acting based on their constituents’ wishes and in support of their community.

Yet another bill, HB 1/SB 482, aims to limit the powers of the courts. Tallahassee lawmakers want to impose term limits on judges. While some might think term limits are good, keep in mind that judge appointments tend to be political, and judges who have served over time tend to have less political leanings and loyalties. This means that rulings are more likely to be based on a matter of law, rather than political favors.

Of course, since many judge appointments are approved by the legislature, limiting the terms would mean lawmakers would have more opportunities to approve judges, hence increasing the power of the legislative branch. Keep in mind that there have been several lawsuits brought against the legislature for overreach, in which the courts ruled against the legislature’s actions. Would the balance of power shift if judges are constantly turning over? I think so.

Contact your legislators and tell them to stop pre-empting our local elected officials. Tell them we want local control!

There are other bills that will impact our ability to have influence over the quality of life for our community. Elected officials at all levels are supposed to represent the interests of the citizens who reside in their community. That is how our country was founded. When Tallahassee lawmakers try to do an end around our local elected officials, we must speak up.

Where will the power grab end if we as citizens do not demand that Tallahassee lawmakers stop infringing on the rights of duly elected officials at the local level? Tallahassee lawmakers should never be able to pre-empt the will of a community and we should never let them. Contact your legislators and tell them to stop pre-empting our local elected officials. Tell them we want local control!

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