Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Florida Chamber of Commerce Not Interested In Reform

Mark Wilson of the Florida Chamber of Commerce couldn't hide his glee to the St. Petersburg Times editorial board. Wilson knows that the Florida Chamber of Commerce owns the Florida legislature and Gov. Rick Scott.

"If we don't have a good three or four years … then we've blown it," Wilson said during a legislative briefing before 50 area business leaders in Tampa on Tuesday morning. "This is our time in the business community to do what we do best."

Wilson laid out what the Chamber wanted Scott and the legislature to make law.

• Spreading the risk on businesses that have to shore up the state's depleted unemployment insurance trust fund. Florida has been borrowing $300 million a month from the federal government to keep unemployment benefits flowing. One option the chamber floated: having employees pay a portion of the unemployment tax now paid by employers.

• Passing an education package that includes cutting back on teacher tenure, establishing teacher pay-for-performance, expanding access to virtual schools and creating education savings accounts.

• Tightening medical malpractice suits and venue-shopping for judges.

• Making Internet retailers responsible for collecting sales taxes on Florida transactions to capture an estimated $3 billion a year in lost state revenue.

• Pushing a property insurance system overhaul that was vetoed a year ago.

It is against federal law for states to tax internet businesses. That is good idea but dead on arrival. The rest of what the Chamber wants would screw over Floridians at the expense of the Commerce's self-interest. The proposal of taking unemployment taxes off of corporations and onto employees is horrible. This is nothing more than a tax shift.

What kind of education are students from internet classes and not being able to interact with teachers? Students would have less access and teachers wouldn't be able to keep a disengaged student from slacking off. Conservatives aren't suggesting that Harvard or MIT have only internet classes. Republicans want to kill public schooling and tort reform because teachers and trial lawyers have been longtime donors to the Democratic Party. This has been a longtime strategy by Grover Norquist.

"We plan to pick up another five seats in the Senate and hold the House through redistricting through 2012," he says. "And rather than negotiate with the teachers' unions and the trial lawyers and the various leftist interest groups, we intend to break them."

The Chamber of Commerce's proposals aren't about reform. This is financial and political self-interest placed ahead of Floridians. That is why Wilson refused to be critical of Scott to the Times editorial board.

In a meeting with the Times' editorial board later in the day, Wilson was hard pressed to find fault with any of Gov. Rick Scott's early moves in office — including controversial parts of the governor's proposed $66 billion budget that call for cutting per-pupil spending by 10 percent and laying off about 6,700 state workers.

Though some state legislators were sharply critical of Scott's budget, Wilson predicted that "80 percent" of the proposal will pass.

The Florida Republican establishment and Chamber of Commerce is the marriage made in policy hell.

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At February 18, 2011 9:49 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with you on most every point. However I might be able to provide some insight on the subject of virtual school. I know a few teenagers who participate, and though it's not right for all children these seem to have benefited. They all get regular one on one attention with the teacher, something that our classroom settings have been lacking.The teacher student ratio is also pretty low, allowing teachers to work with struggling students, something else we've been lacking in Florida classrooms. They are all required to check in regularly both on the phone and via internet, turn in multiple projects and assignments on time, and are examined on a regular basis. Hope this helps!

At February 18, 2011 1:42 PM , Blogger Michael Hussey said...

Thanks for the input. I will research online schools more for a possible future post.


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