ERIK FRESEN PUPPETEER

For the second year in a row, cowardly House members steered the Best & Brightest into their budget offer causing another meltdown. It figures that original bill sponsor Rep. Fresen is also the House Conference chair. Sunday night, the budget conference imploded after the House was unable to accept the Senate’s counter-offer which included $22.5M instead of $45M for the grossly biased Best and Brightest $10K teacher bonus. The only item both chambers agreed upon was a disgraceful 1% increase to Florida public schools which barely covers the cost of standing still.

As a result, the budget was bumped from the Conference Committee up to chairs Rep. Richard Corcoran and Sen. Tom Lee.  Well-placed sources report that incoming Speaker of the House Corcoran is frantically lobbying and offering deals to senators to secure votes and keep Best & Brightest alive either on the floor or in Senate budget negotiations.

Why is Rep. Corcoran spending his own political capital on Rep. Fresen?

He sure doesn’t want to. In fact, Best & Brightest was deliberately buried in the House budget offer so Corcoran could avoid trading on any of his personal “must-haves.” The Senate is now on track to consider Train Bill SB 534, loaded up with 30+ amendments, including one from Sen. John Legg to strip Best & Brightest from the bill. It was Legg, Senate sponsor of SB 978/Best & Brightest, who strongly objected Sunday night at the budget conference to its inclusion in the Senate counter offer, making the point that the public would be robbed of a transparent floor debate.

When a train bill like SB 524 arrives on the floor with so many substantive amendments, it’s called “loving a bill to death.” Meaning it contains too many conflicts to ever survive. Best & Brightest only became law because it was part of the 2015 budget. That’s how Florida voters get shafted every session. Neither the House nor Senate is willing to kill a budget bill over a single concept, even when they know that concept is preposterously stupid.

Clearly, Rep. Fresen and Rep. Corcoran are frantic over the prospect of an open Best & Brightest floor debate. Instead, they are making the choice to cling to the cowardly path of letting Best & Brightest hitch a ride on the budget.

The Senate knows better. They should stand firm and reject this deception. They know the House push to pass Best & Brightest at any cost doesn’t add up. It’s either a signal that there’s some additional, hidden purpose for that $45M or it’s a crude power play with the House objective to force the Senate into submission. Either way, it’s not about voters or what’s best for kids.

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