Your Weekly Legislative Update

April 1, 2019
Week Four Session Summary
March 25 - March 29, 2019
Legislative Session 2019

In This Issue...


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

"It ain't over till it's over."

American baseball legend Yogi Berra first uttered the phrase in 1973 during the National League pennant race. His Mets team was a long way behind when he said it and they did eventually rally to win the National League division title, despite having the worst record of any World Series team in history. It's not the only offbeat quote from him. There's also the existential "It's like deja-vu all over again" or the wry "Always go to other people's funerals, otherwise they won't go to yours" - but there is something about the never-say-die, no-matter-the-odds-we-can-do-this spirit of "It ain't over..." that inspires, time and time again. It tells people to wait, don't make a judgement yet, because the struggle still might be turned around.

After the last two sessions under the previous Senate leader, the FCS couldn’t help but feel downtrodden, singled-out, and simply disliked. It was like we didn’t belong despite being considered the best community college system in America. This was actually true to the Senate leader who expressed serious disregard for our system despite our successes and national acclaim. With virtually no new funding for several years, we kept our collective eyes on the horizon, knowing that certainly brighter days were ahead. Although we lost the funding battles those years we did win on a few policy bills that would have changed our world because….it ain’t over till it’s over.

Although not we asked for, nor what we need, the Senate proposed budget this year does provide some light at the end of the tunnel. It’s at least enough to pull us out of the negative funding space we have been languishing in for quite some time, and provide some new funding to move us forward. This was somewhat expected in the Senate with its positive new leader, Sen. Galvano, and we sincerely appreciate his support, and recognition of our colleges’ successes.

Unexpected was the House funding proposal which is about $55 million below where the Senate is and provides us little of the growth opportunity we so desperately need as a system. Moreover, the unexpected fallout from the UCF fund transfer debacle and the Legislature’s reaction to it in policy could change the way we operate and handle funds in the future.

Our job is to work with both sides, make a good case, use valid data, and demonstrate a positive return on investment in the FCS. The process is only at the mid-point and we are hopeful for a positive turn down the back stretch of legislative session.

It ain’t over till it’s over.


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

HB 5501 regarding Higher Education Public Education Capital Outlay (PECO)
by the House Higher Education Appropriations Committee, Rep. Randy Fine

House Bill 5501 is a budget conforming bill. A conforming bill changes Florida statutes to conform with appropriations being considered. Rep. Fine, who has been focused on financial matters regarding our colleges as well as state universities, believes that higher education institutions have been over-appropriated in prior years resulting in high fund balances. This bill would not require colleges to return unspent operating dollars, but would require then to seeking legislative approval to transfer unspent operating dollars to use for other purposes. It also portends to minimize local District Boards of Trustees’ (DBOT) authority through additional legislative oversight.

Florida Department of Education (DOE) analysis shows 28 FCS institutions with a total unallocated “fund balance” or reserves of $6 billion, much of which is earmarked for things like student activities, academic improvement trust funds, staff and program development, matching grants, board designated purposes, physical plant needs, and other capital outlay needs.

Contributing to the balances is the 5% reserve accumulated over several years. This bill would increase that to 7%. If a college were to fall below the 7%, then it would be required to submit a plan to get to the 7%. If the amount is above the 7%, then the college would have to submit a plan to spend it to the Legislature. Such requests would have to occur annually when the Legislature meets so that it can be approve for the upcoming fiscal year.

HB 5501 also provides that any new construction, renovation or remodeling project that has not received an appropriation in a previous year may only be considered for the prioritized list if:
1. The institution has allocated funding equal to no less than 10 percent (for Colleges), or 15 percent (for State Universities) of the total project cost or the project is needed to preserve the safety of persons using the facility or the project is consistent with a strategic legislative initiative;
2. A plan is provided to reserve an amount of funds in an escrow account, specific to the project, into which shall be deposited each year an amount equal to 3 percent of the building’s value for future maintenance; and
3. There is sufficient PECO cash which is not needed to complete previously funded previously PECO projects.

The bill also would place limitations for transferring state-appropriated to a direct-support organization (DSO) such as a college foundation. This could impact personal services such as Foundation staff if a DSO’s fund balance, not net assets, is $50M or more. In such cases a fund transfer could only occur for support of capital projects.

The bill will move with the House budget proposal and be subject to negotiation with the Senate during budget conference. Its companion bill, SB 1744 by Sen. Baxley has not been heard in any committee yet.

HB 189 Postsecondary Education for Secondary Students

by Rep. Ardian Zika and SB 1342 by Sen. Kelli Stargel (similar)

As previously covered House Bill 189 impacts a few things related to Dual Enrollment. First, it would rename the “collegiate high school program” to the “early college acceleration program” and expands it to 2 years. The bill deletes the requirement for a separate early college program contract and requires each dual enrollment articulation agreement between a Florida College System institution and a school district to establish at least one early college program. It also states that dual enrollment instructional materials be provided to students in a home education program at no cost.

Senate Bill 1342 is very similar in that home school and private school students would not be responsible for the costs associated with instructional materials, tuition, and fees, including registration and laboratory fees. Colleges are expected to absorb this cost. There are no funds provided to offset these costs.
On March 19, HB 189 passed out of the House PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee 13-0. It is being heard today in the House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee. It is expected to be considered by the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday, April 2, at 10:00am

HB 7055 regarding Career Education
by the PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee, and Rep. Wyman Duggan and Rep. Ralph Massullo, Jr.

HB 7055 is an effort to address workforce demand and give students flexibility and options to pursue advanced career pathways. Among other things the bill establishes formal career dual enrollment agreements between high schools and career centers. It will also allow students with an industry certification to earn two mathematics credits for Algebra I. The same credit substitution could be applied for computer science credit to substitute for a mathematics or science credit.

The Department of Education would provide assistance in increasing public awareness of apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship opportunities and eliminates industry certifications that are not aligned to industry needs.

Similar to SB 770, HB 7055 establishes a “College and Career Decision Day” to recognize high school seniors for their postsecondary education and career plans. It also doubles the cap on career and professional education (CAPE) Digital Tool certificates the State Board of Education may identify for weighted FTE funding and re-establishes a middle grades career planning course requirement.

The bill has passed two committees in the House and is to be heard in its last committee of reference, the House Education Committee. There is no Senate companion at this time but there are a few comparable bills that each address or more of the components mentioned above.

HB 789 by Rep. Rene Plasencia and SB 798 by Sen Debbie Mayfield regarding Intercollegiate Athletics and Florida College System Institutions Offering Baccalaureate Degree Programs

This effort would authorize FCS institutions that offer one or more baccalaureate degree programs the choice to participate in four-year intercollegiate athletics, such as the NCAA. The bills would allow students enrolled in a FCS baccalaureate program to compete in their sport for four-years without having to transfer to another institution. Additionally, under the governance of a four-year athletic governing body, a college’s athletic program could offer additional scholarships based on the governing body’s guidelines.

HB 789 has passed two committee of reference and its last stop is the House Education Committee. SB 798 is scheduled in the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday, April 2, at 10:00am. It would have two more stops after that.

Special thanks to AFC Legislative Committee Chair Rachael Bonlarron (PBSC) for her excellent analyses and contributions to the above content.


Adjunct professors at Miami Dade College voted to unionize recently, establishing what the group said would be the nation's largest single-school adjunct collective bargaining unit. The group, with 2,800 professors eligible to vote, joined the Service Employees International Union's (SEIU) Faculty Forward project.

Adjunct professors are part-time instructors who typically lack job security and are paid less than median wage. The typical adjunct in Florida earns about $17,000 - $22,000 annually. Adjunct faculty at FCS institutions are joining unions as state lawmakers weigh funding cuts to higher education. Hillsborough Community College, Broward College, and Seminole State College also have unionized with Faculty Forward. Adjunct professors at St. Petersburg College, Lake-Sumter State College and South Florida State College plan their own union elections in the coming months, the SEIU said in a press release.

March 29, 2019
(News Service of Florida - Excerpts from March 29, 2019)

TALLAHASSEE --- It’s midway through the legislative session and all eyes are on the money now. The House and Senate this week unveiled competing budget proposals for the upcoming fiscal year. And at roughly $1 billion apart, money fights are sure to abound, as lawmakers inch toward final budget negotiations.

One of the biggest points of contention so far has to do with funding for the state’s tourism industry, particularly Visit Florida, the tourism-marketing agency whose life is on the line. Just as they did in 2017 with House Speaker Richard Corcoran at the helm, House leaders are mulling cuts to the agency. In recent years, Visit Florida has drawn fire for some of its contracts, including $1 million for a “Sexy Beaches” Pitbull deal and a $11.6 million contract with celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse. As of this week, the House has offered $19 million to cover the agency’s expenses through October and the Senate has proposed $50 million for the agency. The proposals are millions of dollars short of the $76 million Gov. Ron DeSantis pitched for the agency earlier this year.

As the familiar fight over Visit Florida funding plays out during budget negotiations, a number of other budget recommendations will be up for debate. Among the issues stirring the pot are divides on spending for school mental health services, public hospital funding and higher education.


It was up to the Senate this week to take up a bill that would implement Amendment 4, the voter-approved ballot measure that says felons voting rights should be automatically restored. The amendment granted “automatic” restoration of voting rights to felons “who have completed all terms of their sentence, including parole or probation.” The amendment excluded people “convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense.” Under the Senate bill, felons would have to pay all restitution before they get their right to vote back, and those who served time for attempted murder would be excluded from the automatic vote restoration process. They’d also have to pay in full restitution that’s been converted to a civil judgment. But felons and advocates of the amendment are equating the Senate proposal to a “poll tax,” that made it harder for black voters to cast their ballots.

State and local election officials, clerks of courts and prosecutors have asked lawmakers for guidance in interpreting what crimes qualify as exceptions for a felon to have their rights restored as well as what constitutes a complete sentence. That has spurred a fierce debate in the Senate and House about how to carry out the amendment. Karen Leicht told the Senate Criminal Justice Committee she spent nearly three years in federal prison and three months on probation after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit insurance fraud in 2010. According to a judge and a former probation officer, Leicht’s sentence is over. But Leicht said the Senate proposal (SB 7086) would shut her out of voting forever, because she owes $59 million in restitution, which was converted to a civil judgment. “$59 million. Really? You think I can ever pay that? I’ll never vote in this state again, at this rate. That’s like a poll tax,” Leicht said, before the committee approved the measure on a 3-2, party-line vote Monday.

The House version (HB 7089) has drawn the same criticism in addition to backlash for how it is defines a felony sexual offense. The House bill includes about three dozen sex-related crimes that would be disqualifiers, including a third-time prostitution conviction.


Four weeks into the legislative session, the House started moving forward a proposal that could lead to three major toll-road projects, a top priority of Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton. House Transportation & Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Jay Trumbull, R-Panama City, said taking up the measure didn’t involve any trade of priorities among House and Senate leaders. He said the House could have considered the proposal earlier in the legislative session but was awaiting the numerous parts to come together. “There’s a lot of stuff going on,” Trumbull said after the meeting. “We’re creating three different task forces. There’s a lot of money associated with it. You’re essentially adding a significant amount of roads to the state of Florida. So, it just takes a lot of time to do some vetting.” The proposal (PCB TTA-19-02) is identical to a Senate measure (SB 7068) that awaits an appearance before the Senate Appropriations Committee. The House bill would set aside $45 million for the project.


Two suicides in the span of a week involving student survivors of the Parkland school shooting have sparked a new question at the Florida Capitol: How much mental-health money should the state provide to schools? The Senate has proposed setting aside $100 million for schools to offer mental-health services next year, $30 million more than what the House has recommended. House Appropriations Chairman Travis Cummings, R-Fleming Island, said Wednesday he does not foresee any changes to that amount of money soon. “I think one or two deaths or suicides is one too many, but we are throwing a lot of resources (into mental health),” Cummings told The News Service of Florida.

The mental health services are tied to parts of wide-ranging school safety bills that advanced this week in the House and Senate. But debate about mental health has largely been overshadowed by controversial provisions that would allow school districts to train and arm teachers. While upcoming budget negotiations may lead to changes in mental-health funding at schools, Cummings said he believes the House’s $69 million recommendation is “responsible.” He also said he does not expect the House to include a spending requirement for suicide prevention. 

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

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