Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Crist Gets Pressure on Veto Warning; the Governor Has Said He Might Say No to the Education/teacher Bill

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Crist Gets Pressure on Veto Warning; the Governor Has Said He Might Say No to the Education/teacher Bill

Article excerpt

Byline: BRANDON LARRABEE

TALLAHASSEE - A measure overhauling teacher contracts was set to narrowly pass the House on Thursday, even as pressure grew on Gov. Charlie Crist to make good on his warnings that he might veto the bill.

Lawmakers debated late into the night, but even Democrats conceded that Republicans had secured enough votes to push through the controversial measure, which ties pay increases for teachers to student achievement and does away with employment protections, generally called "tenure," for any teacher hired beginning July 1.

The bill will then go to Crist, who indicated earlier in the session that he might sign the legislation but reiterated Thursday that he hasn't made a decision and has concerns about the bill.

"There are things about it that I like and things about it that give me some concern," Crist told reporters after an unrelated bill signing. "And I've expressed that. I just want to weigh it out and continue to listen."

But Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine and the bill's sponsor, said Crist had told Thrasher "several times" that he would sign the legislation.

"Now, does he have a right to change his mind? Certainly he does," Thrasher said. "We all do. But he did tell me, and I've always taken him as a man for his word."

Crist brushed off any suggestion that political considerations had caused him to rethink his stance on the bill.

"I'm listening to the people of Florida - my boss," he said.

The people of Florida have, by all accounts, tried to make themselves heard. Lawmakers have been hammered with hundreds of e-mails and calls, sometimes in a single day, from teachers, parents and others as the bill moved toward Thursday's decisive vote. About 120 witnesses signed up to speak at the final House committee hearing on the bill before the floor debate.

Democrats drew on those complaints in the debate Thursday, to the point that GOP leaders used the chamber's rules to curtail the reading of outside comments. That brought protests from Democrats.

"We're telling our citizens that we don't care what they think," said House Democratic Leader Franklin Sands of Weston. …

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