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Democrats improvise to protest tax cut bills

An attempt to attach an unusual amendment fails, but it calls attention to education needs.

By JO BECKER

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 23, 2000


TALLAHASSEE -- Outnumbered in both the House and the Senate, Democrats can't do much to stop dozens of tax cut bills making their way through the Legislature.

But they can make a symbolic point, which they hope will play well with voters in the upcoming elections.

In order to highlight their contention that the state should take care of its education needs before handing out tax breaks to special business interests, House Democrats waged an unsuccessful fight to attach an unusual amendment to tax break bills.

Rep. DeeDee Ritchie, D-Pensacola, offered the amendment last week to a sales tax exemption bill benefiting those who lease, rent or license property used for the space flight business.

The amendment reads: "This act shall take effect 90 days after the department of Education determines that the average teachers' salary in Florida is equal to or greater than the national average teacher salary and the class size standards of (one teacher for every 20 students in kindergarten through third grade) have been met."

Rep. Rudy Bradley, R-St. Petersburg, ruled that the amendment was not germane. Ritchie took the unusual step of appealing his ruling to House Speaker John Thrasher, but Thrasher upheld Bradley's ruling.

"We are going to make the point repeatedly this session that we should be here to represent constituents and education, not big business," said Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, a member of the Democratic leadership team from Weston.

Democrats this session are pushing bills to hire 10,000 new teachers and raise teacher salaries.

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