Your Weekly Legislative Update

April 22, 2019
Week Seven Session Summary
April 15 - April 19, 2019
Legislative Session 2019

In This Issue...


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

Almost to the Finish Line - As we make the run up into the final two weeks of the 2019 legislative session, there was not much movement on FCS issues the past week. In this issue in addition to college-related bills, we will take a look at some bills that impact other segments of the state including charter schools, veterans, hurricane recovery, and first responders.


For a complete summary spreadsheet of all bills being tracked visit the AFC Advocacy Toolkit to download the most recent 2019 AFC/FCS Bill Tracking Matrix.

SB 190
by Sen. Stargel and HB 5501 by the House Appropriations Committee regarding college and university construction projects, Bright Futures Scholarships, compression funding, industry certification performance funding caps and safe schools.

SB 190 was rewritten last week to include some of the higher-education changes proposed by HB 5501, which particularly wants to revamp spending rules that pertain to construction projects. The House and Senate agree that the state university system’s Board of Governors and the State Board of Education should be required to develop a “points-based prioritization” method to rank construction projects the boards want to recommend for state funding. The Legislature is considering the changes after House investigators found that UCF improperly used $85 million in taxpayer money for construction work. Since then, the University of South Florida and the University of Florida have also been scrutinized for potential misuse of state dollars for building projects.

The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday unanimously approved the changes to SB 190, though the House still takes a tougher stance on the spending rules. But a framework eyed by the House is now included by the Senate. Under HB 5501, any new construction or remodeling project that has not received state funds in previous years could only be considered as a priority project if the institution has set aside at least 25 percent of the total project cost, or has an interest-bearing account with at least 10 percent of the building’s value for a period of no more than three years. The Senate is proposing that state colleges have at least 15 percent of the total project cost available and universities have 10 percent of the total project cost, according to the amendment adopted Thursday.

Additionally, Florida law provides performance funding for industry certifications to Florida College System (FCS) institutions and school district workforce education programs. Specifically, each FCS institution and each school district must be provided $1,000 for each industry certification earned by a student. The maximum amount of performance funding which may be appropriated annually to FCS institutions and a school district workforce education program is limited to $15 million each. The bill removes the cap on the maximum amount of performance funding for industry certifications to FCS institutions and school district workforce education programs. As a result, FCS institutions and school districts may be fully funded for earned certifications, subject to legislative appropriation.

This bill, covered previously, modifies the requirements associated with the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program. It removes the requirement that students enroll in a Florida postsecondary education institution within two-years of graduation from high school and eliminates the 45-credit hour annual restriction in the award of a scholarship. The bill also codifies the existing State Board of Education rule that allows Florida private school graduates to meet the high school credential-specific eligibility criterion. It also revises the examination score requirements for award eligibility to align the SAT and ACT examination scores with the SAT national percentile rank specified in law, and requires the Florida Department of Education (DOE) to publish ongoing updates to the examination scores. The bill would change the safe school allocation formula to require the remaining balance be calculated based on two-thirds allocated from each school district’s proportionate share of the state’s total unweighted full-time equivalent student enrollment and one-third allocated based on the most recent official Florida Crime Index to align the funding with school district security needs. The bill also places the funding compression allocation for school districts in permanent law. Regarding industry certification performance funding, the bill removes the $15 million annual cap for both Florida College System institutions and school district workforce education programs.

HB 189 by Senate Education Committee and Reps. Zika and Valdes regarding Postsecondary Education for High School Students.

The bill renames “collegiate high school programs” as “early college acceleration programs” and expands the programs from 1 to 2 years. The bill requires the programs be made available to students in grades 11 and 12 and specifies that they must include an option for a student to graduate from high school with an associate degree. District school boards and Florida College System (FCS) institutions are prohibited from limiting the number of eligible students who may enroll in dual enrollment programs, including early college programs, unless a 1-year waiver is granted by the Commissioner of Education.

The bill deletes the requirement for a separate early college program contract and requires each dual enrollment articulation agreement between a FCS institution and a school district to establish an early college program. The bill authorizes district school boards to establish an early college program with a state university or an eligible institution and authorizes charter and private schools to establish an early college program with a state college, state university, or other eligible postsecondary institution.

The bill requires each district school board, by September 1, 2020, and annually thereafter, to post on its website information regarding earning college credit through the early college program and the associated cost savings. By November 30, 2020, and annually thereafter, the Department of Education (DOE) must post on its website information regarding the status of early college programs. Beginning September 1, 2020, and annually thereafter, each postsecondary institution must report information regarding each dual enrollment articulation agreement it has entered into during the previous year to the Commissioner of Education.

The bill requires dual enrollment instructional materials be provided to home education and private school students at no cost. An articulation agreement between a public postsecondary institution and a private school must express that costs associated with tuition and fees, including registration and laboratory fees, and instructional materials will not be passed along to the student’s private school of enrollment. The bill requires the dual enrollment transfer guarantees statement developed by DOE to include English and mathematics courses that require a grade of C or higher to measure student achievement in college-level communication and computation skills, pursuant to state board rule.

HB 189 is ready for vote in the House. Its companion bill, SB 1342 is not identical and still has to pass Senate Appropriations to make it to the Senate floor.

SB 1412 by Sen. Gruters regarding Hurricane Recovery and Preparedness

The Senate Committee on Appropriations passed two bills aimed at hurricane preparedness and recovery. SB 1142, by Sen. Joe Gruters includes language to provide a week long tax-free holiday for disaster preparedness supplies. The tax holiday would begin June 1, and would apply to portable radios, diesel fuel tanks, batteries, portable generators and other necessary items. There is no House companion bill but HB 1377 and HB 7123 are comparable.

SB 1164 by Sen. Gainer and HB 593 by Rep. Jay Trumbull regarding Post-Secondary Fee Waivers

This bill authorizes state colleges in Florida’s Panhandle that experienced a 10% or more enrollment decrease after Hurricane Michael to waive out-of-state tuition fees for up to three years. Senate Bill 1164 is critical for retaining students who may have left the state after Hurricane Michael and would have to pay out-of-state tuition if they return more than 12 months later. This legislation will help our state colleges and Panhandle communities in returning to a state of normalcy post-Hurricane Michael. Additionally, the Senate’s proposed budget includes long-term recovery funding of $1.8 Billion.

On 4/16/19 the News Service of Florida reported that after Hurricane Michael hit Northwest Florida in October Gulf Coast State College in Panama City lost 841 students during the spring 2019 semester. That’s a 15 percent drop in enrollment, compared to the same time last year. The bill that would allow hurricane-impacted state colleges to waive out-of-state tuition fees when they see enrollment drop by more than 10 percent as a result of storms. “This bill would allow state colleges with a service region in the Hurricane Michael-impacted area to waive out-of-state fees for a period of three years for the purpose of recruiting and retaining students,” Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, said Tuesday when presenting Gainer’s proposal to the Senate Education Appropriations Committee. It is possible that some state colleges may lose revenue by waiving out-of-state fees for dozens of students each semester, but according to a Senate bill analysis, the waiver would also help the institutions recruit new students, who would be required to pay in-state tuition.

Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, said she would like to see if it could apply to Florida Keys Community College, which is in Monroe County, where Hurricane Irma made initial landfall in 2017. “I’m actually wondering why the Keys didn’t think of something like this last year,” said Flores, whose district includes Monroe County.

As the college bills move forward, lawmakers continue to negotiate a broader Hurricane Michael aid package. The House and Senate budget proposals would direct about $225 million next fiscal year for Michael-related expenses, though many Northwest Florida leaders are seeking more state and federal assistance.

The bill has passed unanimously its committees and needs to clear the Senate Appropriations Committee before it can go to the Senate floor. The House version is ready to be heard by the full House.

SB 798 by Sen. Mayfield and HB 789 by Rep. Plasencia regarding college athletics at baccalaureate degree granting institutions.

Both proposals implement provisions relating to Florida College System (FCS) institutions offering baccalaureate degrees. It will authorize a college to participate in intercollegiate athletics at the four-year level. SB 798 also removes obsolete language relating to the approval of baccalaureate degrees at St. Petersburg College. HB 789 still must pass the House Education Committee. SB 798 must still pass Senate Appropriations in order to get a floor vote.

SB 7070 regarding Educational Choice and Public Schools.

This bill expands educational choice and opportunity for families and elevates neighborhood public schools. The bill creates a new scholarship program, the Family Empowerment Scholarship, designed to serve our low income families and would reduce the Florida Tax Scholarship wait list. This proposal also restructures the current Best and Brightest Teacher’s Program by eliminating SAT/ACT requirements, and instead focuses the financial incentive program on recruitment, retention, and recognition of Florida’s top teachers and principals. Other components of the bill include expanding options for teacher certification exams, enhancing support for the Center for Community Schools program to support neighborhood public schools with unique community needs, providing school districts with greater flexibility when it comes to locally funded facility construction, and expanding and providing increased flexibility for Schools of Hope.

SB 7098 by Sen. Hooper regarding Death Benefits for First Responders and Military Members Passes.

The legislation implements Constitutional Amendment 7, passed by voters in November, to provide death benefits for first responders including law-enforcement officers and firefighters, as well as military members killed in the line of duty. This legislation honors our first responders and military members who have sacrificed everything to protect our communities.

HB 1197 by House Education Committee and Rep. Donalds regarding Charter Schools.

This bill would allow certain charter schools to apply directly to the state for approval, circumventing the power of local school boards to sign off on new charters first. There are separate proposals forged ahead in the House and Senate Tuesday to streamline the application process for "high-performing" charter operators and colleges and universities interested in opening charter schools.

Democrats say the bill would erode the power of locally elected school boards. The Republican majority has called the bills necessary to prevent those same boards from denying worthy applications for the purposes of political posturing. Donalds and the House Education Committee on Tuesday advanced the bill over the objection of most Democrats, putting the legislation on track for a floor vote in the coming weeks.

The bill also allows State University System and Florida College System schools to sponsor charter schools with trustee boards at the helm. Its Senate companion, SB 1668, is assigned to three committees but has yet to receive a hearing. The Senate bill is similar but not aligned with HB 1197. "It seems like we have once again taken the authority of the local school boards who are duly elected to run the school district, " Sen. Bill Montford (D-Tallahassee) said Tuesday.

Both bills would give potential charter schools a new path to win operating authorization, allowing them to sidestep local school boards, something school-choice advocates say is lacking in Florida. In cases where entities other than school boards are allowed to authorize charter operators, state law should require all schools to meet the same accountability standards and ensure money for public schools is not diminished.



(News Service of Florida - Excerpts from April 19, 2019)

TALLAHASSEE --- A gambling deal may or may not happen, but lawmakers are racing toward the finish line in the 2019 legislative session. As in previous years, Republican leaders are horse-trading over their priorities in the lead-up to budget negotiations, expected to kick off when lawmakers return to Tallahassee following the holiday weekend. Armed teachers, immigration and abortion were among the high-profile issues that prompted party-line schisms this week, as lawmakers took up issues considered GOP “red meat” while also setting the stage to finalize the leaders’ priorities.

The full Senate is poised next week to vote on a sweeping school-safety package that would allow classroom teachers to volunteer for the armed “guardian” program. The upper chamber is also slated to begin debate on a toll-road plan that’s at the top of Senate President Bill Galvano’s wish list. Strengthening the state’s ban on texting and driving, an idea pushed by future Senate President Wilton Simpson, will also be on the table, as will an insurance issue known as “assignment of benefits” that’s important to many Republican leaders. That’s just a taste of what’s in store during Tuesday’s Senate floor session.

The House is preparing to deliver on one of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ campaign pledges --- a ban on so-called “sanctuary” cities. Representatives will also start a debate on texting and driving. And expect fireworks over the House’s interpretation of the constitutional amendment that restores the right to vote for most felons. And that’s only a sample of Tuesday in the House chamber.

Meanwhile, it looks as if House Speaker José Oliva is about to score a series of notches on his belt, after the Senate moved closer to the Miami Lakes Republican’s health-care and higher-ed priorities.

On a lighter side, legislators are carrying on with two sartorial traditions this session, strutting their stuff in seersucker suits this week or sporting Palm Beach fashionista Lilly Pulitzer designs next week.

And Tuesday, freshman Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, is introducing a “wear your hoops” day in the Capitol. For those who aren’t in the know, more and more fly ladies are wearing hoop earrings, a trend that has its roots in Latina and African culture. Eskamani told the News Service that #HoopsDay was inspired by an intern, who was told during orientation that hoop earrings are not professional. “We disagree with that assessment. Hoop earrings have been around since 2500 BC and exist across many minority groups as symbols of resistance, strength and identity. On #HoopsDay (those that are able!) will wear hoop earrings as a symbol of those values,” she said in a Twitter message.

MAKING SCHOOLS SAFE - A little more than a year ago, the idea of allowing armed teachers in classrooms nearly scuttled school-safety legislation hurriedly crafted in the wake of the horrific mass shooting at a Parkland high school that left 17 students and staff members dead. But now, a sharply divided state Senate is prepared to sign off on another far-reaching school safety bill that includes a provision to allow classroom teachers to serve as armed school “guardians.”

The measure (SB 7030), which is expected to come up for a vote Tuesday, incorporates many of the recommendations of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, which spent months digging into the Feb. 14, 2018, massacre at the Broward County school before finalizing a report in January. Republicans and Democrats support nearly everything in the Senate bill, which addresses school hardening, student mental health and school safety assessments, among other things.

But senators are divided along party lines over the controversial concept of allowing full-time classroom teachers to volunteer for the school guardian program. Currently, trained school personnel who are not full-time instructional staff can serve as guardians if school districts decide to participate in the program, which was authorized last year. During a Senate floor session Wednesday, Sen. Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, offered an amendment that would have stripped the armed-teachers provision from the bill, prompting a lengthy debate. Speaking against Thurston’s proposal, Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, argued that attitudes toward having guns on campuses have evolved since the introduction of armed school resource officers years ago. “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,” Bradley said.

But Sen. Bill Montford, a Tallahassee Democrat whose district includes several rural counties that support the guardian program, said teachers shouldn’t be called on “to make a life and death choice” because lawmakers won’t provide adequate funding for school safety. “Why in the world would we put ourselves in the position of saying the last line of defense is a classroom teacher picking up a gun?” said Montford, a former Leon County schools superintendent who is chief executive officer of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents. The amendment failed on a party line 22-16 vote that could be a harbinger of a final vote on the bill.

MAKING FLORIDA GREEN AGAIN - DeSantis’ administration made some non-legislative news by settling drawn-out litigation and agreeing to award eight new medical marijuana licenses to applicants that lost out on the first round of licensing in 2015. That round was conducted under an initial state law that allowed non-euphoric cannabis. Since then, Florida voters broadly legalized medical marijuana, but the state has not begun an application process for investors eager to enter the state’s cannabis market, which is expected to eventually become one of the largest in the nation. Florida has more than 200,000 patients qualified for medical marijuana, and that number continues to increase.

Tuesday’s joint settlement agreement between the Department of Health and what are known within the industry as “one-pointers” means that all of the original applicants that sought licenses in a highly competitive process have now been approved as medical marijuana “treatment centers.” “Voters overwhelmingly supported medical marijuana as a means to alleviate the pain of those who are suffering. These settlements help move the process forward and will increase patient access as approved by their doctors,” Helen Ferre, DeSantis’ communications director, said in an email. The settlements left three licenses up for grabs, with another four looming on the horizon. In an interview with the News Service, the governor’s office laid out its plans for granting another seven licenses by the end of the year.

The state Office of Medical Marijuana Use is expected to withdraw a series of proposed rules, which were never finalized, and restart the process with a new set of proposed regulations as early as May. The start-from-scratch approach is another indication that DeSantis, a Republican who took office in January, is charting a markedly different medical-marijuana course than the much-maligned path adopted by his predecessor, former Gov. Rick Scott.

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

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