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The Florida House tweaks a parental rights bill to add school board term limits

Rep. Sam Garrison speaks on the House floor - April 1, 2021
Florida House of Representatives
Rep. Sam Garrison speaks on the House floor - April 1, 2021

The Florida House is poised to vote on a proposal that would ramp up scrutiny of school library books and instructional materials, after adopting a significant change to the measure on Wednesday.

An earlier version of the bill (HB 1467) also sought to eliminate salaries for school board members. But an amendment filed by sponsor Sam Garrison, R- Fleming Island, nixed the part of the bill that dealt with members’ pay and added a provision that would impose eight-year term limits on school-board members. “I think there’s a value in having turnover on all levels of government, and school boards are no exception,” Garrison said during floor debate on Wednesday.

But Democrats were skeptical about the term limits in Garrison's amendment, questioning why such a sweeping policy change was not being addressed as a proposed amendment to the state Constitution.

“It’s a matter of which way is the best way going forward,” Garrison said. “I think this is more direct. I think it allows us to do our job as policy makers, our job as lawmakers in this chamber.” Garrison also noted that eight-year term limits for state legislators have been a success.

Other parts of the bill, which the House could vote on as soon as Thursday, are geared toward increasing parents’ access to materials that children might encounter in the classroom. Any member of the public also would be able to review books and instructional content. For instance, the bill would require school districts to keep a list of all instructional materials on websites searchable by the public. Elementary schools would have to publish lists of all books and materials in library media centers.

A similar Senate bill (SB 1300) needs approval by the Rules Committee before it can be considered on the floor.