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Slosberg among reps seeking money for security at Jewish schools

A bipartisan group of House members is pushing a bill that would provide money to help protect Jewish day schools, some of which have been targeted in recent months by anti-Semitic threats and vandalism.

Rep. Emily Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, Rep. Jason Fischer, R-Jacksonville, Rep. Richard Stark, D-Weston, and Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, are asking for $1.5 million through the Department of Education to cover security upgrades such as new fences, surveillance and alarm systems and bullet-proof windows.

RELATED: More Florida Legislature coverage

A regional official with the New York-based Orthodox Union is listed as the requester of the funding, which would go toward “target hardening” improvements for schools in Broward, Duval, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Miami-Dade, Orange, Palm Beach, and Volusia counties.

The funding proposal (HB 3653), filed by Fine, passed the House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee this week and now sits in the Appropriations Committee. Slosberg’s office on Thursday pointed to some 17 bomb threats to Jewish day schools so far in 2017.

Constitution panel to meet

A panel appointed to suggest changes to the Florida Constitution is scheduled to hold its first meeting next week. The Constitution Revision Commission, which convenes every 20 years, will hold its introductory session Monday afternoon.

Most of the work of the panel is expected to take place after the legislative session, which is scheduled to end May 5. Any proposed constitutional amendments recommended by the 37-member commission will go on the ballot for the November 2018 elections and would require approval from 60 percent of voters to take effect.

Help vowed for Corrections

Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, told his panel Thursday that he and other Senate leaders had agreed to help the Florida Department of Corrections try to stop the outflow of correctional officers to higher-paying private-sector and local jobs.

“Our budget will include some substantial help for you,” Latvala told Corrections Secretary Julie Jones, who presented a pay plan to the committee.

Jones told the committee her plan has three prongs: raising pay for correctional officers, probation officers and some supervisors; a hiring bonus for some employees at facilities with high vacancy rates; and additional pay for those who work with inmates with mental-health problems.

Recess bill heads to Senate floor

Florida elementary schools would have to provide at least 20 minutes of unstructured recess time each school day under a bill (SB 78) approved Thursday by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, said some Florida schools now provide recess, while others don’t. Flores said her bill would mandate at least 20 minutes a day, or 100 minutes per week, for children enrolled in kindergarten through fifth-grade classes in all 67 school districts.

Thursday’s vote was the last Senate committee for the bill, meaning its next destination is the Senate floor. A companion bill (HB 67), filed by Rep. Rene Plasencia, R-Orlando, and Rep. Bob Cortes, R-Altamonte Springs, is still waiting for its first committee hearing in the House.

House ethics reform bill advances

A House committee Thursday advanced a wide-ranging ethics reform bill that could restrict lawmakers from profiting off their legislative influence.

The proposal (PCB PIE 17-05), approved by the House Public Integrity & Ethics Committee, would impose a six-year ban on lawmakers and statewide elected officials lobbying the Legislature or state agencies after they leave office. It also would prevent public officials from accepting legal or other professional work with entities regulated by the state.

The measure passed unanimously after a tweak that would allow legislators to perform professional services already contracted while serving in office, but not to solicit or enter into new contracts that could conflict with their public duties. The legislation would also impose a two-year ban on former heads of state agencies lobbying agencies, as well as prohibiting lawmakers and Cabinet officers from soliciting investment advice from or entering into investment deals with lobbyists or principals.

Rep. David Richardson, D-Miami Beach, raised concerns the six-year lobbying ban may be struck down by courts, citing jurisprudence related to “no-compete” clauses in private employment contracts. Currently, lawmakers can’t lobby their former colleagues for two years after leaving office.

Bill would kill state employee charity campaign

After plummeting contributions and controversy about how money was used, a House panel Thursday unanimously approved a bill that would eliminate the decades-old state employees’ charitable campaign.

The House Government Accountability Committee backed the proposal (HB 1141), filed by Rep. Clay Yarborough, a Jacksonville Republican who said employees can give directly to charitable organizations and causes.

“We’re definitely not trying to stifle giving,” Yarborough said. “Employees are still giving. They are just not giving through this method.” Yarborough said contributions had dropped from a peak of $4.9 million in 2005 to $282,000 in 2016.

The program, which has involved payroll deductions, became embroiled in controversy in recent years because of a contract with a private fiscal agent — and questions about whether excessive amounts of money were going to the firm. The state Department of Management Services suspended the program late last year and ended the contract with the firm, Solix, by mutual agreement, the Tallahassee Democrat reported in December.

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