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Florida School Safety Bill – Other Education Measures Left To Wither

Tony Montalto, Stand With Parkland President, father of Gina Montalto
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TALLAHASSEE, FL – An advocacy group formed by parents and family of victims of the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting is demanding Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis call a special session to reconsider a bipartisan school safety bill.

House Bill 7065 was among the education related bills that fell to the wayside as the Legislature concluded its 60-day session Friday. Other items not passing the Legislature include voluntary pre-kindergarten, parental rights, school-board term limits and testing measures.

“Florida legislators failed our students, who next year will be less safe than they could and should be,” Stand with Parkland President Tony Montalto said in a statement. “This failure is inexcusable.”

Lawmakers will convene briefly Thursday to adopt a $92.3 billion budget. A special session is tentatively planned to happen before June, hopefully after the coronavirus outbreak peaks and before the new fiscal year begins July 1.

HB 7065, sponsored by Rep. Ralph Massullo, R-Beverly Hills, was adopted unanimously by the House on March 4 but replaced by its companion, Senate Bill 7040, sponsored by Sen. Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah Gardens, when it was passed by the Senate on March 11 and kicked back to the House.

The chambers were negotiating differences between the bills up to 11:38 p.m. Friday.

Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, and House Speaker José Oliva, R-Hialeah, were surprised the bill was not adopted.

“I’m wondering a little bit about what happened,” Oliva said.

“We cannot overstate how stunned and frustrated we are to learn that our representatives failed to pass the school-safety bill,” Montalto said. “It had overwhelming bipartisan support and represented the recommendations of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission (MSDC) created to assist Florida’s legislators to make needed changes in the wake of tragic murder of our loved ones.”

The 40-page bill added safeguards recommended by the MSDC to bolster school-safety measures approved under 2018’s Senate Bill 7026, the $400 million Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, adopted in the aftermath of the Valentine’s Day 2018 shooting in Parkland that left 17 students and teachers dead, including Montalto’s 14-year-old daughter, Gina Rose Montalto.

HB 7065 clarifies county sheriff’s departments, not private security companies, are responsible for vetting and training volunteers who enroll in the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program.

Last week, the House unanimously agreed to add the Kaia Rolle Act to HB 7065, which would have barred the arrest of minors under 7.

Other education-related legislation that died Friday:

• House Bill 1013: Sponsored by Rep. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach, HB 1013 would have implemented stricter statewide standards on PreK providers, mostly private operators, and created an assessment test to measure student progress from kindergarten through third grade.

HB 1013 passed the House, 119-0, on March 9 and was referred to Senate Education and Appropriations committees. It never emerged on the Senate floor.

• House Bill 1059: Also sponsored by Grall, this measure would have created a parental bill of rights, allowing parents to object to educational curriculum based on moral or religious beliefs.

The House approved it on March 9, 77-41, but the bill was never heard in the Senate.

• House Bill 7079: The bill would have reduced the frequency of standardized student testing and added more civics education to the curriculum, which are both DeSantis priorities.

The bill was approved by the House on March 9, 105-11, but never made it a Senate vote.

• House Joint Resolution 157/Senate Joint Resolution 1216: The measures sought to put eight-year school-board term limits before voters on the Nov. 3 ballot. It passed the House, 79-39, on Feb. 20 but never got to the Senate floor.

This piece appeared in the The Center Square and was reprinted by the Columbia County Observer with permission or license.

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