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Politics

Crist Veto As It Happened

April 14, 2010 - 6:00pm

Despite repeated assurances that he would sign it, that the bill represented a powerful improvement in Florida's education standards, Gov. Charlie Crist announced Thursday that he had vetoed SB 6.

The bill would have implemented a performance-pay standard for teachers. It would have eliminated tenure -- a form of teacher employment protection. It would have disposed of automatic raises. Instead, it would seen teachers rewarded based on their students' progress.

It was, as former Gov. Jeb Bush described it in a Wednesday editorial, "based on the fundamental belief that all students can learn."

Gov. Crist, nevertheless, went from acclaiming the bill a week earlier to basing his veto rationale on his disappointment in it.

I vetoed SB 6 because this bill is contrary to my firmly held principle to act for the benefit of the people of Florida, Crist said.

The performance-pay measure passed the Senate last month and, after a marathon debate last Friday, it passed the House, too. What followed, however, was a staged, union-generated e-mail campaign throughout Florida to stop the bill and maintain the status quo. At one point the Governor's Office reported receiving some 10,000 phone calls and 15,000 e-mails demanding Crist to veto SB6.

After the bill passed in the House, a speculation-filled week went by before Crist killed it. He said he reached the decision late Wednesday night.

He said the bill was flawed for a number of reasons.

Crist blasted the way Republicans brought the measure through the Legislature. I find the creation of SB 6 and the manner of its adoption significantly flawed," he said. Many Florida parents and teachers complained about being shut out of the process, he said.

He did not mention the hours devoted to testimony on all sides of the issue earlier in the month.

Crist said Republican assurances that the bill could be made better once it's passed into law did not impress him. He did not mention why it impressed him a week earlier.

Such assurances are not enough for me to sign it, he said, even comparing the way Republicans handled the measure in Tallahassee to the way Democrats rammed through health-care legislation in Washington.

Crist insisted that he did not veto the bill for political reasons.

He even said that in spite of the veto, he remains a performance-pay supporter. It can be done and it can be done right, he said.

Thrasher, chief sponsor of the legislation, said, "It goes without saying that I'm disappointed this legislation has been vetoed by Gov. Crist, and I continue to think that one day it will be fully implemented in our state.

House Majority Leader Adam Hasner, R-Delray Beach, said, I'm disappointed that after sending his top policy staffer to the House Committee to testify in support of the proposal, Gov. Crist would change his mind and now veto the bill."

Democrats were ecstatic in their reaction.

U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, the leading Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate election in November, said, "Today's veto is a testament to the power of democracy to bring public pressure on Tallahassee politicians."

Unavailable after the veto announcement was Education Commissioner Eric Smith. Smith had previously -- after the passage of SB 6 -- expressed his excitement for Florida's improved chances of winning $700 million in the federal Race to the Top money.

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews, Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com, or either one at (850) 727-0859.

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