Crist won't show his hand on possible SB 6 veto

04/09/10 Seán Kinane
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This morning, Gov. Charlie Crist was in Ybor City. He was greeted by about eight employees of the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association. They held signs encouraging him to veto Senate Bill 6.

When the governor arrived, he walked over to the crowd and accepted a box filled with hundreds of postcards and handwritten petitions from teachers and their supporters urging him to veto the bill. Crist said he has still not made a veto decision as he accepted the box from the teachers association president, Jean Clements.

Clements: We have some postcards and petitions for you.

Crist: Oh, thank you. Thank you very, very much.

Clements: We saved the postage, and hand them to you directly.

Crist: Oh, yeah. Going to save some money.

aide: Shall I take the box, sir?

Crist: I’ll hold it for a minute. It’s very good of you to be here this morning. I appreciate your concerns. And are you—you’re the local president?

Clements: Yes.

Crist: Are you? Madame President. It’s a privilege to meet you.

Clements: Mister Governor.

Crist: I was watching the debate on the bill last night. I don’t know if any of you had occasion to catch it. But, I think it went to, like, two-thirty in the morning, or something.

Clements: It did.

Crist: Just unbelievable. But it gets to my desk, I think, later today, maybe already by now. And I have seven days to take action on it. So your input means an awful lot to me. And the fact that you’ve taken the time to be here today really reflects the sincerity of your concern. And I appreciate it; I want you to know that. And I’m going to continue to listen and learn more about it. But I do have concerns about it.

Clements responded that she hopes Crist will take teachers’ issues with the bill into consideration.

We appreciate that you have the concerns; we appreciate that you’re taking the time. I think there’s teachers all over the state that are rooting for you right now. Our hopes rest on your shoulders, and the hopes of our parents, and teachers across the state of Florida. We’re not opposed to change, but this is not the right way to do it. It’s too much, too fast, unfunded, and with no collaboration with the teachers and the parents. So we are trusting you to do what’s right for the people of Florida, and hope that you veto this bad bill—and then work with us to create the right kinds of changes in the right kinds of forms as we move forward.

Crist was asked by reporters what his concerns were with the bill, and which way he was leaning with SB 6.

I don’t know; I honestly don’t know yet. You know, I think it’s important for me to listen. And that’s exactly what I’m doing, and why I wanted to come over and visit with these wonderful people, and hear their concerns first-hand. You know, take these petitions. You know, I think one of the most important things a public servant can do is listen. I mean, God gave me two ears and one mouth. I’m going to listen this week.

Q. What are the concerns that you have?

Well, there are several. I mean, you know, I’m concerned—I think I’ve expressed this before—about how this would treat special-needs teachers; about the five percent budget issue in the districts, among others.

The governor says there are some things he likes about the bill.

Well, you know, I think all of us like the accountability aspect of it. That’s important. But it’s got to be done right.

Immediately after Crist met with the teachers union employees, Sherry Gunn said she has hope he will veto SB 6.

We totally appreciate us being the first stop; that shows the utmost respect for what we’re doing, special that he is considering not signing it, which is very good. And we just hope and pray that he’s listening, he hears it, and he helps us. ’Cause we need it.

Lisa Desiano, an administrative assistant with the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association, said the response of passing motorists to their Veto SB 6 signs has been:

Positive, positive. You know, we got this group together at the last minute, and we’re hoping to make some impact. I think we are.

Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink wants to succeed Charlie Crist as governor. Teachers association president Jean Clements is hopeful that Sink’s recommendation for Crist to veto SB 6 will influence the current governor.

Ah, that’s wonderful. She came out with that very strong statement a couple of weeks ago, and there were lots of cheers going up.

More WMNF coverage of Senate Bill 6:

Governor Crist on SB 6

Hillsborough teachers protest bills in Florida Legislature

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