Your Weekly Legislative Update

April 8, 2019
Week Five Session Summary
April 1 - April 5, 2019
Legislative Session 2019

In This Issue...


Michael P. Brawer, CEO and Executive Director
Association of Florida Colleges

HIGHER EDUCATION FUNDING CHASM - The House and Senate leaders are about $255 million apart in higher-education funding plans heading into the final weeks of the 2019 Legislative Session. Again, the legislators are loathe to allow any raising of tuition and fees, but they want to increase the resources available to expand workforce programs

There is a $200 million disparity regarding the State University System. The House plan would cut 2.5 percent to university operating budgets, a decrease of $121 million. The Senate recommendation would increase SUS funding by $72 million or 1.4 percent.

The funding difference between the two chambers is $55 million for Florida College System. State and community colleges would receive $1.22 billion under the House proposal and $1.27 billion under the Senate's, both an increase from 2018-19. The Department of Education has requested $1.26 billion for colleges.

PERFORMANCE METRIC IMPROVEMENTS PROPOSED - The Senate Higher Education Appropriations Committee is proposing some possible improvements to the FCS performance metrics.  In an analysis shared by President Stan Sidor at Lake-Sumter State College and prepared by Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Douglas Wymer, the measures are described as an improvement over the current system. They address focusing on wages for workforce graduates, dual enrollment student success, and flexibility in the retention measure. The measures are also designed to address performance related to separate funding incentives, 2+2 Success, and the College Work Florida incentive funds proposed.

Measures in the 2+2 Student Success Incentive Fund ($28 million proposed) include:

  1. Critical Year-One Course Completions
  2. Retention
  3. On-Time Graduation
  4. Transfer to Bachelor Degree Program

Two measures address the College Work Florida Incentive Fund ($12 million proposed):

  1. On-time completion
  2. Job placement

It is generally agreed these measures are an improvement over the previous ones.  Although some additional work will need to be done if the measures pass the Legislature, it is a positive step forward in leveling the performance measure playing field.


(For a complete summary spreadsheet of all bills being tracked download each week’s 2019 AFC/FCS Bill Tracking Matrix.)

HB 7071 regarding Dual Enrollment, Reverse transfer, Pre-Apprenticeship and Apprenticeship by the House Education Committee and the Higher Education and Career Readiness Subcommittee, and Rep. Amber Mariano

This past week, the House Education Committee moved an updated version of this bill which now includes language from HB 7055 previously covered.  This legislation primarily expands apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs. An interesting aspect of the bill among other things is to provide outreach efforts for the “Last Mile” scholarship program. This program is designed to help students who are within 12 credit hours of completing their first associate or baccalaureate degree.

Other provisions of HB 7055 included in HB 7071 are the specific requirements for career clock-hour dual enrollment courses and pre-apprenticeship programs to satisfy the acceleration component for school grades. The bill would also require a career program dual enrollment agreement to describe how transportation would be provided to students who are unable to get to the dual enrollment site.

The bill has passed its two committees of reference, Higher Education Appropriations and the full House Education Committee.  There are several Senate bills that cover related components of this bill but so companion bill yet.

HB 189 regarding Postsecondary Education for Secondary Students by Rep. Ardian Zika and SB 1342 by Sen. Kelli Stargel

Last week, HB 189 was heard by the House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee. One of the sticky points in this bill is an amendment to exempt private schools from paying tuition for dual enrollment for its students. The financial impact to colleges for this could reach $5-7 million annually, including home schooled students too. To date, no funding has been identified to offset the tuition costs. $550,000 has been placed in both the House and Senate budgets to help offset some of the home school instructional materials costs.

SB 1342 would impact student eligibility for participating in dual enrollment by changing the GPA requirement from 3.0 to 2.5. Florida Statutes Ch. 1007.271(3) states student eligibility requirements for initial and continued enrollment in career certificate dual enrollment courses is a 2.0 unweighted high school GPA. The amendment to SB 1342 only pertains to courses taken for college credit dual enrollment courses. Additionally, the bill would prohibit a district school board and Florida College System (FCS) institution from limiting student participation in dual enrollment, including early college programs, but allows for a waiver if the college is unable to accommodate all eligible students.

SB 1342 moves to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education on Tuesday, April 9.

HB 839 regarding Organization and Operation of State Universities, and Reverse Transfer by Rep. Ray Rodrigues

This legislation requires that the statewide articulation agreement between the State Board of Edu-cation and the Board of Governors provides for a reverse transfer agreement for FCS associate in arts degree-seeking students who transfer to a state university early or prior to earning their associate in arts (AA) degree. If a student earned a majority of the credit hours toward an AA degree from an FCS institution, then the student must be awarded this degree by that FCS institution upon completion of the degree requirements at the state university.

HB 839 passed the House Higher Education and Career Readiness Subcommittee on March 13. On March 26, the bill passed the House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee. It will be discussed this Tuesday, April 9, in the House Education Committee. Reverse transfer language is also included in SB 1296, SB 1308, HB 1407, and HB 7071.

SB 1308 regarding Pathways to College and Career Success - Postsecondary Education by Sen. Keith Perry and HB 1407 by Rep. Mel Ponder

This legislation requires the Commissioner of Education to conduct an annual review of career and technical education programs in the K-12 system, career centers, and the Florida College System (FCS) to determine their alignment with employer demand, postsecondary degree or certificate programs, and industry certifications. This review will result in the elimination of some programs and the development of new programs in demand by employers. In addition to reverse transfer language, this bill also would authorize a state university or FCS institution to waive tuition and fees for a student who was enrolled between 5 and 10 years ago, and who successfully completed all but the equivalent of 10 percent of the required coursework for an associate or bachelor’s degree.

The bill is scheduled to be discussed at the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education on April 9. Its last stop prior to coming to the Floor for a full Senate vote is the full Appropriations Committee.

HB 1407 includes all of the above and performance funding for dual enrollment and collegiate high school programs for FCS institutions. A specific performance appropriation would be needed to implement this bill.  Each FCS institution would be provided $1,000 for each home and private school student who completes at least one dual enrollment course. Each FCS institution would also receive $1,000 for each student who earns an AA degree through a collegiate high school program. HB 1407 has yet to be heard in any of its referred committees.



(News Service of Florida - Excerpts from April 5, 2019)

TALLAHASSEE --- Florida’s Constitution is in the cross hairs. A little more than two years ago, voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana. In November, nearly two-thirds of Floridians signed off on an amendment to restore the right to vote to certain felons who’ve completed their sentences. Backers of both proposals maintain that the constitutional changes don’t require action from the Legislature. But Republican lawmakers are pushing a pot proposal and a voting-restoration measure that have sparked intense debate and, in one case, focused a national spotlight on Florida.

In the voting-rights skirmish, proponents of what appeared as Amendment 4 on the November ballot are likening House and Senate bills to Jim Crow-era policies designed to keep black voters from participating in elections. State Rep. James Grant, the House bill sponsor, is accusing Amendment 4 backers of pulling a bait-and-switch on voters. In an “I’m rubber, you’re glue” vein, both sides accuse each other of politicizing the issue. Caught up in the clash are about 700,000 felons who --- depending on how legislators handle the issue --- might be able to vote in next year’s presidential election. Republicans and Democrats consider the Sunshine State critical for a White House victory.

Senate President Bill Galvano rejected arguments of critics who accuse Republican lawmakers of trying to use the legislation to protect President Donald Trump in 2020.“I would say that they’re wrong. I would say that we’re trying our best to genuinely implement policy and enact policy … that meets the intent of the voters,” he said.

FORAY OVER FELONS’ FINANCIAL OBLIGATIONS - Whether felons who’ve completed their time behind bars or on probation should have voting rights restored if they haven’t paid off all of their financial obligations has become a flashpoint as lawmakers grapple with carrying out Amendment 4. Grant, a Tampa Republican who is a lawyer, has crafted a bill that’s shot him into the national spotlight, infuriated advocates of the amendment and spawned hundreds of phone calls and emails to legislators urging them to kill the proposal. The constitutional amendment granted restoration of voting rights to felons “who have completed all terms of their sentence, including parole or probation.” It excluded people “convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense.” Grant’s definition of what it means to have completed sentences has created the firestorm.

Under the House proposal (HB 7089), felons would have to pay all court fees, fines and restitution to be eligible for the automatic vote restoration. The House proposal defines “term of sentence” as including “any cost of supervision or other monetary obligation,” a sticking point for proponents of the amendment. “If it is in the four corners of the sentence, it is the sentence,” Grant told the House State Affairs Committee prior to a party-line, 15-6 vote Thursday on the bill. The House measure would also require full payment of restitution or other financial obligations that have been converted to civil judgments, another point of contention for proponents of the amendment.

Cecile Scoon, a lawyer and an officer with the League of Women Voters of Florida, argued that the House measure would also allow state agencies, such as the Department of Corrections, to levy fines against felons, which they would have to pay to be eligible for the automatic vote restoration. That’s not what voters who supported the amendment envisioned, she said. “This is why people are offended. This is redefining what is Amendment 4 and going well outside what was said when the people voted,” Scoon said.

Lance Wissinger, a convicted felon, said the House plan creates two classes of felons. “What we are doing right now with the bill seems like it is targeting a certain demographic. It seems like it is going after people with low income, and it’s not giving everyone the opportunity to have their ability to vote back,” Wissinger said.

PATIENTS NOT SO HIGH ON HOUSE POT PLAN - Veterans, parents and medical cannabis operators are pushing back against a House plan that would limit how high Floridians can get when they smoke medical marijuana, saying proposed THC levels would drive patients to the black market. The House plan would cap THC levels in smokable medical marijuana at 10 percent, a level the sponsor of the legislation maintains is based on science, but which patients and advocates contend is too low. Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the intoxicating ingredient in marijuana that produces a euphoric effect.

The House Health & Human Services Committee on Wednesday approved the measure (PCB HHS 19-02), with Chairman Ray Rodrigues saying the cap is grounded in studies that found high levels of the euphoria-inducing cannabinoid were not effective in treating pain. Other studies linked smoking high-THC marijuana with psychosis, Rodrigues said. “We believe that there’s science that shows greater than 10 percent THC has been linked to harmful effects, so that’s why we’ve chosen the 10 percent limit. There’s also science out there that has shown that less than 10 percent is effective for medical purposes, and so we have used that as the delineation,” Rodrigues, R-Estero, said.

The committee vote came about three weeks after lawmakers --- many of them, like Rodrigues, reluctantly --- succumbed to pressure from Gov. Ron DeSantis and overwhelmingly voted to repeal the state’s ban on smokable medical marijuana. The bill also includes a provision that would allow veterans to get free medical-marijuana patient identification cards, which currently cost patients and caregivers $75 each year. Waiving the fee for vets, however, drew the wrath of some patients who accused Rodrigues of using veterans as “scapegoats” for the controversial THC levels included in the bill. “This is going to harm us,” Tanya Bailey, a veteran with the group “Vets for Buds,” told the panel. “We need our medicine. We don’t know what to do,” Bailey said. “I have to oppose any amendment that’s going to ride on our backs to lower to 10 percent.”

ALL ABOUT THE BENJAMINS - Both legislative chambers this week passed versions of a state spending plan, with the House’s $89.9 billion budget about $400 million shy of the Senate’s version, which falls about $1 billion short of what DeSantis proposed. The variance might seem relatively small, but it incorporates myriad differences that House and Senate leaders will have to resolve if the legislative session is going to end on time May 3. The biggest schisms include education, health care and the state’s tourism agency, Visit Florida.

When asked by a reporter Thursday about the biggest challenge going into negotiations, House Speaker Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, replied with a laugh that “the Legislature is made up of people.” “The biggest issue is that we’re dealing with people, so people have different priorities about different things and different concerns,” Oliva said. “This is a process of building coalitions. You have to bring people together to come to a general agreement and hopefully to get most of what everyone wants, but it’s impossible to get everything that everyone wants.”

Capitol Perceptions is compiled weekly during the Florida Legislative Session and distributed to AFC members.  

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