Florida Politics

House Speaker’s late-night tweet about school recess bill points finger at Gov. Scott

House Speaker Richard Corcoran offered a curious statement shortly after midnight Saturday: It’s not lawmakers who have a “problem with recess” — it’s Gov. Rick Scott.

Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, made the remark in a tweet with no additional explanation, and he wouldn’t explain himself on Saturday. His office did not respond to repeated requests from the Herald/Times seeking clarification of what Corcoran meant.

“Recess moms” were immediately perplexed by Corcoran’s mystery tweet, which was in direct response to a question from a parent advocating for daily school recess.

She had asked Corcoran why he did not included the school recess issue in a Twitter poll he had posted earlier Friday, in which he solicited public input for the question: “Which policy considered by the House this session do you support the most?”

The only available response options for the poll were the House’s priorities of raising the homestead property tax exemption, its “schools of hope” proposal, ending “corporate welfare” and ethics reform.

Each of those four topics is highly divisive and controversial; in contrast, the proposal to require elementary schools to offer 20 minutes a day of recess time is not — with only a few exceptions.

Scott has not declared a public position on the recess bill, nor as he done so on most other bills pending before the Legislature. “I have no idea what that tweet means,” Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz told the Herald/Times Saturday morning. “We have continued to say that we will review it if it passes.”

Orlando Republican Rep. Rene Plasencia — the House sponsor of the recess measure — said in a tweet early Saturday afternoon that he had “personally contacted” Scott’s office and “they assured me [he] is not opposed.”

The concept of requiring daily recess in Florida’s public elementary schools is widely supported by parents and has the support from a majority of lawmakers, and yet the legislation remains in limbo with less than a week before session is scheduled to end May 5.

The school recess bill (SB 78) unanimously passed the Senate earlier this month, but Corcoran has ignored pleas from “recess moms” — including hundreds of emails and phone calls — to bring that bill to the House floor for a vote.

The legislation appears to have the votes to overwhelmingly pass the House. It is largely similar to a bill the chamber endorsed last year with only two opponents: Corcoran and Miami Republican Rep. Michael Bileca.

Corcoran had said he would support this year’s daily recess legislation, while Bileca — now the House education chairman — continues to oppose the daily mandate and was instrumental in removing that provision and making other changes that watered down this year’s House companion bill.

Last week, Corcoran told reporters there was still plenty of time to address the school recess legislation, but he didn’t guarantee action before the end of session.

“I think the legislative session could end without a vote on a ton bills, so yes,” he had said.

Kristen M. Clark: 850-222-3095, kclark@miamiherald.com, @ByKristenMClark