Your Weekly Legislative Update

April 15, 2019
Week Six Session Summary
April 8 - April 12, 2019
Legislative Session 2019

In This Issue...


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

The Budget Dominates the Final Weeks - There is no new information to share this week regarding the Florida College System proposed budget. The House position remains at $55 million below the Senate. Policy bills with budget impact such as dual enrollment (HB 189 and SB 1342), DSO’s (foundations) and PECO (HB 5501), and the FCS Risk Management Consortium (HB 4909) remain unresolved despite some movement through the committee process. Per, Sen. Bradley and Rep. Cummings are trying to iron out allocations as we speak. As these matters move toward “budget conference” likely beginning next week, we probably won’t see much resolution and budget conference allocations until some overarching matters with the statewide budget proposals are resolved. It looks like the Senate focus is on education, infrastructure and the environment, and the House, is keyed in on health care, education and the environment. Speaker Oliva has moved some health care changes through his chamber. The House this week passed multiple changes to the state’s health care system, including a high-profile piece of legislation (HB 19) that would establish importation programs for Canadian drugs. The concept, supported by Gov. Ron DeSantis, is expected to lower overall health care costs. This follows the chamber’s all-out repeal of the state’s “certificate of need” process.

Senate President Galvano is on track to fulfill his infrastructure plan, which includes three ambitious toll-road projects through what he has referred to as the “spine” of Florida. A plan to kick-start funding for three major projects — extending the Tampa-area Suncoast Parkway to the Florida-Georgia line, connecting the northern terminus of the Florida Turnpike to the Suncoast Parkway, and constructing the Southwest-Central Florida Connector between Polk and Collier counties passed its final committee stop last week.

The House and the Senate remain about $400 million apart. The House has proposed $89.9 billion and the Senate remains at $90.3 billon. A couple big ticket items on the revenue and spending side are affecting the decision. The Senate is seeking about $1.8 billion in hurricane relief for Panhandle communities affected by Hurricane Michael last October. However, there isn’t even $315 million available yet that is being requested by local Senators who are seeking to cover shortfalls for next year. Some blame the finding shortage on the US Congress who is unable to agree on a supplemental funding bill.

A big issue impacting the state budget is the compact with the Seminole Tribe regarding gambling revenue. The tribe wants craps and roulette at all of their facilities and exclusive rights to online games. The State wants about $750 million a year. 


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

HB 4909 regarding The Florida College System Risk Management Consortium by Rep. Fetterhoff

This appropriations request will compensate the Consortium losses from the last two hurricane seasons along with other losses associated with fires, floods, and tornadoes that have impacted colleges over the last few years. The total funds requested are $18.67 million. Subcommittees are no longer meeting and the bill is not expected to be heard in any House committee. The appropriation request was placed into the proposed Senate Budget by an amendment that was filed by Sen. Rob Bradley, the Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman.

HB 5501 by the Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee and Rep. Fine regarding Higher Education and Public Education Capital Outlay (PECO)

HB 5501 would limit transfers by colleges and universities of state appropriated funds to any other fund or direct support organization (Foundation) without an appropriation by the Legislature. It would also restrict transfers of any state appropriation to a Foundation with a fund balance over $50 million unless it is for capital projects. Colleges would be able to use carry forward funds for operations, maintenance, or previously funded PECO projects. However, this bill would require the Board of Governors and State Board of Education to develop a points-based system to prioritize projects for future funding. HB 5501 would also limit the consideration any new construction, renovation or remodeling project that has not received an appropriation in a previous year for the prioritized list unless:

1. The college has allocated funds equal not less than 10% of the total project cost or the project is needed to for 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 available and not needed to complete previously funded previously PECO projects.

The bill also changes the calculation of space needs by colleges and universities. Currently, 100% utilized means classrooms that are 60% occupied for 40 hours per week. The bill changes that to 80% occupied for 60 hours per week to be considered fully utilized, and for teaching lab space to be 85% utilized for 40 hours a week.

SB 190 regarding Education by Sen. Stargel

In addition to modifying the requirements associated with the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program, SB 190 removes the $15 million cap of performance funding for industry certifications to FCS institutions and school district workforce education programs. As a result, FCS institutions and school districts would be fully funded for earned certifications.

HB 661 by Rep. Duggan and SB 770 by Sen. Hutson regarding Alternative High School Graduation Requirements

HB 661 creates a career and technical education pathway option that would allow for eligible students to acquire a CTE diploma, in lieu of a standard high school diploma, if the courses result in a program completion and an industry certification. Although the bill has not moved in the House, a companion bill, SB 770, is moving. SB 770 in addition to the above allows a computer science credit substitution for mathematics or science credits, and creates a mechanism for allowing career education course standards to meet the Algebra I credit requirement, if deemed sufficient. The bill revises the school grade calculation for high schools by specifying that dual enrollment courses include career clock-hour dual enrollment courses. It also creates the Florida Pathways to Career Opportunities Grant Program. Among other things the bill would require school boards to declare a “College and Career Decision Day” for high school seniors.

SB 1744 by Sen. Dennis Baxley and HB 7051 by Rep. Cord Byrd regarding Higher Education

Senate Bill 1744 asks the State Board of Education to establish criteria for the review and approval of new facilities and programs at Florida College System institutions to ensure the well-planned development, coordination, and operation to avoid duplication. This bill includes DSO (Foundation) language that restricts our local Boards of Trustees to transfer college funds to our foundations for personnel services. Foundations would also be unable to use state funds for travel expenses. Fund transfer and maintenance escrow language similar to HB 5501 is also included.

SB 1744 would require the Commissioner of Education to report to the State Board of Education any findings by the Auditor General that a district school board or Florida College System institution is acting without In HB 7051 covers most of SB 1744 but also would require colleges to report the amount and purpose of state appropriations transferred to a Foundation during the previous year.



(News Service of Florida - Excerpts from April 12, 2019)

TALLAHASSEE --- It’s not every day that the Senate’s top Democrat has to clarify, “I am not anti-Semitic.” But that is what happened this week.

It all started Monday, when Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, voted “no” on a bill (SB 1272) that is designed to treat discrimination against Jewish students in public schools and colleges like the way acts of racial discrimination are treated. Gibson said she opposed the bill because she felt the proposal was intentionally drafted to divide and that it went after the “wrong enemy.” Two days later, after her stance drew furor from within her Senate Democratic caucus, she walked back her opposition to the bill and blamed the “no” vote on a “very confusing” presentation. “First and foremost, I am not anti-Semitic. Period,” Gibson said in a news conference Wednesday. “And I rebuke anti-Semitism and all religious discrimination. Period.”

On Thursday, the House passed its version of the bill unanimously. But not before the controversy surrounding Gibson’s stance came up in debate. Without naming names, House sponsor Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, said the bill was important because even in the state Capitol there are legislators who can say such a measure is going after the “wrong enemy” without suffering consequences. The Senate bill has to clear two more committees before it can be heard on the Senate floor.

ARMING TEACHERS ON THE MOVE - Wide-ranging school safety bills that would allow classroom teachers to be armed and expand mental health services in schools are ready to be considered by the full House and Senate. The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday made some last-minute changes to the Senate version (SB 7030), while the House bill (HB 7093) has been ready to go to the floor since last week. Some of the changes approved Thursday by the Senate committee included giving more flexibility to school districts that want to participate in the controversial “guardian” program and expanding mental-health services in schools to assist students with suicidal intentions, trauma and violence.

Other tweaks made to the Senate bill adopted some House provisions, including about the transfer of student records. Those records could deal with issues such as psychological evaluations and serious or recurrent behavior patterns. But the Senate debate, like other school-safety debates during this year’s session, focused primarily on the proposed expansion of the guardian program. Lawmakers created the program last year after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. It has allowed schools to have armed personnel whose primary duties are outside the classroom. This year’s bills also would allow teachers to serve as armed guardians, spurring controversy.

CHANGING CONSTITUTION COULD GET HARDER - Lawmakers this week approved proposals that would make it harder to amend Florida’s founding document --- or at least avoid a repeat of what happened in the November election. In the Senate, a proposal (SJR 362) to abolish the Constitution Revision Commission moved forward. In the House, a bill (HJR 57) advanced that would require a higher percentage of votes to approve constitutional amendments.

In addition, a Senate panel approved a measure (SB 7096) that would place additional restrictions on constitutional amendment petition-gatherers, including requiring that they be Florida residents and register with the state. That proposal was met with accusations that it is intended to prevent popular citizens’ initiatives from reaching the ballot. The legislative proposals were filed after voters approved 11 constitutional amendments, including two citizen initiatives, in the November election. Issues placed in the Constitution ranged from restoring felons’ voting rights to banning greyhound racing.

Lawmakers also were angered by the Constitution Revision Commission, a panel that meets every 20 years and placed seven of the amendments on the ballot. The commission has particularly drawn criticism for “bundling” unrelated issues into single ballot proposals --- such as a proposal that combined a ban on offshore oil drilling with a ban on vaping in workplaces.

SENATE NOT LETTING GO OF VISIT FLORIDA - With three weeks before the legislative session ends, the fight about keeping Visit Florida alive is in full force. The Senate is set to approve a measure that would keep Visit Florida in business for at least eight more years, even as the House continues to support closing the embattled tourism-marketing agency this fall. Visit Florida will automatically go away Oct. 1 unless it is reauthorized.

The reauthorization battle comes as the Senate has proposed setting aside $50 million for Visit Florida in the state budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1. That would include funding for the period beyond Oct. 1. Gov. Ron DeSantis has requested $76 million for Visit Florida, the same as in the current year. But the House has proposed spending $19 million, which would cover Visit Florida’s operations only until Oct. 1. House Republican leaders have long been critical of Visit Florida.

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

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