This week's State of the Week is ... Florida!
After weeks of controversy, the Florida Senate killed a "parent trigger" bill on Friday, the last day of the legislative session. The measure would have allowed parents with children in a failing school to convert it into a charter school or firing the staff and administration if a majority of parents signed a petition. While supporters argued the measure would empower parents and ensure so-called school turnarounds, critics charged the measure would help line the pockets of for-profit charter school operators and open neighborhoods up to manipulation. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush led the charge for the measure, along with many "education reform" organizations while unions, along with parents groups like the state PTA fought hard to kill the measure. (Valerie Straus of The Washington Post argues parents were never sold on the "empowerment virtues" of the bill.) While it passed the House earlier, a bipartisan group of opponents in the Senate tried to block the bill and fought putting it on the legislative calendar.
Tension was high when the bill finally did arrive on the floor Thursday, and an unfriendly amendment to require signature verification passed. The final vote came Friday after several senators rose to speak for and against the measure. "How can we testify that the parents' involvement brings great promise and change and then vote against this bill?" asked the sponsor, Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto, of her colleagues. But opponents had already answered with speech after speech charging the measure would privatize public education. In the end their message won the day.
- After culture wars gave them national attention, the Virginia and Washington legislatures will almost undoubtedly require special session to hash out budget negotiations—thanks to some feisty minority parties.
- Two weeks ago, it looked like the Texas Women's Health Program was dead after state health officials opted to exclude Planned Parenthood, thereby violating federal rules around the program. This week, Governor Rick Perry announced he would find the $35 million to keep the program afloat despite the expected loss of federal funding. But there's still a question as to whether the program will have enough capacity without Planned Parenthood facilities.
- In the other big Ohio primary, Congressman Dennis Kucinich lost his seat in a battle with his colleague Marcy Kaptur. Kucinich and Kaptur were forced to run in the same district after the state lost two congressional seats in redistricting, and things got nasty before all was said and done.
- In Mississippi, the Supreme Court upheld the almost 200 pardons granted by former Governor Haley Barbour last year. While all but ten of the pardonees were already out of prison, Barbour faces lots of anger and criticism from victims' rights groups.
- In South Carolina, the lieutenant governor may resign over charges of ethics violations, prompting a power shuffle in the state's politics.
- Because it's Friday, can I just say: Romney/Bluth 2012?
Each Friday—well at least most Fridays—I'm going to sum up the big news happening in states around the country. To make it more interesting, I'm naming a State of the Week where the biggest news came from. See something that's missing? Tell me: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @RaRapoport
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