New GOP reform plan in Tallahassee would rid collective bargaining right for most state workers

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These reforms come of course, with more Americans and Floridians showing less trust and faith in government, a point that Governor Charlie Crist pounded in parts of his State of the State last night.  And the fact that it's Republicans trying to reform what Republicans have been doing in the state capital over the past decade was a bit rich for House Minority Leader Franklin Sands, who said:

I am thrilled that Florida Republican leaders are recognizing what Floridians have seen for a long time," said Sands. "Republicans have done such a lousy job of running state government that even they admit it's time 'to do government business a new way' for the good of our state."

Another sure flash point will be legislation filed by Republicans this week that would force Florida school districts to develop merit-pay plans for teachers -- or have the state withhold funds.  And a proposal that would eliminate teacher tenure.

According to the St. Pete Times,

The Senate bill essentially guts current protections for classroom teachers and establishes more stringent requirements for end-of-year exams and teacher evaluations. Starting in July 2010, all newly hired teachers in public and charter schools would be on probationary contracts for the first year, and on annual contracts after that. The sixth annual contract would be awarded only if teachers meet stiffer guidelines for evaluations and certifications.

Predictably, the Florida Education Association doesn't think much of the proposals.  Mark Pudlow tells the Orlando Sentinel his thoughts on the proposed legislation:

"is a motley collection of lousy ideas that makes a mockery of local control of public schools and local agreements between teachers, school employees and school districts."

Welcome to the 2010 session!

On the first day of the legislative session yesterday, House Republican leaders unveiled wish list of reforms.  Some of the roughly two dozen items on the list are controversial, Speaker Larry Cretul admits.

The Associated Press lists some of the proposals:

- Establishing a Florida Savings Fund to guarantee that the state maintains adequate cash reserves to protect Florida's attractive bond rating, despite extreme budget pressures.

"This year, that AAA rating will save taxpayers million of dollars in debt financing costs," Cretul said. "Over many years, that top rating means billion of dollars in savings. It has a tremendous impact on the state's bottom line, both short-term and long-term."

- Including "plain-language explanatory" comments on budget documents and opening the final budget process to public view. In the past, last-minute wheeling and dealing over the budget often has occurred behind closed doors.

- Offering state employees a deeper choice of health benefit plans, but requiring workers to pay more.

- Launching a comprehensive review of Florida laws and repealing any outdated or otherwise unnecessary statutes. In addition, lawmakers will look into the way state agencies adopt new rules.

"It does Floridians little good for us to set policies to bring economic growth back to Florida if state agencies are going to hinder those efforts with bureaucracy and red tape," Cretul said.

- Looking for efficiencies in the state's management of various auto and truck fleets, perhaps resulting in a merger of those operations into a single entity.

- Hiring more tax auditors for the Department of Revenue to improve tax collections.

However, the Tallahassee Democrat's Bill Cotterell also reports that:

The GOP plan would include elimination of collective bargaining rights for most state employees, except those in law enforcement and public health, and would move the Department of Management Services under the Cabinet's control. Cretul said DMS, now under the governor's office, needs efficiencies in managing state real estate and overseeing Florida government's personnel programs.

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