St. Petersburg Times Online: News of Florida
TampaBay.com
Place an Ad Calendars Classified Forums Sports Weather
  • Family, friends bid farewell to a 'patriot and warrior'

  • Around the state
  • Lafayette sheriff again suspended after DUI arrest

  • Legislature
  • Medically Needy plan gets reprieve
  • Bright Futures, tuition break GOP's ranks
  • Even opponents oppose changes to Glades bill
  • Budget negotiations hit two more bumps
  • Budget writer bids for 2006 House speaker
  • Condos could get to vote on sprinklers
  • Crist's 'comfort' level rises on phone rate bill

  • From the state wire

  • Hurricane Jeanne appears on track to hit Florida's east coast
  • Rumor mill working overtime after Florida hurricanes
  • Developments associated with Hurricanes Ivan and Jeanne
  • Four killed in Panhandle plane crash were on Ivan charity mission
  • Hurricane Frances caused estimated $4.4 billion in insured damage
  • Disabled want more handicapped-accessible voting machines
  • USF forces administrators to resign over test score changes
  • Man's death at Universal Studios ruled accidental
  • State child welfare workers in Miami fail to do background checks
  • Hurricane Jeanne heads toward southeast U.S. coast
  • Hurricane Jeanne spurs more anxiety for storm-weary Floridians
  • Mistrial declared in case where teen was target of racial "joke"
  • Panhandle utility wants sewer plant moved to higher ground
  • State employee arrested on theft, bribery charges
  • Homestead house fire kills four children, one adult
  • Pierson leader tries to cut off relief to local fern cutters
  • Florida's high court rules Terri's law unconstitutional
  • Jacksonville students punished for putting stripper pole in dorm
  • FEMA handling nearly 600,000 applications for help
  • Man who killed wife, niece, self also killed mother in 1971
  • Producer sues city over lead ball fired by Miami police
  • Tourism suffers across Florida after pummeling by hurricanes
  • Key dates in the life of Terri Schiavo
  • An excerpt from the unanimous ruling in the Schiavo case
  • Four confirmed dead after small plane crash in Panhandle
  • Correction: Disney-Cruise Line story
  • tampabay.com
    Back
    Print storySubscribe to the Times

    Budget writer bids for 2006 House speaker

    His work on the education budget whacked a hornet's nest, but he sees it as a platform.

    By STEVE BOUSQUET, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published April 29, 2003

    TALLAHASSEE - When Rep. David Simmons got the job of writing a state education budget, he was as surprised as anyone. But he tackled it in a meticulous manner that has made him a favorite of House Speaker Johnnie Byrd.

    Elected in 2000 from a suburban Orlando district, Simmons was little known last fall when Byrd gave him one of the House's toughest assignments. As chairman of the 17-member education appropriations subcommittee, Simmons is largely responsible for $15-billion in spending and the first-year implementation of the class size amendment.

    Now, his highly touted idea of a $315-million program of teacher bonuses has become a major stumbling block in budget negotiations.

    Simmons' work has drawn both praise and criticism. Even 28 of his fellow Republicans refused to support Simmons on a recent amendment that affected school textbook purchases. But he is confident enough to join a crowded field of contenders for House speaker for the 2006-08 term.

    Across the state, college students, superintendents and school boards are unhappy with the budget Simmons crafted, with no across-the-board pay raise for teachers, cuts in textbooks, changes to the Bright Futures scholarship program and an "optional" tuition hike of up to 12.5 percent.

    "The House is moving forward with a dangerous budget that shortchanges education," said the Florida School Boards Association, which will amplify that criticism at a news conference today.

    Trim and businesslike, with thin gray hair and intense blue eyes, the 50-year-old Simmons had never served on a budget committee. "I just immersed myself in education," he said.

    It was Simmons who proposed cutting spending on school texts by $50-million after a group of teachers in Ocala wrote a letter complaining that they were being told to replace nearly new books with new, virtually identical books.

    It was Simmons who urged counties to revive summer school to make sure third-graders and high school students pass the FCAT. Critics, including Senate leaders, said Simmons wasn't putting any money in the program.

    It was Simmons who proposed limiting eligibility for the Bright Futures program to families earning up to $75,000 a year. The idea died quickly.

    Simmons was raised on a farm in Tennessee. His parents were teachers who raised corn, cattle and chickens.

    "I was digging post holes in rocky ground," Simmons recalled. "One day I said to myself, "I'm getting out of here."'

    He was first in his class as a math major at Tennessee Tech, got a law degree at Vanderbilt and practices civil law at one of Orlando's biggest firms.

    Like Byrd, Simmons believes in rewarding Florida teachers. The House has proposed spending $315-million for a pay plan for teachers, and a minimum starting salary of $31,000 in 2004. The teachers union prefers to raise salaries across the board to the national average.

    "We have a real difference of opinion, but I think he is pursuing the House agenda and the speaker's agenda, and the governor's agenda, and he will not deviate from that," said Maureen Dinnen, president of the union, which supported Democrat Bill McBride for governor last year.

    Simmons lives in Longwood with his wife, Alicya, and two daughters who attend Catholic school.

    His election in 2000 followed two unsuccessful House races in the late 1980s. But he stayed politically active and became close to then-U.S. Sen. Connie Mack, serving on a panel that recommended candidates for federal judgeships. When Lee Constantine left the House for the Senate in 2000, it was the opening Simmons needed.

    - Times researcher Kitty Bennett contributed to this report.

    Back to STATE

    Print storySubscribe to the Times

    l

    Back to Top

    © 2006 • All Rights Reserved • Tampa Bay Times
    490 First Avenue South • St. Petersburg, FL 33701 • 727-893-8111
     
    Special Links
    Lucy Morgan


    From the Times state desk