also by: Jim Turner, News Service of Florida
Florida Senate Democrats plan to launch a crowdfunding effort to help cover salaries of local school officials if Gov. Ron DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran make good on threats to withhold pay because of mask mandates in schools.
“If the governor chooses to defund public education and withhold salaries from educators as punishment for protecting students’ health and safety, we will fill the gap to support them in this fight,” Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book, D-Plantation, said in a statement Tuesday, Aug. 10.
The caucus said it plans to start a GoFundMe account to raise money for the effort.
But Republican state Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis suggested Wednesday the proposal might violate a state gift law for public officials and “sounds a lot like bribery.”
“Also, they all may be breaking the law by using their official office in raising cash for a political outcome,” Patronis posted on Twitter.
Sen. Tina Polsky, a Boca Raton Democrat who is an attorney, said on Twitter that Patronis’ take was “interesting” because “threatening to not pay salaries is an illegal interference with a contract, violates (Florida) constitutional duty to run school district, and violates wage and hour laws, and that’s just off of the top of my head.”
DeSantis and Corcoran have threatened to withhold pay of superintendents and school board members if they require students to wear masks during the COVID-19 pandemic. The governor and commissioner contend parents should make mask decisions, but supporters of mask requirements say schools need to take steps to try to prevent spread of the virus.
15 MONTHS TO GO
DeSantis and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democrat who hopes to unseat the governor next year, are both raising money off verbal sparring between DeSantis and the White House amid a surge in COVID-19 cases.
“DeSantis’ absence during COVID-19 is gaining national attention --- and for good reason,” a Fried fundraising email said. “Over the weekend, even (Louisiana) Republican Senator Bill Cassidy called him out for opposing masks in school.”
The email included a video clip of President Joe Biden saying, “Governor who?” when asked last week about DeSantis.
Meanwhile, the Friends of Ron DeSantis political committee sent an email playing up the idea that the president is feeble-minded, saying Biden is in a “constant state of confusion, so it should come as no surprise he didn’t remember who Governor DeSantis is.”
“That begs the question if Joe Biden doesn’t remember Gov. DeSantis, what else has he forgotten?” the Friends of Ron DeSantis email said. “From the border crisis to rising inflation, it’s clear there’s a lot that Joe Biden has forgotten about.”
Expect more requests to “click here” and send cash after White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Wednesday replied to a New York Post editorial that said, “Team Biden’s war on DeSantis is all about kneecapping a successful GOP governor.”
"Our war is not on DeSantis --- it's on the virus, which we're trying to kneecap, and he does not seem to want to participate in that effort to kneecap the virus, hence our concern," Psaki said.