Gov. Charlie Crist signed three measures into law Wednesday that had the backing of leading Republicans in Florida -- but he still did not answer whether he would sign or veto teacher performance pay legislation.
Crist signed the Transparency in Private Attorney Contracting Act with Attorney General Bill McCollum and Rep. Eric Eisnaugle, R-Orlando, who sponsored the bill in the House, at his side. Also standing with Crist was Sen. John Thrasher, R-Jacksonville, who introduced the measure in the Senate and was the chief sponsor of the performance pay measure that sits on Crists desk.
The act allows the attorney general to cap attorney fees when the state needs outside legal representation. When the issue came up in the House, legislators from both sides of the aisle referred to the states litigation against tobacco companies in 1997. While the state won $13 billion in those lawsuits, $3 billion went to pay the states lawyers.
The stories on corruption and scandal that weve all read amplified the need to see this policy become law this year, McCollum said. As Floridas chief legal officer, I have a responsibility to ensure that this office is insulated from undue influence when entering into contingency fee contracts with private law firms.
The measure was backed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Associated Industries of Florida and the Florida Justice Reform Institute.
Crist also signed legislation that stopped adoption agencies from using ownership of firearms as a factor for determining potential foster parents. It was sponsored by Rep. Mike Horner, R-Kissimmee, in the House and Sen. Thad Altman, R-Viera.
Democrats in both chambers of the Legislature attempted to change the measure to allow gays and lesbians in Florida to adopt children, though the sponsors withdrew their amendments.
Later in the day the governor signed the slip-and-fall bill, which shifts the burden of proof from retailers to plaintiffs suing over an injury.
When addressing the media after signing the bill capping attorney fees, Crist remained coy about whether he would back teacher performance pay.
With both Thrasher and Crist in attendance, the media asked about conversations that the two Republicans had on teacher performance pay. Thrasher said Crist told him that he would support it. Crist denies this conversation took place. When asked who was correct, Thrasher bolted for the door while Crist remained at the podium.
Asked if he intended to sign the measure, Crist played it coy. Well find out soon, he said.
As Crist continues to ponder whether to sign or veto, Floridians are letting their voices be heard. Crists office was flooded on Wednesday morning with teachers, school administrators, bus drivers and school cafeteria workers asking the governor to veto the measure. On Tuesday, business leaders met in the Capitol, asking the governor to back the measure.
Asked what he is hearing from Floridians, Crist said, Its pretty overwhelming. As he prepared to leave the podium and head to the next event, the governor added, Its good to listen and Ive done a lot of that.
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