Florida man whose ancestors escaped religious persecution in 1626 files a federal Lawsuit to escape religious persecution

Thomas Beckwith’s ancestors, enduring the hardships of a storm tossed ocean voyage, landed on American shores in 1626 to escape religious persecution from England.  One hundred and fifty years later, one of his ancestors, as a member of the Connecticut militia, fought against the tyrannical British king in the Revolutionary War.  Today, Thomas Beckwith, a devout Southern Baptist, and his family-owned  Beckwith Electric Company, Inc, filed a federal lawsuit challenging a new form of tyranny and religious persecution—the HHS Mandate.

The Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, today announced it filed a 48-page federal lawsuit in a Florida Federal District Court against the Obama Administration challenging the HHS Mandate.  TMLC’s Erin Mersino is lead counsel in the case.  She is assisted by local co-counsel Paul Pizzo and Scott Richards of the Tampa firm of Fowler, White and Boggs.

Thomas Beckwith is an active member of the First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks, a Southern Baptist congregation located in Largo, Florida. 

Thomas Beckwith

Beckwith Electric founded in 1967 by his parents has 168 full-time employees and provides micro-processor-based technology that protects and controls giant power system generators, transformers, and power lines, and protects the interconnection of alternative energy.  The Company also provides energy-saving Volt/VAr optimization strategies and the automation of Conservation Voltage Reduction.

In his management of Beckwith Electric, Thomas Beckwith strives to “lead the company under God’s direction and by God’s principles.”  His Faith prompted a business model that includes generous employee benefits, including:  medical insurance, pharmacy, dental  insurance, vision insurance, group life insurance, voluntary group life insurance, short term disability, long term disability, long term care insurance, Flexible Spending Accounts, Emergency Travel Assistance, Employee Assistance Program, 401(k) Retirement Plan, Profit Sharing, Educational Assistance, Due Time (Paid Time Off), 8 Paid Holidays, and a free-of charge membership at the L.A. Fitness Gym.

The Company also provides a chaplain for those employees who may be facing difficult issues of bereavement, marriage, children, finances, addictions, elder care, and other types of crises.  Chaplains visit Plaintiff Beckwith Electric Co., Inc. on a weekly basis to build caring relationships with the employees.

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, called the HHS Mandate “outrageous.”  According to Land, the Southern Baptist Convention, with more than 16 million members in the United States, “share[s] the concern of our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters.”

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), by which Beckwith is informed, protects the sanctity of life. According to the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission the Mandate is a threat to religious freedom. The commission stated that, “Government cannot be allowed to tell people of faith when they can live out the values of their faith and when they cannot.  We must not render to government what is God’s.”

Should Mr. Beckwith refuse to comply with the HHS Mandate, in addition to the yearly fine of $2,000 per employee amounting to $336,000 per year, the Company could also be charged with violations of the Internal Revenue Code amounting to $100 per employee per day each year totaling over $6 million in fines per year.

Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center commented, “By promulgating the HHS Mandate, the Federal Government intentionally declared war on people of Faith.  The Law Center is privileged to represent Thomas Beckwith, a man who not only states what his Christian Faith stands for, but takes action to defend it.”

The first paragraph of the lawsuit succinctly sets forth the nature of the case: “This is a case about religious freedom. Thomas Jefferson, a Founding Father of our country, principal author of the Declaration of Independence, and our third president, when describing the construct of our Constitution proclaimed, ‘No provision in our Constitution ought to be dearer to man than that which protects the rights of conscience against the enterprises of the civil authority.’”

Thomas Beckwith believes that life begins at the moment of conception.  His deeply held religious convictions disallow him from providing for, participating in, pay for, training others to engage in, or otherwise supporting emergency contraception, abortion, abortifacients, and any drugs, devices, and service that are designed to kill innocent human life because such activities are sinful and immoral.

The purpose of the lawsuit is to permanently block the implementation of the HHS Mandate requiring employers and individuals to obtain insurance coverage for emergency contraception, abortion, abortifacients, and any drugs, devices, and service that are capable of killing innocent human life.

Named as Defendants in the lawsuit are Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services; Seth D. Harris, Acting Secretary of the Department of Labor; Jack Lew, Secretary of the Department of Treasury; and their respective departments.

Click here to read the Federal Lawsuit.

ABOUT THE THOMAS MORE LAW CENTER:

The Thomas More Law Center defends and promotes America’s Judeo-Christian heritage and moral values, as well as a strong national defense and an independent and sovereign United States of America.  The Law Center accomplishes its mission through litigation, education, and related activities.  It does not charge for its services.  The Law Center is supported by contributions from individuals, corporations and foundations, and is recognized by the IRS as a section 501(c)(3) organization. 

You may reach the Thomas More Law Center at (734) 827-2001 or visit our website at www.thomasmore.org.

Florida’s Javier Manjarres re-launches HISPOLITICA

Javier Manjarres, founder of The Shark Tank, is  inviting Floridians and every American to Hispolitica. Manjarres envisions Hispolitica as a “place where a legitimate conversation about Hispanics in America can happen…without the narrative filters imposed by mainstream or Hispanic media.”

Manjarres notes, “Given how badly both major political parties suck at Hispanic engagement, and the fact that immigration will not always be on the table, now is an opportune time to get the conversation going. Feel free to jump in.”

Full text of the video:

Hi, I’m Javier Manjarres.

I’m proud to announce the re-launch of Hispolitica.  Hispolitica brings a balanced journalistic approach to the issues and concerns of Hispanics in light of their increasing influence in the American political process. Hispolitica will provide  equal time and space to political personalities across the spectrum whose viewpoints are of interest to Hispanics across the country.

The Hispanic electorate continues to grow, and most political observers believe that this coveted vote is in a state of flux and very much in play for Republicans and Democrats moving forward. Although the immigration reform issue is at the forefront of today’s political debate, trends show that Hispanics assign greater importance to a number of issues other than immigration

Before we can more effectively engage the Hispanic community, we must  understand that first and foremost, Hispanics are primarily concerned with their own economic prosperity and prospects for advancement in our society based on their own efforts, merits and accomplishments.

Unfortunately, both of the major political parties have major short comings as they approach the Hispanic voting bloc. Their actions- or in some instances their inaction- shows that they are both incapable of messaging and winning the trust of the Hispanic community.

On the one hand, we have a political party that refuses to make the distinction between legal and illegal immigration, and actively seeks to bribe hispanics with the prize of U.S. citizenship. On the other hand, we have a party that has proven itself of having ineffective messaging and lacks in its efforts to reach out to immigrants.

The diversity of the Hispanic community goes well beyond the stereotypical depiction in the media, specifically by Spanish-language TV networks that cater to a subset of the Hispanic demographic while passing themselves off as representatives of ‘all’ Hispanics. These networks have refused to criticize race-baiting special-interest groups whose agenda is divisive and does not serve the best interests of Hispanics at large.

Earlier generations of Hispanic immigrants were very socially and fiscally conservative in their beliefs, regardless of their political affiliation. Hispanics have always been a people of faith, and have articulated a strong belief in God. Their strong family values are directly correlated to their unwavering dedication to their religious faith.

Hispolitica seeks to provide an alternative viewpoint to those expressed in the mainstream and Hispanic media. We’re looking forward to having this conversation, and thank you for joining us.

Que dios los bendiga

Florida Senate Committee reconsiders vote to sanction Domestic Partnerships (i.e. Gay Marriage)

The Committee on Children, Families, and Elder Affairs will hear the Domestic Partnership bill SB 196 Families First on March 12 at 2:00 PM.

The Florida Senate Committee on Children, Families, and Elder Affairs considered SB 196 on February 19, 2013.  However, a voice vote failed to pass the measure.  To avert the deadly vote, Senator Sobel, Chair of this committee and sponsor of SB 196, asked the committee to temporarily postpone final action on the bill until she could rewrite it apparently to the liking of Republican Senator Nancy Detert.

Several pro-family leaders spoke during the February 19, 2013 committee meeting in opposition to the bill.  Those speakers in opposition included John Stemberger President of Florida Family Action, Michael B. Sheedy, Director for Public Policy for the Florida Catholic Conference of Bishops and Bill Bunkley President of Florida Voices.

John Stemberger, Florida Family Action president, pointed out that the bill was unconstitutional because it violated the Florida Defense of Marriage Act.  Stemberger told the committee that  unlike the language used by cities and counties across Florida that adopted Domestic Partnership Registries, SB 196 was much broader.  This broader language violated the “substantial equivalent to marriage” prohibition in the Florida Defense of Marriage Act.

Republican Senator Nancy Detert made it clear  after hearing from the public that she  could not support the bill as written but would support a Domestic Partnership bill if it were modeled similar to the one adopted by the City of Sarasota.

Senator Sobel rewrote the bill.  Now Senator Sobel is looking to Senator Nancy Detert’s swing vote to pass this legislation through the Committee on Children, Families, and Elder Affairs.

SB 196 named “Families First” would set up a Domestic Partnership registry in Florida.   Here is the language of the bill:

“Families First; Setting forth fees and costs to be applied when petitioning for a dissolution of a domestic partnership or registering a domestic partnership, respectively; requiring that certain fees relating to declarations of domestic partnership and dissolution of domestic partnership filings be deposited in the Displaced Homemaker Trust Fund; requiring two individuals who wish to become partners in a domestic partnership to complete and file a Declaration of Domestic Partnership form with the clerk of the circuit court; providing methods to prove the existence of a registered Declaration Domestic Partnership when the certificate document has been lost or is otherwise unavailable, etc.”

Every benefit of this legislation can be accomplished through private contract or authorization forms.  In all cases Health Care Surrogate, Power of Attorney and other lawful designations of authority by one person to another must be performed on a separate private agreement form.  This negates the need for this legislation.

Homosexual activists are essentially using the Families First ie Domestic Partnership bill SB 196 to legalize same sex marriage in Florida.  SB 196 does nothing but add government bureaucracy while advancing legal recognition of same sex relationships.  Heterosexual couples are not demanding this legislation.  They can marry if they want their relationship legally recognized.  SB 196 is being pushed by homosexual activists who demand that the State of Florida legally recognize same-sex relationships.

Florida Family Association is asking those interested to send an email to Florida Senate President Don Gaetz and members of the Committee on Children, Families, and Elder Affairs.

Florida Senate Committee on Children, Families, and Elder Affairs members:

Chair: Eleanor Sobel (D) (850) 487-5033 sobel.eleanor.web@flsenate.gov
Vice Chair: Alan Hays (R) (850) 487-5011 hays.alan.web@flsenate.gov
Thad Altman (R) (850) 487-5016 altman.thad.web@flsenate.gov
Oscar Braynon, II (D) (850) 487-5036 braynon.oscar.web@flsenate.gov
Jeff Clemens (D) (850) 487-5027 clemens.jeff.web@flsenate.gov
Charles S. Dean, Sr. (R) (850) 487-5005 dean.charles.web@flsenate.gov 
Nancy C. Detert (R) (850) 487-5028 detert.nancy.web@flsenate.gov
Miguel Diaz de la Portilla (R) (850) 487-5040 portilla.miguel.web@flsenate.gov
Denise Grimsley (R) (850) 487-5021 grimsley.denise.web@flsenate.gov
Geraldine F. Thompson (D) (850) 487-5012 thompson.geraldine.web@flsenate.gov

UPDATE 3/12/2013: Florida Senate committee delays vote on Domestic Partnerships due to a member’s absence.

The Florida Senate Committee on Children, Families, and Elder Affairs was prepared to vote on SB 196 Domestic Partnerships during the 2:00 PM meeting on March 12, 2012. However, Senator Geraldine F. “Geri” Thompson (D) was absent from the committee meeting. Senator Eleanor Sobel, sponsor of the legislation, requested that the committee temporarily postpone the vote on SB 196 which they did.

The next committee date has not been posted on the Florida Senate web site.

Sen. Feinstein Says Veterans Are Mentally Ill, Can’t Own Guns

Hat tip to Linda Palucci from Mr. Conservative Blog for picking up this testimony by Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA). Florida is home to over 1.6 million veterans. Florida is second only to California with the largest veteran population. Florida is first of all the states as a percentage of  population.

Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA)

Palucci reports:

Feinstein let slip her true opinion of America’s veterans during a Senate Judiciary committee hearing, when she was asked to discuss a proposed amendment to her pending gun control bill.  This amendment would have allowed military veterans to obtain guns that would be banned for other Americans.  Feinstein thought this was a terrible idea, because she presumes vets are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and are therefore too unstable to be trusted with weapons:

“…this adds an exemption of retired military. As I understand our bill, no issue has arose in this regard during the 10 years the expired ban was effect… and what we did in the other bill was exempt possession by the United States or a department or agency of the United States… that included active military. The problem with expanding this is that you know with the advent of PTSD, which I think is a new phenomenon as a product of the Iraq War, it’s not clear how the seller or transferrer of a firearm covered by this bill would verify that an individual was a member, or a veteran, and that there was no impairment of that individual with respect to having a weapon like this. So you know I would be happy to sit down with you again and see if we could work something out but I think we have to — if you’re going to do this, find a way that veterans who are incapacitated for one reason or another mentally don’t have access to this kind of weapon.” [My emphasis]

Palucci states, “Translation?  All vets suffer from PTSD; PTSD makes them crazy; crazy people can’t get guns.”

“Not only is Feinstein wrong about vets, she’s wrong about PTSD, which she characterizes as a ‘new phenomenon’.  In every war, some returning veterans have suffered delayed reactions.  Whether it’s World War I’s ‘shell shock’, the Vietnam war’s ‘vet syndrome’, or today’s PTSD, it’s always been out there, and it’s never been a major societal problem.  Only a Democrat would pretend that it’s something new and then use it to take away Second Amendment rights from those who have served this country in battle,” notes Palucci.

Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK)

Halimah Abdullah from CNN reports:

Republican Sen. Tom Coburn pushed and then backed away from an amendment to block the Department of Veteran Affairs from automatically entering the names of veterans deemed “mentally incompetent” to handle their finances from having their names entered into a national background check system, thereby blocking them from gun ownership.

Instead, the Oklahoma physician wanted those case[s] decided by a judge rather than a federal agency unless those veterans had been “found by a judicial authority to be a danger to themselves or to others.”

“We’re not asking for anything big,” Coburn said at the time. “We’re just saying that if you’re going to take away the Second Amendment rights — they ought to have it adjudicated, rather than mandated by someone who’s unqualified to state that they should lose their rights.”

RELATED COLUMNS:

Vietnam Vet Barred form owning a gun because of a teenage misdemeanor 45 years ago

Should vets with PTSD, mental illness still have access to guns?

Conservation gone wild in Florida

In December 2012, the Florida Cabinet authorized the pursuit of $8 million to buy land for conservation. Certain special interest groups wanted as much as $300 million. More than 33% of Florida is already in government ownership (Federal, State, and local), set aside for conservation.

Enormous amounts of tax payer money have been spent to buy land for conservation. Enormous amounts of taxpayer dollars are being spent to maintain lands under conservation.

Florida faces difficult budgetary decision again this year in areas such as Medicaid, education, children, job creation and the disabled. Two bills have been offered to address the expansion of government owned land for conservation.  The bills titled “Purchase of Land by a Government Entity” are SB 584 – sponsored by Senator Alan Hays and HB 901 sponsored by Representative Charles StoneSenate Bill 584 and House Bill 901 are identical bills. They call for any government entity to do four things before they use taxpayer money to buy more land out of the private sector for “conservation.” Those four things are:

1. Produce a current and accurate inventory of government conservation land already owned.

2. Have money in the current budget to maintain the land already owned.

3. Produce an estimate of the future costs of maintaining the proposed purchase.

4. For each acre purchased from the private sector by government, sell an acre back to the private sector.

According to Dan Peterson, Executive Director of PropertyRights.com, “These bills simply say, let’s consider the priorities of state spending and focus on people. Before, we use tax payer dollars to buy and maintain more land for conservation, let’s consider our current costs and future potential costs.” In an email Peterson provided the following information about the bills:

SB 584/HB 901 has three objectives:

1. Being good stewards of the land we own.
2. Being fiscally responsible and knowledgeable before we buy more land for conservation.
3. Insuring we keep the majority of Florida’s land under the ownership and control of private citizens who will care for and make the best use of land.

2. What do these bills do?

They require four things to be done before any purchase by government of land to be set aside for conservation:
a. It requires an accurate and current inventory be made public and,
b. It requires money to be in the current budget to maintain the land currently owned and,
c. It requires and analysis be made public estimating the on-going cost of maintenance
d. It requires the sale of land back to the private sector in an amount equal to the land to be purchased.

Why is the sale back to the private sector included?

According to Peterson, “As to the fourth point, private owners (for the most part) are better stewards of their property that government. They are more motivated to keep it up and improve its value. Also, every acre in government ownership is a non-revenue generating acre. Here’s is a way to generate more taxpayers without generating more taxes. The more land in private ownership, the more revenue is available to care for the needs of people.”

Peterson states these bills are not anti-conservation. “They are pro-stewardship of land and money. These bills do not prohibit additional purchases. It simply says, “Let’s consider what we currently have and ask if we can afford more?”, states Peterson.

Rubio opposes Stop-Gap government funding bill — unless it defunds Obamacare

Rubio: “Senator Cruz from Texas is offering this amendment to defund ObamaCare. If that gets onto the bill, in essence if they get a continuing resolution and we vote on that and we can pass it onto a bill, I will vote for a continuing resolution, even if it’s temporary, because it does something permanent and that is defund this health care bill, this ObamaCare bill that is going to be an absolute disaster for the American economy.”

Excerpts of Interview with Hugh Hewitt – Full interview available here.

Senator Marco Rubio: “Well first of all, I don’t think anyone is in favor of shutting down the government, but I think that is where we are headed ultimately here, unfortunately, if we don’t fix our debt problem. And I’m talking about down the road long term – long term meaning five, six, three years. We don’t know when a debt crisis will happen. So look, about a year and a half ago, I voted for the first continuing resolution and then I announced, ‘This is the last continuing resolution, the last stop-gap measure that I am going to vote for. I will only vote, from here on, on something serious.’ And so far we haven’t seen that. All we see is this ‘kicking the can down the road’, these manufactured crises. As if the people back home don’t have enough to worry about with all the problems we have today, now Washington every month seems to be creating a new crisis for them to worry about and for the media to freak out about. But here is what I’ve said about this continuing resolution, you know Senator Cruz from Texas is offering this amendment to defund ObamaCare. If that gets onto the bill, in essence if they get a continuing resolution and we vote on that and we can pass it onto a bill, I will vote for a continuing resolution, even if it’s temporary, because it does something permanent and that is de-fund this health care bill, this ObamaCare bill that is going to be an absolute disaster for the American economy. You are already starting to feel the outer edges of that. In all these debates that we have been having, we have lost sight of how truly bad the health care law is.  I understand the Supreme Court ruled the way they did. It doesn’t make a good public policy, and you’re already starting to hear about it. I am already running into businesses that are planning next year on not hiring next year or laying some people off so they don’t have to meet these mandates. Others are going to push their employees off of their private plans that they offer and onto these exchanges, driving up the cost for the public. So, this is going to be an implementation disaster. It’s going to hurt our economy severely, and we aren’t spending enough time talking about that.”

***

Rubio: “Right, I don’t know if that alone will be enough, but I would certainly support that amendment. I would certainly support that measure because it’s going to hurt patients. What’s going to happen now is that it’s going to become less of an incentive to get into that business and the accessibility of these innovations is going to become less. This is one of the arguments that people were using, and that I echoed. I wasn’t in the Senate when ObamaCare came up, but we don’t just want affordable health insurance market place – that is very important – we want the highest quality healthcare. We want the latest, greatest innovations. That is what Americans have come to expect. You start taxing innovation, people are going to stop innovating here in this country.”

***

Rubio: “I think it’s coming next week. That is what Senator Reid has announced. That is one of the reasons he wanted to have the Brennan vote this week is because he wants to get on it next week. So, I think you can anticipate this argument next week, and I think it is the perfect opportunity for us to have a debate once again on ObamaCare. I don’t think there has been enough attention paid to it.  It has been a while. We have moved on to these other issues, but there is right now out there probably nothing more damaging to our economy in the short term than this implementation of ObamaCare.”

Florida Senate Judiciary Committee approves anti-Sharia bill

Jihad Watch, winner of the CPAC best blog award, reports:

Hamas-linked CAIR and other Islamic supremacist groups have consistently and successfully argued that anti-Sharia laws would infringe upon Muslims’ religious rights. They still make headway using that argument with judges and lawmakers who are ignorant of the nature of Sharia.

In reality, no one cares about individual Muslim religious practice or wants to restrict it. The purpose of anti-Sharia laws is not to stop Muslims from getting married in Islamic religious ceremonies or to restrict their religious practice in other ways, but to stop the political and supremacist aspects of Islam that infringe upon the rights and freedoms of non-Muslims, denying the freedom of speech, the freedom of conscience, and the equality of rights of all people before the law. This is the case that must be made, but it still hasn’t been. This bill is certain to be challenged on the same grounds.

“‘Anti-Sharia’ law is back,” from the Miami Herald, March 6:

A renewed attempt to pass a controversial “foreign law” bill proposed by Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, and Rep. Larry Metz, R-Yahala, was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday, after more than an hour of sometimes emotional public testimony. The bill, SB 58, bans courts or other legal authorities from using religious or foreign law as a part of a legal decision or contract relating to family law. Florida law would supersede foreign law regarding divorce, alimony, the division of marital assets, child support and child custody. The bill is ready to be heard on the House floor but it has more committee stops in the Senate. Last year, the bill passed the House but died in the Senate.

Supporters say the proposal isn’t targeting religious groups, but the bill has been criticized as anti-Sharia, a Koran-based code followed in some Islamic countries, by Islamic groups as well as Jewish organizations and the American Civil Liberties Union.

“It should raise some eyebrows for you, the fact that there’s a rabbi speaking out against the bill who’s from Israel and a Arab Muslim, that’s me, also speaking out against the bill,” said Ahmed Bedier, president of the United Voices for America. “We may disagree what is happening in the Middle East, but we agree on this bill — that it discriminates and targets our communities.”

Not really. Bedier, of course, is a former rep of Hamas-linked CAIR.

The Florida Family Association in an email stated:

The Florida Senate Judiciary Committee voted on SB 58 – Application of Foreign Law in Certain Cases during the scheduled March 6, 2013 2:00 to 4:00 pm meeting.  The vote was 6 – 3 in favor of the bill. SB 58 now moves to the Committee on Governmental Oversight and Accountability.

Application of Foreign Law in Certain Cases: Clarifies that public policies expressed in act apply to violations of natural person’s fundamental liberties, rights, & privileges guaranteed by State Constitution or U.S. Constitution; provides that act does not apply to corporation, partnership, or other form of business association, except when necessary to provide effective relief in proceedings under or relating to chs. 61 & 88, F.S.; specifies public policy of this state in applying choice of foreign law, legal code, or system in proceedings brought under or relating to chs. 61 & 88, F.S., which relate to dissolution of marriage, support, time-sharing, Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction & Enforcement Act, & Uniform Interstate Family Support Act; declares that certain decisions under such laws, codes, or systems & certain choice of venue or forum provisions in contract are void; provides for construction of waiver by natural person of person’s fundamental liberties, rights, & privileges guaranteed by State Constitution or U.S. Constitution; declares that claims of forum non conveniens or related claims must be denied; limits construction of provisions in certain circumstances.

Florida House rejects Obamacare Medicaid expansion

John Hayward from Human Events reports:

On the eve of convening of the 2013 session, the House Select Committee on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act rejected the expansion. A Senate counterpart committee postponed consideration of the issue, which is sure to be one of the biggest controversies of the session.

Scott, a Republican who bitterly fought President Barack Obama’s national healthcare plan as a candidate and in his first two years as governor, stunned conservative supporters on February 20 when he endorsed a three-year expansion of Medicaid, provided the federal government picks up the full cost for the first three years as promised.

“There’s definitely a fight between the governor and the (state) legislature over this. The Republicans in the legislature are much more fiscally conservative than his actions have shown him to be,” said Susan MacManus, a Tampa-based political scientist at the University of South Florida.

Republican legislative leaders have been openly hostile toward the plan, emphasizing that state lawmakers will make the final decision in drawing up a budget for next fiscal year.

The Florida based James Madison institute released the following statement:

The House made the right decision today to not draft a committee bill expanding Medicaid under PPACA provisions. Many Members expressed valid concerns that this could hurt the people that it is aimed at helping. State leaders should focus on providing more access to quality care — expanding a program that is inefficient in this effort is not a way to do that.

Additionally, in our recent poll of 600 registered Florida voters more than 63 percent said they are wary that the federal government would keep the funding level promises made, and clearly many House Members share this worry. If history is any indicator, costs of such programs are often underestimated and there has been examples of the federal government going back on their promise before. These issues cannot be ignored.

Florida student suspended for disarming gunman?

Matt Grant from Fox News Channel 4 in Naples, Florida reports, “A 16-year-old Cypress Lake High School student, who wrestled a loaded revolver away from a teen threatening to shoot, is being punished.”

“The student grappled the gun away from the 15-year-old suspect on the bus ride home Tuesday after witnesses say he aimed the weapon point blank at another student and threatened to shoot him,” notes Grant.

“The student, who Fox 4 has agreed not to identify and distort his voice because he fears for his safety, says there’s ‘no doubt’ he saved a life by disarming the gunman. And for that he was suspended for three days,” according to Fox News.

Tracy Perkins, Principal of Cypress Lake High School

Principal Tracy Perkins suspended the student because “Florida law allows the principal to suspend a student immediately pending a hearing” according to Lee County District spokesman Alberto Rodriguez.

Lee County citizens are scratching their heads at this suspension of a student who to many is a hero. What message does this send? Step in and save a fellow student from grievous bodily harm and get suspended.

Grant states, “Authorities were unable to watch the school bus surveillance video because the cameras weren’t working. The 15-year-old suspect was arrested and charged with possession of a firearm on school property and assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill.”

The Lee County School District issued the following statement:

“The District has completed its investigation regarding an incident that took place on February 26, 2013, regarding multiple Cypress Lake High School students. The District is unable to comment regarding the specific disciplinary measures taken against specific students. However, it must be noted that during the initial investigation conducted by the administration of Cypress Lake High School the students involved refused to cooperate with school authorities regarding the events that occurred. As a result, appropriate disciplinary actions were taken at that time. Subsequently, law enforcement along with school officials have acquired additional information that has provided the complete picture of what occurred that day. Certain students involved have been and will be disciplined in accordance with that additional information consistent with the Code of Student Conduct and Florida law. The District will be making no further comment regarding this matter.”

Ann Coulter: “Your little friend Marco Rubio better be paying attention”

National and international attention is now focusing on Marco Rubio. Elected as a TEA Party favorite to the US Senate from Florida many are now questioning his bona fides as a conservative.

BizPac Review reports:

“After calling the liberal media “hothouse flowers” because of their reaction to one of their own,  Bob Woodward’s war with the White House, Coulter ripped into Marco Rubio, reminding him of the perceived flaws in his immigration plan.

“Your little friend Marco Rubio better be paying attention here because his plan of legalization first and then we are going to trust the Obama administration,” is a problem,  Coulter said after expressing shock at the recent release of criminal illegals by Obama and the administration. Coulter was particularly disgusted by the potential future crimes that could occur because of Obama’s political move and suggested conservatives track the released criminals.

The Shark Tank’s Javier Manjarres in a column titled, “Who Will Lead The GOP, Cruz or Rubio?” reports, “Some conservatives and tea party-types within the Republican party are painting Cruz as the ‘anti-Rubio,’ as some feel that Rubio is trying position himself as more of a ‘maverick’ on certain issues like immigration reform and has been seen cozying up to moderate-establishment Republicans such as Senators Lindsay Graham and John McCain in advance of a potential 2016 presidential run.”

Manjarres asks  “Rubio’s tip-toeing around certain issues and recent political posturing with Republican moderates and Democrats have left many wondering if he will remain on the proverbial ‘straight and narrow’ and continue to espouse conservative principles- will it be Cruz or Rubio who takes the conservative mantle and runs with it to the head of the party?”

Senator Rubio is coming to Sarasota, FL on March 15, 2013 for a fundraising dinner Benefiting Reclaim America PAC and The Leadership PAC with local supporters. According to sources he will be presenting his “vision for a  new Republican Party”.

As Slade O’Brien, Executive Director of Americans for Prosperity in Florida, has stated, “Compromise is the art of losing slowly”. Will Senator Rubio compromise to become “electable” or stand by his conservative bona fides?

Stay tuned!

Marco Rubio’s 2011 comments on a TEA Party Caucus courtesy of The Shark Tank YouTube Video Channel:

New Study Finds 21 States Have More Non-Teaching Staff than Teachers

INDIANAPOLIS — Twenty-one states employ more bus drivers, librarians, cafeteria workers, deputy superintendents, accountants, coaches, nurses, assistant principals, and other non-teaching personnel than they do classroom teachers, according to a new analysis of state education employees by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice.

In Florida there has been a 36% increase in the number of students and a 41% increase in administrators and other non-teaching Staff from FY 1992 to FY 2009.

The report, a sequel to last fall’s “The School Staffing Surge: Decades of Employment Growth in America’s Public Schools,” examines states’ hiring patterns between 1992 and 2009.

It found that, in 2009, administrators and other non-teaching staff outnumbered teachers in Virginia, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Colorado, Oregon, Maine, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, Louisiana, Wyoming, Vermont, Utah, Georgia, Alaska, New Hampshire, Iowa, and the District of Columbia, which is treated as a state in the report.

“Taxpayers should be outraged public schools hired so many non-teaching personnel with such little academic improvement among students to show for it,” said Robert Enlow, president and CEO of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. “This money could have been better invested in areas that have proved to benefit children.”

Virginia far outpaced other states with the number of excessive personnel outside the classroom with 60,737 more non-teaching staff than teachers, followed by Ohio with 19,040 more non-teaching personnel than teachers.

The report also compared the growth rate among administrators and non-teaching staff with student enrollment changes from 1992 to 2009. It found that 48 states could be saving $24 billion annually if the hiring of non-teaching staff had not exceeded the growth of students between 1992 and 2009.

In Texas, taxpayers would have saved almost $6.4 billion annually if public schools’ non-teaching personnel had not outpaced students. Virginia, Ohio, New York, California, and Pennsylvania each would have annual, recurring savings in the billions. Other states’ savings are in the millions; however, Nevada and Arizona actually saved money, as both its administrative and non-teaching personnel did not outpace student growth. Data were not available for South Carolina.

“States could do much more constructive things with those kinds of dollars,” Enlow said. “State leaders could be permitting salary increases for great teachers, offering children in failing schools the option of attending a private school, or directing savings toward other worthy purposes. Instead states have allowed these enormous bureaucracies to grow.”

The report also shows the salary increases states could provide teachers annually if administrators and non-teaching personnel kept pace with the student population from 1992 to 2009. At the top was Virginia, which could provide teachers an annual salary increase of $29,007. Maine was second at $25,505.

The report was compiled with data from the National Center for Education Statistics and prepared by Ben Scafidi, an economist at Georgia College & State University and a senior fellow at the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice.

To read the report, visit www.edchoice.org/StaffSurge2. That link also provides a map in which readers can download each state’s findings.

About the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice:

The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and nonpartisan organization, solely dedicated to advancing Milton and Rose Friedman’s vision of school choice for all children. First established as the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation in 1996, the Foundation continues to promote school choice as the most effective and equitable way to improve the quality of K-12 education in America. The Foundation is dedicated to research, education, and outreach on the vital issues and implications related to choice and competition in K-12 education.

Florida Rep. Steube files bill “to arm school personnel”

On February 27th , Florida Representative W. Gregory “Greg” Steube,  filed HB 1097 – School Safety, which takes a hard look at safety in Florida’s schools. Rep. Steube, an Army paratrooper and Iraq War combat veteran, states, “The safety of our school children and the dedicated teachers and personnel who educate them is a paramount concern to all communities.”

“We are all deeply concerned about the well-being of our children and we must come to a consensus on how to prevent violent crimes from occurring on school grounds. As a father and a son of a teacher, I feel a responsibility to my community and my state to address the safety of our students and teaching personnel. With this bill, schools will be better equipped to protect their faculty and students,” notes Rep. Steube.

HB 1097 would allow a school principal to designate one or more members of school personnel to carry a concealed firearm or weapon while performing his or her official duties. 

The bill requires that “designated personnel must complete additional training and coursework that covers emergency procedures, life safety, methods of prevention, terrorism awareness and firearm proficiency to ensure they are prepared to respond appropriately in the event that a threat arises on campus. Also, the bill would require each school to have a school safety officer present on campus, unless the principal has already designated a member of school personnel to carry a weapon or firearm on that campus.”

Below, you can find more information regarding HB 1097, as well as important tools that may help you advocate for your concerns.

HB 1097

HB 1097 Press Release

Legislative Tracking System

EDITORS NOTE:

Greg Ridgeway, Ph.D., Deputy Director National Institute of Justice, in a recently released document states, “On average there are about 11,000 firearm homicides every year. While there are deaths resulting from accidental discharges and suicides, this document will focus on intentional firearm homicides. Fatalities from mass shootings (those with 4 or more victims in a particular place and time) account on average for 35 fatalities per year. Policies that address the larger firearm homicide issue will have a far greater impact even if they do not address the particular issues of mass shootings.”

This document provides a cursory summary of select initiatives to reduce firearm violence and an assessment of the evidence for the initiative. To read the document click here.

Watch this video statement by Christian Ziegler, State Committeeman from Sarasota, FL:

Palm Beach GOP Chair: Don’t talk about Allen West

Jack Furnari in his BizPac Review column “GOP boss: Don’t talk about Allen West voter fraud or other ‘oddball issues’” reports, “[Palm Beach County Republican Party Chair Ira] Sabin told me he doesn’t want his board members to publicly discuss ‘voter fraud, birtherism, the St. Lucie County voter fraud suit’ or any other ‘oddball issues’ he deems off message.”

Furnari notes this can lead to conflict as his vice-Chair is part of the St. Lucie County law suit. Furnari notes, “[Vice-Chairman Michael] Barnett is one of the lawyers litigating the True the Vote lawsuit against St. Lucie County Elections Supervisor Gertrude Walker over the irregularities in Allen West’s loss to Patrick Murphy, and that’s one of the banned topics.

True the Vote is a non-partisan grassroots organization that focuses on election fraud. Lou Ann Anderson from Watchdog Wire – Texas reported, “Former Florida Congressman Allen West narrowly lost his November re-election bid and St. Lucie County was a standout locale in terms of alleged voting irregularities.  To protect future election integrity, Houston-based True The Vote is suing the St. Lucie supervisor of elections. In a recent video announcement, True the Vote President Catherine Engelbrecht emphasized the importance of learning the truth.  “The sanctity of our elections is too important to let this slide,” she said.

Watch True the Vote President Catherine Engelbrecht’s video announcement of the lawsuit:

Anderson reports Engelbrecht additionally noted, “We the people have a right and a responsibility to demand answers when our election process fails.  And that’s what we’re doing.  Demanding answers.”

Florida has the most schools offering the International Baccalaureate but is it worth it?

In 1971, the United Nations International School (UNIS) became the first school authorized “to offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) and awarded the first IB degree in the world.”

As of February 21, 2013 there are 1,403 International Baccalaureate (IB) World Schools in the U.S. which offer one or more IB programs. Florida leads the way in schools offering IB Programs with 144 or over 10% of U.S. IB World Schools.

Debra K. Niwa has issued her annual update on IB World Schools in the U.S. With 91% of IB programs funded by public dollars, Niwa notes, “Public financing of IB World Schools begs the attention of anyone who values education and cares about how taxpayer money is spent in the public school system. Local, state, and federal taxpayer dollars are covering public school costs for programs offered by the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) — an entity under Swiss law that claims non-profit status. IBO is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland; a regional office opened in Bethesda, Maryland in 2010.

Niwa presents in her annual update the following red-flag issues surrounding IB programs:

IB programs add unnecessary costs to school operations (these vary with each IB program). IB school fees, new staff positions (non-teaching and teaching), student registration and subject fees, student assessment fees, and periodic program evaluation visit fees, to name a few, Plus, IB requires training (that incurs participant fees, travel, meals, and lodging expenses) at destinations that are out-of-state or out-of-country for most attendees. “It costs an average of about $8,000 to train a staff member.” Thereafter, re-training comes every few years as IBO changes curriculum.

The “pre-university” two-year IB Diploma Program (DP) is not cost effective (nor are the other IB programs). IB DP “candidates” are often a tiny portion of a high school’s total enrollment. In 2009, a proponent in Virginia “shared statistics that indicate 72% of IB Programs have less than 10 diploma candidates each year and that was the norm.”6 Nevertheless, substantial six-digit amounts accommodate the IB DP. In July 2011, Tucson Unified School District revealed its annual costs for the Diploma Program at one high school. For the first two IB graduating classes, TUSD spent more than $1 million the first year (2009-2010) and $800,000 the second year (2010-2011). Five students received the IB Diploma in that period.

The IB Middle Years Program (MYP) — for ages 11 to 15 — is poor preparation for the DP. IB teachers criticize that “MYP suddenly stops in Grade 10. There is no articulation between MYP and IB Diploma” and “The MYP . . . doesn’t really provide the opportunity to hone the skills needed to be successful DP students.” What about the many MYP graduates who don’t qualify for the Diploma Program? In 2012 the IBO will allow IB DP schools to offer an IB “Career-related Certificate” for students ages 16 to 19 years old.

The IB Primary Years Program (PYP) – for 3 to 12-year-olds — is bad for academic support. As staff at PYP schools have remarked: “. . . the IB program has NO place in elementary school. It takes too much emphasis off learning the basics, it takes the teachers out of the classroom for too many meetings, and it takes our administrators on expensive cross-country business trips.” “ . . . there was so much time spent on the IB stuff and time taken away from the true academics — very frustrating when you have . . . students that you need to help on academics but can’t.”

IB changes education’s purpose, content, and teaching methods — predictably supporting the agendas of the IBO which, since 1970, has been an official NGO of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Strip away the IB marketing puffery and suddenly the IB drivel about “rigor”, “international mindedness” and “quality education for a better world” become nothing more than phrases that obscure the integration of non-academic goals that support United Nations* issues, such as Agenda 21 sustainable development.

Niwa asks parents, Florida taxpayers and Florida’s political leadership this question: How deeply does IB reach into the public school system in your state?

In the case of Florida it runs deeply starting in 2005 with the first IB program created under former Governor Jeb Bush.

ABOUT DEBRA K. NIWA

Debra K. Niwa

Debbie Niwa began researching education issues five years ago when she started questioning the policies and changes occurring in the school district in Tucson, Arizona that her son was enrolled in. She has devoted thousands of hours researching local, state, federal, and global school reform issues, as well as actively advocating for academic quality in education. Since 1980, she has worked professionally on the design and production of publications as well as the gamut of other graphic design projects.

Bondi versus Scott on expanding Medicaid in Florida

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune editorial board is all in support of Governor Rick Scott’s decision to expand Medicaid in Florida. In an opinion column titled “Medicaid numbers add up: Legislature should join Scott in recognizing the benefits of expansion” the editorial board states, “Federal aid hard to pass up.”

That statement sums  up the issue. The question is does Florida want more citizens on federal aid? What benefit is that to Florida taxpayers?

The opinion column states, “The Legislature — which convenes its annual session March 5 — will ultimately decide whether to expand eligibility for the program to cover all Floridians under age 65 who earn up to 138 percent of the poverty rate. That’s $29,700 for a family of four; currently, coverage in Florida is limited to 100 percent of the poverty level, a shockingly low income of $22,350 for a family of four.”

What the Sarasota Herald-Tribune fails to say is why salaries in Florida are so low. The reason is because Florida jobs are low paying.

According to the South Florida Business Journal, “The average annual salary for Floridians ranks No. 32 nationwide, according to a new On Numbers analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Floridians have an average annual salary of $40,750, or an hourly wage of $19.59, as of May 2011. A rather low ranking considering the Sunshine State ranks fourth for the highest number of employees at about 7.2 million.”

The Sunshine Review reports, “According to 2008 Census data, the state of Florida and local governments in the state employed a total of 1,049,028 people. Of those employees, 832,252 were full-time employees receiving a net pay of $3,302,955,436 per month and 216,776 were part-time employees paid $213,151,877 per month. More than 51% of those employees, or 539,321 employees, were in education or higher education.”

The average annual net pay of government employees in Florida is just over $47,624.

Working for government, at the expense of Florida taxpayers, and expanding Medicaid benefits, thereby expanding number of government employees, is considered by many a mistake.

Among those coming out in opposition include Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. According to BizPac Review, “Bondi said she ‘firmly disagrees’ with Scott’s decision to expand Medicaid coverage under the Obamacare legislation, but the final outcome will go before the Florida Legislature and she feels they will make the right call. “This could really devastate our state,” said Bondi. “And cost a tremendous amount of money.”

The numbers do not add up. As the Sarasota Herald-Tribune notes, “During the first three years of the expansion, the federal government would pay 100 percent of the state’s cost of broadening coverage.”

According to the federal Affordable Care Act, the federal contribution would be about 90 percent after those three years. The Agency for Health Care Administration found that Florida would save $3.9 million in the next fiscal year by rejecting Medicaid expansion — but it would pass up $2.1 billion in federal funding. While the state’s share would increase over time, by the 2020-2021 budget year Florida’s cost would be $487 million, compared with a federal contribution of $4.2 billion.”

So, Florida loses money as time drags on, assuming of course that Congress keeps its word and funds Medicaid according to the law.