Your Weekly Legislative Update

March 25, 2019
Week Three Session Summary
March 18 - March 22, 2019
Legislative Session 2019

In This Issue...


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

The House and Senate release their proposed budgets on Friday. Like the Governor’s proposed budget both are higher than the current year’s budget, and hundreds of millions of dollars apart. The Senate proposes $90.3 billion during the fiscal year that starts July 1, while the House is proposing an $89.9 billion budget. Gov. Ron DeSantis’ pitched a $91.3 billion proposal --- the highest in state history. The current year state budget is $88.7 billion. The two chambers have until May 3 to finalize a spending plan. Appropriations committees in both chambers will begin meetings on the spending plans before sending them to the full House and Senate for approval.

The Senate is asking for a $1.1 billion increase next year for public schools, while the House is proposing a $579.3 million boost. There are also differences in spending plans for health care, tourism marketing and environmental projects.

Governor DeSantis proposed improvements to environmental and water-quality projects asking for $625 million. The Senate’s budget proposal includes $656 million for Everglades restoration and water-quality efforts and the House is proposing $607.4 million.

Spending to help areas of Northwest Florida that sustained severe damage in the Oct. 10 Hurricane Michael are also a priority in the Senate. Senate leaders want to drive $1.8 billion to the region to help the area recover. “The tremendous amount of funding the state has invested in hurricane recovery placed significant constraints on our budget that guided every facet of our decision-making in all other areas,” Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, said in a prepared statement Friday.

March 22, 2019
(Excerpts from March 22, 2019)

TALLAHASSEE --- Clad in a flannel shirt, jeans and a Florida State University baseball cap, Doug Dixon might easily blend into the crowd almost anywhere in Tallahassee. But the 59-year-old construction worker wound up at the center of a media frenzy this week, just for taking his medicine. The soft-spoken Crawfordville man on Thursday became the first Floridian to legally purchase whole-flower cannabis, three days after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law a measure that did away with the state’s ban on smokable medical marijuana. The monumental moment came more than two years after voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment that broadly legalized pot as a treatment for patients with a wide variety of debilitating conditions.

Proponents of medical cannabis, including Dixon, believe it’s a healthier and safer alternative to addictive prescription drugs. Dixon’s become a cannabis cheerleader of sorts: He said he talks up the benefits of medical weed to customers he’s encountered through hurricane repairs. “I meet a lot of people who are on pills. They’re trying to get off the medication,” Dixon told reporters, after buying a quarter-ounce of smoke at a Tallahassee dispensary.

The news about cannabis is spreading, especially among older Floridians like himself, according to Dixon. “It’s getting out there. What I do is I try to keep some kind of brochure or card on me, just as an advocate to help people get off medication. Because I know, from personal history, that it will kill you. It will put you in the hospital,” he said. Even one of his own family members with medical problems is coming around to the possibility of pot as a palliative after witnessing the changes in Dixon before and after prescription pills, Dixon said. “She’s seen how it’s been when I was on my medication, and now she sees the weight I’ve gained, how happy I am, how active I am. I’m not a zombie anymore. And I’m continuing to work. That’s the biggest thing, being able to work,” he said.

Quincy-based Trulieve became the first of Florida’s 14 medical marijuana operators to begin selling whole-flower products for use in joints, pipes or bongs. Hours later Thursday, state health officials authorized a second firm, Curaleaf, to start selling smokable marijuana. Trulieve Chief Executive Officer Kim Rivers and a handful of reporters watched as Dixon purchased “Tru Flower.” “I smoked back in my 20s, and when I was in my 30s I quit. That’s when I got put on pain pills and muscle relaxers, when I didn’t smoke then. When this came out, it was a good opportunity,” said Dixon, who plans to smoke the whole flower in joints. Dixon said he didn’t know if he would live to see smokable pot legalized. “But it is good to see it. It is good to have the alternative. These pharmaceuticals are killing people. I have lost so many family members,” he told reporters.

Rivers, whose company sells more than 60 percent of the medical marijuana purchased by the state’s nearly 200,000 qualified patients, said the sale of whole-flower cannabis --- which is cheaper than processed products, such as tinctures --- will make medical marijuana affordable for many Floridians who are now financially shut out of the treatment. “For patients, it is a celebratory day in that folks who have been maybe forced to purchase product illegally, now have a legal and safe option,” she said. Trulieve’s whole flower costs about $10 per gram, or about $280 per ounce. Under the new law, patients can purchase up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana for smoking every 35 days and have a total of four ounces in their possession at any time, if their doctors deem it the proper treatment. Trulieve will sell whole flower at each of its 26 dispensaries throughout the state, the company said. In other states where medical marijuana has been legalized, smokable products comprise between 40 and 60 percent of sales, according to Rivers.

Felons would have to clear up any financial obligations, including court costs, fees and fines, before having their voting rights restored, under a House proposal castigated by critics Tuesday as a modern take on Jim Crow-era poll taxes designed to keep black voters from participating in elections. In a strict party-line vote following heated testimony, the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee signed off on the measure aimed at clarifying parts of a constitutional amendment approved by voters in November. The amendment, which appeared on the ballot as Amendment 4, 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.”

While some proponents maintain the measure does not require any legislative action, state and local elections officials, clerks of court, prosecutors and others have asked the Legislature for guidance in interpreting what specific crimes qualify as exceptions and what is required for felons to have completed their sentences. Under the House plan, felons convicted of first- or second-degree murder or about three dozen sex-related crimes, including cyberstalking, would be excluded from the automatic restoration of rights.

But an even-more controversial part of the House bill (HB 7089) dealing with felons’ financial obligations drew rebukes from civil rights advocates, Democrats and others who claim the plan disenfranchises voters. “It’s a non-starter for me,” Rep. Michael Grieco, a Miami Beach Democrat who is a lawyer, said, adding he believes “there are efforts being made to purposely misinterpret” the Constitution. “An overwhelming” number of states deal with restoration of voting rights “with no problem, but we seem to be fumbling around with a basic issue,” Grieco said.

But House Criminal Justice Chairman James Grant, R-Tampa, defended the legislation, saying it follows the language in the constitutional amendment. “When a petition process leads to a constitutional amendment, we as legislators do not have the luxury, the latitude or the freedom to play the ‘what if’ game, to play the ‘edit the language’ game,” Grant, a lawyer, said. Grieco and others may be equally unhappy with the Senate version (SB 7086), which adds attempted murder to the list of disqualifying offenses. The Senate Criminal Justice Committee is slated to give the proposal a first hearing Monday.


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


Both the House and the Senate released their proposals for Higher Education funding for the coming year. Below is a chart of key elements of the Florida College System proposed budgets.

Full Appropriations bills can be reviewed by clicking on the links below:

SPB 2500 2019-20 Senate Appropriations

PCB APC 19-01 2019-20 House Appropriations





CAPE Performance

$ 14,000,000

$ 15,000,000

$ (1,000,000)

Program Fund - GR

$ 992,260,946

$ 955,788,025

$ 36,472,921

Program Fund - Lottery

$ 154,869,137

$ 265,516,296

$ (110,647,159)

Program Fund - Total

$ 1,147,130,083

$ 1,221,304,321

$ (74,174,238)

Performance Funding

$ 60,000,000

$ 40,000,000

$ 20,000,000

Dual Enrollment

$ 550,000

$ 550,000

$                        -

Commission on Community Service 

$ 983,182

$ 983,182

$                        -


 $ 1,222,663,265 

 $ 1,277,837,503 

 $ (55,174,238)

Public Education Outlay – PECO

The Senate has proposed $34,468,884 in capital outlay funding for projects at 10 colleges. The colleges are Broward, Florida Gateway, Gulf Coast, Lake-Sumter, Miami-Dade, Polk State, Santa Fe, South Florida, State College of Florida, and St. Johns River. The House did not include any PECO funding in its initial proposal for any higher education institution.

PCS-HB 189 and SB 1342 regarding Dual Enrollment

This bill provides certain reporting requirements and revises provisions relating to dual enrollment programs. Most egregiously it would require colleges to pay the cost of instructional materials for home schooled students. The bill has been amended to shift that cost back to the school district. It also expands dual enrollment to two years by including 11 graders and tying it to a CAPE certification with priority on the general education core requirements or other common pre-requisite courses. Other issues regarding reporting and agreements between schools and colleges are also included.

On Committee agenda - PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee, 03/19/19, 12:00 pm,

HB 4909 regarding the Florida College System Self-Insurance Consortium

This bill provides an appropriation for The Florida College System Self-Insurance Consortium to offset losses incurred to its reserve funds as a result of Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Michael. This FCS self-insurance consortium provides cost effective coverage for employee medical, workers compensation, liability, and property/casualty, for the system. Over the last two hurricane seasons 17 colleges have experienced over $75 million in property losses. Since the consortium advanced coverage for deductibles incurred by the colleges (3% of value), the FCS requests $18 million to back-fill the cost of those deductibles to ensure the consortium is solvent when future impacts are incurred.

The bill is in the House Higher Education Appropriations Committee awaiting to be scheduled.

HB 5501 regarding Higher Education

The bill returns university institutions to a more traditional budget structure, provides for the expenditure of carry forward funds, clarifies provisions relating to the Bright Futures Scholarship program and provides criteria to the Board of Education (BOE) and Board of Governors (BOG) for Public Education Capital Outlay (PECO) projects recommended for funding. Specific provisions are as follows:

1. Transfers to other institutional funds: Limits the ability of colleges and universities to transfer funds from state funds to any other fund within the institution or a direct support organization without specific authorization from the Legislature.

2. Carry forward: Authorizes universities and colleges to use their carry forward funds each year for operations, for maintenance, or to finish previously funded PECO projects as specified in the bill. Requires approval of each carry forward spending plan by each Board of Trustees and the Board of Governors or Board of Education as appropriate.

3. Budget categories: Establishes that university budgets will be appropriated using traditional budget entities and categories used for other state agencies.

4. Bright Futures scholarship adjustment: Clarifies that Bright Futures eligibility is tied to achievement of ACT and SAT scores equivalent to the 89th and 75th percentile scores.

5. Space needs calculation: Modifies standards for calculation of space needs by colleges and universities including changing utilization rates for classrooms considered fully utilized to 80 percent utilized for 60 hours per week and for teaching lab space to 85 percent utilized for 40 hours a week.

6. PECO recommended list: Requires the BOG and BOE to develop a points based methodology to rank projects for recommendation for funding.

7. PECO appropriation estimate by Economic and Demographic Research (EDR): Requires EDR to to adopt a public education capital outlay (PECO) appropriation estimate that incorporates an averaged bonding capacity through Fiscal Year 2022-23.

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

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