Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry follows.

"State coddling for-profit colleges"

"Miami lawmaker Rep. José Javier Rodríguez blasted Florida’s for-profit college oversight agency on Tuesday — questioning whether it has the 'political will' to crack down on misbehaving schools."

Rodríguez’s harsh words came nearly three months after the disastrous closure of Coral Gables-based Dade Medical College. Dade Medical’s roughly 2,000 students were left in limbo because the school never gave the state a plan to “teach out” the students at another college, which is required by Florida law. Violating that law is a misdemeanor.Florida’s for-profit oversight agency, the Commission for Independent Education, has the power to refer Dade Medical owner Ernesto Perez to prosecutors because of how the closure happened. But so far, the CIE — which is dominated by for-profit college executives — has taken no action.
"In a letter e-mailed to CIE Executive Director Samuel Ferguson, Rodríguez wrote he was “deeply disappointed” in the agency’s response."
“Most telling is the commission’s repeated and continued failure to simply be available to students in Miami,” wrote Rodríguez, who is a Democrat. “Despite repeated assurances to me since early November that plans are underway to send staff to South Florida to meet with and assist affected students, three months after the closure we continue to wait.”
"Under its own agency rules, the CIE is supposed to send a staffer to any school that closes."
The CIE is part of the Florida Department of Education. Its next board meeting is on Thursday. Rodríguez urged the agency to consider referring Dade Medical’s “improper closure” to law enforcement — an action that, he said, would send a message that the state takes the issue seriously.

“In my view, such a signal has so far been seriously lacking,” Rodríguez wrote.

Florida Department of Education spokeswoman Cheryl Etters said Dade Medical’s closure will be discussed by the CIE on Thursday. She did not provide any response to Rodríguez’s letter.

A recent Miami Herald investigation, Higher-Ed Hustle, showed how the CIE routinely dismisses student complaints — even those alleging fraud or other illegal activity.

"State coddling for-profit colleges, lawmaker says." See also "Higher-Ed Hustle."

"What's hot, crazy or shady about politics in the Sunshine State"

Marc Caputo: "Rubio’s ‘Survivor’ campaign – Bush’s big spending, low return – Todd Wilcox’s big-name finance and campaign team – Clinton names FL press secretary from de Blasio World." "Florida Playbook."

Pastor Protection Act

"Senate Judiciary Committee approves Pastor Protection Act, which would allow clergy to turn away gay couples seeking to marry." "Florida lawmakers OK religious protections, delay LGBT rights vote." See also "Senate panel passes 'Pastor Protection' bill."

Bill would end automatic fees for public records violations

"Advocates decry bill ending automatic fees for public records violations." See also "Senate committee approves bill that weakens public records law."

Horse racing

Nancy Smith: "Legislators, Don't Vote to Kill Horse Racing -- Demand Facts."

What will NRA want next?

Joe Henderson: "Leaders at the National Rifle Association always think several moves ahead and they are relentless. With the consent of the Legislature, Florida has morphed from a state with reasonable gun restrictions 10 or 15 years ago to what we have now, and it’s not stopping." "If the NRA wins on open carry for Florida, what will it want next?"

House backs fracking

"The House on Tuesday voted down 20 amendments offered by Democrats to a bill that would bar local governments from banning oil and gas fracking, setting the stage for what could be a contentious debate and vote on Wednesday." "House votes down Democrats' fracking bill amendments."

Senate considers larger education budget

"Senate budget writers are considering a larger education spending increase than Gov. Rick Scott sought, though lawmakers are still considering how to offset an increase in local property taxes that helps pay for the historic number." "Senate Unveils Boost in Education Spending."

House goes after "sanctuary cities"

"Immigrant groups are on the edges of their seats this week as a bill which could significantly impact their way of life makes its way through the Florida House of Representatives." "House to Vote on Cracking Down on 'Sanctuary Cities'."

"Committee ejects speaker for outburst"

"Senate committee ejects speaker for outburst over divorce bill."