Education panel meets with no notice

Just an informal talk, no votes, say some who attended. Still, it apparently broke House rules.

Published January 19, 2007

TALLAHASSEE - Fourteen members of a powerful House education committee held an hourlong meeting Thursday without giving notice to the public, in apparent violation of House rules.

The House Schools & Learning Council held what members said was an informal talk about which committees would consider education proposals in House Speaker Marco Rubio's new book, 100 Innovative Ideas for Florida's Future.

One idea that came up Thursday was that students in poor-performing schools should wear uniforms. Another was a goal to make a Florida university one of the nation's elite.

"It was very informal," said Rep. John Legg, R-New Port Richey. "The was really no discussion of policy, of good ideas or bad ideas."

No bills were considered and no votes were taken, but the public was not told. A Miami Herald reporter who learned of the meeting was allowed to sit in.

House rules state that "all meetings of councils and committees shall be open to the public at all times."

Four members of the panel are from the Tampa Bay area, including the vice chairman, Rep. Trey Traviesa, R-Brandon. The chairman is Rep. Joe Pickens, R-Palatka. The session was held in a conference room in the education council's suite on the Capitol's second floor.

"It wasn't official. It was a conversation," Traviesa said. "This was a management meeting: Who wants to do what?"

Traviesa said members were given printed lists of education initiatives in the 100 Ideas book.

Democratic Rep. Shelley Vana of Lantana attended, but a spokesman said she complained about the lack of notice and asked that reporters be notified.

Rubio's spokeswoman, Jill Chamberlin, said: "The speaker has said he would look into it, and he expects the House to comply with the Constitution and the rules."

Steve Bousquet can be reached at bousquet@sptimes.com or 850 224-7263.