Your Weekly Legislative Update

May 6, 2019
Week Nine (FINAL) Session Summary
April 29 - May 4, 2019
Legislative Session 2019

In This Issue...


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

This is your ninth and final Capitol Perceptions newsletter. We hope you have found it informative and useful in helping you keep up with what is happening during legislative session.

It’s Over… On May 4, the Legislature passed the only bill it is constitutionally required to pass, a balanced budget. Session ran about a half-day overtime to get it done. It is a $91.1 billion budget, the largest budget in Florida’s history. During most of the 2019 Legislative Session there was a general sense that the Florida College System (FCS) would receive a nice increase in funding. Early on, the Senate had the FCS up about $55 million from prior year funding. At the end of negotiations with the House, that proposed Senate increase was reduced by about half.

At the end of budget conference last Wednesday, the FCS budget for 2019-20 included a total of $1,255,757,765, or $27,216,762 above last year.  This is a 2.2% overall increase. The overall funding includes some new resources such as $10 million for general operations enhancement and $10 million for funding model compression. Additionally, $20 million is provided as a 2+2 incentive fund and $10 million for the Workforce Florida Initiative.  These funds are in lieu of the state incentive “performance funds” provided in recent years. Each college will receive a pro-rata share of these funds. Funds equaling about $122,000,000 were shifted from the Lottery fund to General Revenue.  This will allow colleges to draw down that cash in July. Lottery funds are typically not available until February each year.  The CAPE Industry certificate incentive program was increased by $4 million also.

On the downside $3.1M for Florida Retirement System (FRS) contributions based on the annual actuarial adjustment was not funded. Each college will have to cover that cost without the designated funds, which will have the effect of reducing each colleges increase from the program fund. An additional $2.5 million in non-recurring funds was also not restored.

Regarding PECO and capital outlay, the Legislature funded the FCS only $11.3 million, with most of that dedicated to specific projects.  Comparatively, the universities received $107.2 million, $158.2 million went to Charter Schools, zero went to public schools, $46 million to special school projects like lab schools, and zero is provided for maintenance.


In the coming weeks a comprehensive Bill Summary and Legislative Report will be compiled and shared with you in the next AFC Current.

SB 190

We watched SB 190 for the entire legislative session. The bill, sponsored by Senate Higher Ed Appropriations Chair Kelli Stargel, grew weekly as numerous pieces of other related legislation were added on. After much back and forth of amendments between the two chambers, behind closed doors, a deal was made on the revised policy.  Thus, the Senate amended the bill and added back important provisions from its prior version. The bill passed both chambers unanimously.
The final bill provides the following:
•    Includes PECO project prioritization and point system guidelines, which includes FCS institutions to set aside 0.5% of the cost for each fixed capital outlay project into an escrow account for future building maintenance needs;
•    No longer includes reverse transfer language; (see SB 770)
•    Prohibits Direct-Support Organizations (DSOs) from giving a gift to a political action committee;
•    Includes “2+2” Targeted Pathway Articulation Agreements with SUS institutions;
•    Includes Bright Futures Scholarship provisions;
•    Removes $15M CAPE industry certification cap;
•    Requires FCS institutions with an FTE less than 15,000 FTE to maintain a 5% balance; A spending plan must be submitted to the SBE if the college goes over 5% or a plan on how to get to 5% if the college is has not yet attained that percent-age.
•    Requires FCS institutions with an FTE greater than 15,000 FTE to maintain a 7% balance; A spending plan must be submitted to the SBE if the college goes over 7% and a plan on how to get to 7% if the college is has not yet attained that percentage.

This bill is still subject to the Governor’s approval.

HB 189 and SB 1342

These non-identical but similar bills regarding dual enrollment previously covered herein both died. SB 1342 never made it out of Senate appropriations. For another year anyway there will be no changes to dual enrollment.

SB 770

These bills address Alternative High School Graduation Requirements and include the creation of a career and technical education (CTE) pathway to acquire a CTE diploma instead of a traditional standard high school diploma. It also includes reverse transfer language that would award AA degrees to students who transferred early to an SUS institution but completed 30+ credit hours at an FCS institution, but had met requirements for an AA degree while at the university.

Also added toward earning a standard high school diploma is a revision for computer science credit substitution for mathematics or science credits. It also creates a mechanism for career education course standards to meet the Algebra I credit requirement if equated.

School districts will be required to provide a “College and Career Decision Day” to recognize high school seniors and encourage them to prepare for college and pursue advanced career path-ways. School districts will also have to notify students, parents, and members of the community about apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs locally available.

The bill contents morphed into HB 7071 which is awaiting the Governor’s signature. The effective date is July 1, 2019.

HB 7071

In addition to what was mentioned above, HB 7071 covers a lot of ground.  It promotes apprenticeships and creates the “Strengthening Alignment between Industry and Learning (SAIL) to 60” Initiative and establishing a statewide attainment goal to in-crease the percentage of working-age adults (ages 25-64) who hold a high-value postsecondary certificate, degree, or training experience to 60 percent by the year 2030. The legislation renames the Higher Education Coordinating Council (HECC) as the Florida Talent Development Council, revising its membership, and would require the council to develop a strategic plan for talent development in Florida.  The bill revises the statutory characteristics of an apprenticeable occupation and modifies the requirements for the two public members appointed to the State Apprenticeship Council by the Governor to be independent of any joint or nonjoint organizations. It also redefines “journeymen” as “journey workers” and includes special provisions for veterans, minorities, and women in apprenticeship programs.

House Bill 7071 also requires that each career center and FCS institution with overlapping service areas execute and annually submit to DOE a career pathways agreement for each certificate pro-gram offered by the career center. The bill requires each school district and FCS institution receiving state appropriations for workforce education programs to maintain adequate and accurate records for funding and expenditures.

Moreover, the Commissioner of Education is to conduct an annual review of both K-12 and postsecondary CTE offerings to determine how well the existing programs align with employer demand. Using the findings from this annual review, the Commissioner will phase out any CTE programs that are not aligned with the needs of employers or do not provide program completers with middle or high-wage occupation.

The bill allows for School Boards to authorize the use of vehicles other than school buses to be used for transportation to and from school sites for students who participate in a career education program that is not offered at the high school. Career pathways agreements between career centers and FCS institutions are also included in the bill.

One area that had been mentioned numerous times throughout Session was assisting those students who had left the postsecondary institution just prior to completing a degree. This bill establishes the Last Mile College Completion Program. This program would assist with awarding the cost of in-state tuition and required fees of students who are Florida residents who have been enrolled in an accredited postsecondary institution within 8 years and were within 12 credit hours of completing.

HB 7071 was the workforce education vehicle. It passed both the House and Senate unanimously and is now heading to the Governor for his signature. It will take effect on July 1, 2019.

Special thanks go to AFC Legislative Committee Chair Rachael Bonlarron (PBSC), and AFC lobbyist Allyce Heflin for their input on the content above.


(News Service of Florida - Excerpts from May 4, 2019, Recap and analysis of the 2019 legislative session)

TALLAHASSEE --- From the mundane to the “transformational,” Florida’s Republican-controlled Legislature didn’t shy away from controversy during the annual session that wrapped up Saturday. To the contrary, GOP lawmakers seemed to embrace it. Immigration, school vouchers and felons’ voting rights were just some of the provocative issues that drove thousands of Floridians to the state Capitol to make their voices heard. And of course, what would a Florida legislative session be without a fierce debate about guns, with this year’s focus on arming teachers. As illustrated by the red and green lights on House and Senate voting boards, if the contentious issues didn’t deepen a partisan chasm in the chambers, they did nothing to assuage it.

The past few weeks, however, had some lighter moments, too. For example, Floridians will now be freer to grow their succotash, thanks to a powerful senator who came to the rescue of a South Florida couple forced by local officials to rip out a front-yard veggie patch. A bill bans local governments from regulating homeowners’ vegetable gardens.

The state’s Republican leadership troika --- Gov. Ron DeSantis, House Speaker José Oliva and Senate President Bill Galvano --- scored even bigger triumphs. Oliva is doing a victory lap after nailing down his major priorities, such as a health-care overhaul that included tangling with what he calls the “hospital-industrial complex.” Galvano walked away with a toll-road plan that prompted environmentalists to declare war. And DeSantis gained a ban on so-called “sanctuary” cities, allowing him to deliver on a campaign pledge. The governor also emerged from his first legislative session with a program that would allow the state to begin importing drugs from Canada, if the federal government goes along with the idea.

DeSantis also won big on his education agenda, which includes boosting the workforce by helping students pursue vocational and technical training in high school, and on his drive to address Florida’s water woes. “I’m pleased that we’ve really changed the conversation on a number of things,” the governor told reporters after the session concluded Saturday afternoon. “I think there was just a lot of opportunities to lead, and I took ‘em, but then these guys in the Legislature took ‘em as well, and I think that’s a good thing.”

PISTOL-PACKING TEACHERS, REDUX - Educators, parents, students and proponents of stricter gun laws successfully beat back a plan last year that would have allowed specially trained teachers to bring guns to their classrooms, a proposal borne of the horrific massacre that left 17 students and faculty members dead at a Parkland school in February 2018. But the November elections changed that. An infusion of new Republicans into the state Senate helped secure the passage this week of a measure that would allow armed teachers.

The House on Wednesday gave final passage to a wide-ranging school safety bill that would expand the controversial school “guardian” program and carry out other recommendations of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission. Five Republicans in the House and one in the Senate, which passed the bill earlier, voted against the bill. The guardian program was created last year and allowed armed school staff members whose primary duties are outside the classroom.

But the proposal on its way to DeSantis would expand the program and allow teachers to volunteer to become guardians in school districts that authorize it, a policy reversal that drew heavy criticism from Democrats, who spent hours railing against the plan. “Here we are, one year later, and for some reason the carefully crafted compromise that agonized all of us has just been completely abandoned and tossed out the window,” Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando, said. But supporters of the proposal argued that allowing teachers to have guns could make a life-saving difference in the time it takes for law enforcement to arrive during active-shooter situations at schools. “This is not about gun rights or anything like that. This is about keeping our children safe and, when all other things fail, that there is a last line of defense to save our children. And it’s nothing more than that,” Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, said.

DeSantis indicated Saturday he will sign the bill (SB 7030) into law.

‘WE ARE HUMAN BEINGS’ - Exposing another sharp partisan divide, the Legislature approved one of the strictest laws in the nation against so-called sanctuary cities. The House and Senate passed the bill (SB 168) Thursday after heavy debate in both chambers. DeSantis thanked Oliva and Galvano and the bill’s sponsors for “recognizing the importance of the issue,” which was one of the cornerstones of his campaign for governor last year. “Local law enforcement agencies can and should work with the federal government to ensure that accountability and justice are one in our state,” DeSantis said in a prepared statement following the bill’s passage.

The governor’s desire to force local and state officials to fully cooperate with federal immigration authorities sparked intense debate about how the state, which has about 800,000 undocumented immigrants, should enforce immigration laws. The Legislature’s action came amid national battles about President Donald Trump’s attempts to curb illegal immigration. The bill would require local law-enforcement agencies to share information with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement about undocumented immigrants who are in their custody. That would include campus police agencies and the Department of Children and Families.

During debate Thursday, Hispanic Democrats shared personal stories about the struggles their families have faced in the United States. One of the most poignant testimonies came from Rep. Cindy Polo, a Miramar Democrat whose Colombian parents overstayed their visas and temporarily lived in the U.S. without documents. “To my parents, thank you for not following the law, thank you for fighting a broken procedure,” Polo said. “And I am sorry we could not do more.”

Democrats argued the Senate proposal is an “un-American” and “mean-spirited” approach to ensuring public safety. “This is a proactive bill that panders to fear,” said Sen. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg. “It panders to the specter of what is not.” But Sen. Joe Gruters, a Sarasota Republican who doubles as chairman of the Republican Party of Florida and who sponsored the measure, argued that the bill will only target “criminal illegal aliens” who break the law and will force county jails to honor federal immigration detainers that would hold undocumented immigrants for up to 48 hours.

"As long as they are not arrested, there should be zero fear about being impacted by this bill," Gruters, R-Sarasota, said. But Sen. Victor Torres took umbrage at Gruters’ repeated use of the words “illegal aliens” during Senate debate. “Ladies and gentlemen, we are not aliens. We are human beings,” Torres said.

FELONS CRY FOUL OVER FINANCIAL OBLIGATIONS - The partisan battle lines again were drawn on a proposal intended to carry out a constitutional amendment restoring felons’ voting rights. The House passed the measure Friday, the last full day of the legislative session, with Republicans saying the proposal reflects the wording of what appeared as Amendment 4 on the November ballot and Democrats arguing the legislation is too restrictive and would block people from being able to vote.

The amendment granted restoration of voting rights to felons “who have completed all terms of their sentence, including parole or probation” and excluded people “convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense.” Desmond Meade and Neil Volz, who work for a political committee that propelled the amendment to victory in November and who watched from the public gallery during floor debate this week, called the bill on its way to DeSantis “disheartening” and “disappointing.” DeSantis told reporters Saturday he supports the bill (SB 7066).

One of the most controversial provisions in the bill deals with financial obligations that felons would be required to fulfill before their voting rights are restored. The proposal would require felons to repay all restitution and fees and fines ordered by courts, not including “any fines, fees, or costs that accrue after the date the obligation is ordered as part of the sentence.” The financial obligations would be considered completed if they are paid in full, if a victim or the court “forgives” the restitution, or if a judge allows felons to serve community service in lieu of payment.

But black lawmakers have taken umbrage at the linkage between money, voting and a person’s felony status, saying it is a reminder of Florida’s ugly Jim Crow-era policies aimed at keeping blacks from the ballot box. Florida’s law requiring felons to get clemency in order to vote “was created to make sure that black men couldn’t vote,” an emotional Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, told his colleagues during a Democratic caucus meeting this week. “(I’m) keeping it real…. To me, I don’t think this law should be around, just like I don’t think slavery should be around,” he said.

The final plan contained harsher provisions than earlier versions proposed by Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican who has long been an advocate for criminal justice reform. Throughout a Senate debate Thursday, Brandes defended the measure. “I think we’re constitutionally bound to include all terms of sentence … and I think via this legislation, we are doing our constitutional obligation to define those undefined terms in the amendment,” he said. But in closing remarks, Brandes appeared almost apologetic. “Obviously, you know my heart is in a different place and would love to go farther,” the soft-spoken Republican said. “I have gone as far as I can, as far as this bicameral process will let us go, to seek mercy over sacrifice.”

JEB IN THE HOUSE! - Two decades after then-Gov. Jeb Bush started a broad push for school choice, the Legislature approved a closely watched expansion that will provide vouchers to thousands of children to attend private schools. As a sign of the significance of the bill (SB 7070), Bush made a rare appearance in the Capitol and was seated on the House floor Tuesday for the final vote. He was flanked by Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, another longtime voucher supporter, and Galvano, R-Bradenton.

DeSantis is expected to sign the bill, which features the creation of the “Family Empowerment Scholarship Program.” Under that voucher program, state money will be used next year to pay for as many as 18,000 students to attend private schools, with the number of students slowly increasing in future years. Supporters argued the bill would give parents the ability to choose the best schools for their children. “Frankly, the time for political posturing is coming to an end, and now it’s time to do what is right for our middle-income and low-income families in the state of Florida,” House PreK-12 Appropriations Chairman Chris Latvala, R-Clearwater, said.

But critics warned of taking money out of the public-school system and sending it to private schools. “As a taxpayer, I think this is a waste of money,” Rep. John Cortes, D-Kissimmee, said. “We should be fixing our public schools with solutions, instead of making more problems.”

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

Capitol Perceptions - The Back Issues

Click the year to read back issues of Capitol Perceptions

201920182017 - 20162015201420132012 - 2011 - 2010 - 2009 - 2008 - 2007