Tracie Davis skipped budget vote, but supported ‘punitive’ school mask penalty

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Democratic Rep. Tracie Davis failed to cast a vote on the state’s 2022 spending plan ahead of budget conference, but she did vote to approve a controversial plan that would have stripped some school districts of $200 million in funding.

A review of House records confirms that Davis was present and that she cast votes on the bills that came up immediately before and after the budget, indicating that she was on the floor for the HB 5001 vote but chose not to vote.

HB 5001 is the state’s primary budget bill and this year included more than $105 billion in funding, which would grow to $110 billion by final passage, making it the largest budget in the state’s history.

House budget writers also drafted several implementing bills for the budget, one of which included a controversial provision that would have siphoned funding from school districts that required students to wear masks during the 2021-22 school year.

House records show that Davis broke with most of her Democratic colleagues to support that bill, and that her vote came within minutes of her non-vote on the overall budget bill.

Known as the “Putting Parents First Adjustment,” the measure would have docked a collective $200 million from the pay of high-paid administrators from the 12 districts that imposed mask mandates. The plan would use those dollars to reward the 55 districts that did not impose mask mandates. Administrators making more than $100,000 annually would have been subject to salary reductions.

Some lawmakers, particularly Democrats, decried the measure as “punitive.” Aventura Democratic Rep. Joe Geller noted that Miami-Dade and Broward counties — which he represents — would have lost $72 million and $32 million, respectively.

“We’re supposed to take care of all Floridians, regardless of the person who represents the district,” Rep. Geraldine Thompson, a Windermere Democrat, said at the time. “The folks who live in my district are as important as the folks who live in the districts of those who sit in the front rows.”

The funding shift was crafted by House PreK-12 Appropriations Chairman Randy Fine, a Brevard County Republican who was an outspoken critic of school districts that implemented mask mandates.

The plan was later scaled back and ultimately vetoed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, however it is unclear why Davis would have supported the bill in the first place.

Duval County was one of the 12 districts that required students to wear masks for a portion of the 2021-22 school year and under the plan it would have lost $16.3 million in funding. And Davis was aware of the impacts, telling Action News Jax that the cuts would be “devastating.”

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