Gov. Charlie Crist's decision to veto a controversial education bill linking teacher raises to student performance created a swift backlash from Republicans who considered the measure a legislative priority.
House Majority Leader Adam Hasner, R-Delray Beach, reacted less than 10 minutes after Crist announced his veto of Senate Bill 6 on April 15, 2010.
“I'm disappointed that after sending his top policy staffer to the House Committee to testify in support of the proposal, Governor Crist would change his mind and now veto the bill,” Hasner said in a press release.
We know Republicans have said Crist supported and would sign the bill -- Republican Party of Florida Chairman and state Sen. John Thrasher went as far as to say Crist promised he would sign the bill -- but did Crist ask a staffer to attend a committee hearing to indicate the governor's support?
State records show -- and video evidence confirms -- that a Crist staffer did attend a House committee hearing in support of the education bill.
On March 25, 2010, at a hearing of the House PreK-12 Policy Committee, Crist education policy chief Terry Golden said she supported the teacher pay bill on behalf of the Office of the Governor.
Here's a copy of the appearance record from the meeting, which was first obtained by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
PolitiFact Florida also watched an archived video of the 3-hour, 40-minute hearing, to see if Golden attended the meeting, and if she indicated she supported the teacher tenure bill. Two hours and 55 minutes into the committee hearing, Golden is recognized to speak.
She stands up from her seat and says: "The Office of the Governor waives in support." The comment is typical in committee meetings when a group indicates its position but does not wish to take the time to address the full committee. (If the first video link doesn't work, try this one).
A corresponding action packet from the meeting also lists Golden as a "proponent" of the bill.
It should be noted that the bill that the governor ultimately vetoed was almost exactly the one that appeared at that March 25 committee meeting. The only change, the Sun-Sentinel reported, was an amendment by Sen. Evelyn Lynn to allow principals to take into account advanced degrees in their performance reviews.
On the governor's Web site, Golden is listed as a policy chief in the Education Policy Unit of the Governor's Office of Policy and Budget. Golden also is a registered lobbyist for the governor's office. Previously she worked as a lobbyist for Mixon and Associates, a Tallahassee lobbying group that lists nine school districts among its clients.
We tried to call Golden to ask who asked her to attend the hearings on SB 6 and its companion bill, HB 7189, and why she indicated support of the bills. But Golden's office referred our inquiries to the governor's press office.
Crist spokesman Sterling Ivey said Golden supported the teacher tenure bill under orders from Kathy Mears – the governor’s director of legislative affairs – and Ken Granger, policy director of the Governor’s Office of Policy and Budget. “I think at the end of March, conceptually the Executive Office of the Governor was in support of the direction of the bill,” Ivey said, noting that Golden works for Crist's top education policy adviser Scott Kittel.
Crist, however, told a group of reporters on April 14, 2010, that he didn't know Golden ("I don't even know who that person is -- though I'm sure they're a great person") or why she indicated that she supported the bill on Crist's behalf.
"I'm me and they're them," Crist told the reporters in an exchange that was caught on video. "What I've learned ... is that a lot of times people will say that the governor's office feels this way and the governor's office feels that way, and regrettably from time to time, rare though that may be, they may not have actually talked to the governor."
That may be true, but the one ultimately responsible for the actions of Crist's administration is Crist.
A Crist education policy staffer went to a House committee hearing on March 25 and indicated the governor's support for a controversial teacher pay plan. Three weeks later, Crist vetoed essentially the same bill. We rate Hasner's statement True.
Story has been updated with comments from Crist spokesman Sterling Ivey.