Florida Chief Justices react to DeSantis
Former Chief Justices of the Florida Supreme Court: Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince, say that Florida has a judicial tradition of “Equal Justice Under the Law.” These words are chiseled above the United States Supreme Court building, “an ideal that our justice system endeavors to achieve.” Pariente and Quince are concerned that Gov. Ron DeSantis has condemned “diversity, equity and inclusion” (DEI) programs with just his signature according to an opinion editorial the former justices wrote in the Tampa Bay Times Mar. 28, 2023. “Former justices, from Justice Ray Ehrlich and Justice Parker Lee McDonald to Justice Major Harding, all promoted the importance of diversity education during their tenure as chief justice. In fact, until last month, the commitment to diversity training and fairness remained unbroken by the Florida Supreme Court.” The pair said. “While we were both chief justices of the Florida Supreme Court, we continued the important tradition of re-appointing a Standing Committee on Fairness and Diversity,” the justices wrote. “Prior to the court’s opinion eliminating diversity from the education curriculum, in large part because of mandatory judicial education on diversity, Florida stood as a role model for the country. But no more!” they exclaimed.
Barbara Pariente was the 77th justice, and the second female justice, she served as chief justice 2004-2006. Peggy Quince was the 79th justice, and the first African American female justice, to serve on the Florida Supreme Court. She served as chief justice 2008-2010.
Clearwater’s new (interim) mayor
Former Clearwater Mayor Brian Aungst Sr. has been named interim mayor of the city. Council members unanimously voted yesterday to name Aungst to fill the seat vacated last week by Frank Hibbard, who stepped down in the middle of a budget workshop last week over questions about the funding of city construction projects. Aungst previously served as Clearwater’s mayor from 1999 to 2005 for the maximum two consecutive terms. Aungst will hold the position until March 2024. Aungst had worked for 30 years for Charter Communications before retiring as the company’s Director of State Government Affairs in 2018. Aungst’s son, Brian Aungst Jr. was recently named by Gov. Ron DeSantis to the board of the new Walt Disney World special taxing district. While some who spoke at yesterday’s special council meeting favored naming a current city council member to the seat, others spoke in favor of appointing someone who has no future plans to run for mayor.
Phosphate in roads
Yesterday, a Florida subcommittee voted in favor of a bill that would allow a by-product of phosphate mining to be used in road-building material.
Individuals stand to lose healthcare soon
On April 1, many people may lose healthcare as states review eligibility for Medicaid. WMNF’s Chris Young reports that Tampa Congress member Kathy Castor is calling for Medicaid to be extended.
Schools to start later in the morning
A senate panel Mar. 27 approved a proposal that would push back school start times for many high-school students in Florida. The Senate Education PreK-12 Committee approved the bill which would prevent middle schools from beginning the “instructional day” before 8 a.m., while high schools would be barred from starting before 8:30 a.m. The average start time for Florida high schools is 7:45 a.m., with 46 percent of high schools starting before 7:30 a.m. The full House is slated to take up its version of the bill on Mar. 30.
Legislation for school board races
Florida School-board races currently are required by the state Constitution to be non-partisan. A Senate Committee on March 27, 2023, approved legislation that would ask voters in 2024 to pass a constitutional amendment to move to partisan elections. If the amendment passes, partisan school-board races would begin in 2026. “This is for the voter, this is for full transparency. I can promise you were are way past the idea that these races are non-partisan.” Joe Gruters, sponsor of the bill said. Democrats on the panel, including Lori Berman, question why the proposed change is needed. “I don’t understand why it’s necessary. I don’t understand what benefit there is to communities. We have already politicized our school boards. At this point, why would we want to do it anymore?” Senator Lori Berman questioned. Some school-board races have become high-profile contests in recent years amid battles about issues such as mask requirements aimed at mitigating the spread of COVID-19. Governor Ron DeSantis took the rare step of endorsing a slate of dozens of school-board candidates before the November elections, most of whom went on to claim victories. The Senate proposal needs approval from one more committee before it can go to the full Senate. The House version of the measure is ready to go before the full chamber later this week.
Poll finds alarming trend
According to a recent poll commissioned by the support group No Kid Hungry Florida, more than three-quarters of Floridians said it was harder to buy food now than just a year ago. No Kid Hungry works closely with schools to meet the need. “What No Kid hungry does is very much assess the unique needs, not just of the community, but of the actual schools. So you could have multiple schools in a single school district that have different needs. No Kid Hungry helps them address whatever need in whichever school with whatever resources may be available.” Andrea Messina, CEO of the Florida School Boards Association stated. Several state and national food support groups are at the Florida capitol this week to lobby lawmakers on the issue
Information from the Florida Public Radio network, News Service of Florida and Associated Press was used in this report.