I had an interesting time during lunch today. I watched Senator Storms stand before the Senate to defend her deceptively named “academic freedom” bill around noontime. I didn’t get to see the whole thing, but what I did see was train wreck fascinating.
First there was the matter of Senators Deutch and Rich introducing an amendment that blended Storms’ anti-evolution bill with sex education. It was an attempt to turn Storms’ “full range of scientific views” posturing on its head. The amendment failed, but in hindsight that is no surprise.
Storms was then hammered with questions about what the bill allows or doesn’t allow. She repeatedly deferred to the text of her bill, saying that religion will not be taught. But then intelligent design popped up. She was asked several times whether her bill would allow intelligent design to be taught in the classroom. She read from her bill, but avoided answering the question. She was asked again. She told the Senate president that the question had already been asked and answered. Senator Geller wouldn’t let her off the hook, though, insisting that she actually had not answered the question. So, he asked again. She looked down and read once more from her bill and then claimed that the text provides a checklist that any concept would need to go through before being considered for use in the classroom. Yet that still didn’t answer the question. Geller tried again, this time asking Storms if she personally would consider intelligent design as passing her checklist and getting into the classroom. He made special note that she is the bill sponsor and should know the answer to this. She was stubborn. She waved off his question by saying she had taught English and not science in the past. (The Miami Herald has an account of what happened, too.)
The question went unanswered. I must say, Senator Storms, that you aren’t a very graceful tap dancer. As Geller noted toward the end of his questioning, Storms’ refusal to answer actually gives us our answer. If this bill survives, we’re going to see Dover the Sequel right here in Florida. The Discovery Institute is chomping at the bit to find a home for their brand new book.
What happened today was referred to as the second reading. I believe it’s just a time for proposed amendments and debate, as we saw. Next up is a third reading, which is the time for final votes. We’ll have to keep an eye on the daily schedule and the bill’s page to find out when that will happen.
On the House side, I see that Hays’ bill has been lingering on the second reading list on yesterday’s and today’s schedules. Since I don’t see any mention of it being moved to a third reading (and thus vote) on the bill’s page, I assume the amendment and debate action has yet to happen. If anyone knows any different, please speak up in the comments.
If both bills pass their votes, then the two versions must be hammered together into one in a joint committee. Since both bills are vastly different in form right now (the House version was reduced to just one line), there is conjecture that the process might be difficult. I don’t know. Everything in this process is new and crazy to me.
Keep hammering the lawmakers with varying forms of correspondence. Call, e-mail and write. Visit their local offices if you can. Try to speak to aides a little higher up the food chain than just the folks who answer phones. Make ample use of Storms’ refusal to answer the intelligent design question. Educate these lawmakers about the Dover case.
Send messages of thanks to Geller, Deutch and Rich for their determination. We need to help these folks spread their reality-based skepticism to the rest of the Senate.
I’ve been hounded by folks wanting me to post somewhere on this website a listing of all lawmakers’ contact information. That’s a pretty big undertaking to be honest with you. Some folks have compiled this information, I think, and I will try to make use of what they’ve done. I’ll let you know if I get something thrown together.