Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Black Lawmakers Pass on Bush Lunch

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Black Lawmakers Pass on Bush Lunch

Article excerpt

Gov. Jeb Bush could have a lonely lunch today.

Bush was scheduled to huddle with black lawmakers at the Governor's Mansion for lunch and a discussion about legislative issues.

But with the state embroiled in a battle about Bush's plan to overhaul affirmative action, Sen. Daryl Jones, D-Miami, said yesterday he and other black lawmakers will not attend.

That won't stop Bush, however.

"The lunch is on," spokesman Justin Sayfie said. "The invitation to the members of the black caucus is extended. The governor will be there."

Jones, chairman of the Florida Conference of Black State Legislators, said lawmakers will skip the 90-minute lunch because it won't provide enough time to talk about issues. Jones said some members would have to leave the lunch to attend committee meetings at the Capitol.

"With the way the relationship is with the governor, we want to be able to sit down with him for a couple of hours," Jones said.

But Sayfie said House Speaker John Thrasher, R-Orange Park, and Senate President Toni Jennings, R-Orlando, assured Bush that lawmakers would have enough time to return to the Capitol for meetings.

Bush and black lawmakers are warring over the governor's One Florida Initiative, which ends the use of racial, ethnic and gender preferences in state contracting and university admissions.

It was unclear yesterday whether all 20 black lawmakers will turn down Bush's lunch invitation. Some, such as Rep. Rudy Bradley of St. Petersburg, the only black Republican in the Legislature, have worked closely with Bush.

SCHOOL GRADES: Foiled last year in their fight to revamp Bush's school reform plan, Democratic lawmakers are gearing up for another try.

A group of House Democrats announced a plan yesterday to change the way school performance is graded, a key part of Bush's so-called "A-Plus" education plan. Democrats want to put less emphasis on student test scores and more on factors such as parental involvement.

Rep. Doug Wiles, a St. Augustine Democrat who is helping spearhead the effort, said the "A-Plus" plan has forced teachers to focus on preparing students for the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test instead of teaching other subjects. …

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