Your Weekly Legislative Update

March 18, 2019
Week Two Session Summary
March 11 - March 15, 2019
Legislative Session 2019

In This Issue...


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

During the second week of the 2019 Legislative Session, we saw the solidification of the education priorities in the House and some clarity of how our financial support in the Senate may play out. The two proposed committee bills cited below lay out a comprehensive plan for K-20 focused on apprenticeship, workforce education, a new role for the Higher Education Coordinating council, expansion of dual enrollment to include clock-hour credit, and career pathways. We are also seeing a legislative push for more tax-payer funded scholarships for students to attend non-public institutions. The Governor’s proposed budget included $26 million in new program funding for the colleges which is barely 10% of the Council of Presidents legislative budget request. However, when budget allocations are published in the next week or so, we have heard rumors that we will be very pleased with the Senate’s funding proposal for the FCS. Also, on the table are possible improvements to performance funding to better reward “self-improvement” and eliminate competition among colleges for the state incentive.

Last week we were honored to have 60 of our college trustees in Tallahassee for the AFC Trustees Commission Legislative Conference. This event is designed to provide trustees a day of workshops and information sessions to prepare them to walk the halls of the Capitol and make legislative visits. The day ended with a Legislative Reception at Andrews that was attended by trustees, presidents, college lobbyists, and legislators.

Additionally, The Florida TaxWatch published a study funded by the AFC Council of Presidents and the Helios Foundation titled, “Independent Assessment of the Economic Impacts of the Florida College System" (see press release below). Among other things the report confirmed the the positive investment in the FCS made by the state. Over a 10-year window, the report indicated for every dollar invested by the state into the FCS, a return on average of $5.80 is added to the state’s Gross Domestic product. Over a lifetime the number jumps to about $13.00 for each dollar invested. The report also shed s significant positive light from data reflecting increases in lifetime earnings by program completers. A copy of the report can be found HERE. In addition to the full report, a summary of the report can be found in the online AFC Advocacy Toolkit.

Over the next two weeks things will be shaping up and the budget and policy issues will begin to come into focus as the Legislature turns onto the back stretch of this year’s session.


TALLAHASSEE, FL – The Florida TaxWatch, an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit taxpayer research institute and government watchdog today announced at a press conference the results of their independent assessment of the economic impacts of the Florida College System. The research performed by the Florida TaxWatch, alongside economist Richard Harper, Ph.D, shows that the Florida College System provides a significant return on the state’s investment, increases expected work life earnings for students, and compares favorably to colleges nationally in terms of enrollment and graduation rates.

“A great many of our university graduates started at a community college, myself included,” said Florida TaxWatch President & CEO Dominic M. Calabro. “Florida’s college system has provided an opportunity for generations of Floridians to have a better life, and the return on the state’s taxpayers’ investment has been significant. In order to make Florida number 1 in the U.S. for workforce education, we must continue to invest in these worthy institutions.”

Ava Parker, President of Palm Beach State College and Chair of the Association of Florida Colleges’ Council of Presidents, stood in attendance.

“We know the importance of a strong return on investment for the State of Florida. For every dollar invested in our System, the state receives between $10-$15 over time in increased Florida Gross Domestic Product,” said Parker. “We are proud that the Florida TaxWatch assessment highlights why Florida’s 28 colleges are a smart investment for the State of Florida. The Florida College System has been nationally recognized as the best in the country, and now the data and research further validate that deserving honor.”

Today’s announcement was presented alongside Representative Overdorf.

“There are thousands of job openings in Florida because businesses cannot find employees with the set of skills they are looking for,” said Representative Toby Overdorf. “Thanks to the excellent research from Florida TaxWatch, we can see that the Florida College System is a national leader compared to other state systems and continues to be a good investment for the state.”

Representative Overdorf was joined by Helios Education Foundation, Florida TaxWatch, and several partners that are helping shape Florida’s economic growth, workforce development, and higher education.

“The findings by Florida TaxWatch should be of particular importance to Florida stakeholders and policymakers because they reinforce why the state’s investment into the Florida College System is important not only to current students but to Florida’s future workforce,” said Charles Hokanson, Senior Vice President, Florida Community Engagement at Helios Education Foundation. “The foundation’s mission is to ensure more students, particularly first-generation, minority, and underrepresented students, complete a postsecondary degree. This assessment illustrates the value Florida colleges bring to that mission, and to the prosperity of our state.”

The full report can be found on the TaxWatch website HERE.


(Excerpts from March 15, 2019 - for the complete News Service of Florida‘s recap and analysis of the week in state government go HERE: – subscription required)

TALLAHASSEE --- Let’s be blunt.

Less than two weeks into his first legislative session as Florida’s chief executive, Gov. Ron DeSantis is taking a well-deserved victory lap after strong-arming lawmakers into hoisting the white flag on pot. The Republican governor gave the Legislature an ultimatum shortly after he took office in January: Get rid of the state prohibition against smokable medical marijuana, or I’ll do it without you. If lawmakers didn’t act by March 15, DeSantis threatened to drop the state’s appeal of a court decision that said the smoking ban violated a voter-approved constitutional amendment broadly legalizing medical marijuana. GOP legislative leaders, who included the smoking ban in a 2017 law aimed at carrying out the amendment, grudgingly surrendered to the 40-year-old governor this week, sparking a shout-out from DeSantis. “The Florida Legislature has taken a significant step this week to uphold the will of the voters and support the patients who will gain relief as a result of this legislation. President Bill Galvano, Speaker José Oliva, Senator Jeff Brandes and Representative Ray Rodrigues have done a tremendous job, working hard to ensure the voices of Floridians are heard. I commend them for their diligence on this issue,” DeSantis said in a statement Thursday. Rodrigues, R-Estero, and Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, shepherded the legislation, which received overwhelming support from both chambers despite insistence by Galvano and Oliva that the smoking ban was --- and remains --- legit. So why did lawmakers cave on the issue? The Republican leaders didn’t want the courts to have the last word in the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the smoking ban, according to Oliva. The lawsuit “was more about the Legislature’s prerogative and the Legislature’s being able to pass laws to regulate things like medicine in the state,” Oliva told reporters after the House signed off on the bill Wednesday. While Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers ruled that the ban was unconstitutional, Oliva would have preferred to wait for the 1st District Court of Appeal, which is more conservative than Gievers, to opine. “I would have been interested to hear what would have come of that appeal. We might still. But I think that, again, the most important thing was that the elected lawmakers of the state would have an opportunity to legislate how this would be governed in this state,” he said.


The House passed the repeal of the smoking ban (SB 182) in a 101-11 vote, sending the bill to the governor two days before the DeSantis-imposed March 15 deadline. The Senate passed the bill last week. DeSantis has until Wednesday to act on the measure or let it become law without his signature. Despite DeSantis’ insistence that the ban be repealed, Rodrigues, who was also instrumental in crafting the 2017 law that carried out the constitutional amendment, noted that “many of us feel like we got it right” the first time.


Vouchers have long been a controversial issue in the Legislature, with supporters saying private-school scholarships offer needed choices to families and opponents saying they strip money from traditional public schools. But on Thursday, the House began moving forward with a dramatic expansion of school vouchers, including allowing middle-class families to apply for state-funded scholarships to send children to private schools. The GOP-controlled House and Senate and the Republican governor all want to expand voucher-type programs and point to a waiting list of about 14,000 students in the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program, which serves low-income children. The House Education Committee on Thursday approved a bill (HB 7075) that would create a new voucher program, known as the “Family Empowerment Scholarship” program, which would be open to many middle-class families. If approved, the program would be available to families whose incomes are up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level during the 2019-2020 school year --- a calculation that equates to $77,250 for a family of four. The threshold would gradually increase, with a family of four making $96,572 eligible for the vouchers in the 2022-2023 school year.


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

PCB HEA 19-01 Higher Education/Public Education Capital Outlay
Sponsor: Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee

Would broaden how universities and colleges can spend unused state dollars, known as “carry forward funds,” to pay for repairs and remodeling of existing state-funded construction projects. With additional spending flexibility, the proposal would require the institutions to publicly determine their spending priorities.

The bill (PCB HEA 19-01), which will be heard Tuesday March 19 by the House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee, would also prohibit colleges and universities from transferring state money to other funds within the institutions without prior approval from the Legislature.\

House Staff Analysis

PCB HEC 19-02 - An Act Relating to Postsecondary Workforce Education
Sponsor: House Higher Education and Career Readiness Subcommittee

Filed by the House Higher Education and Career Readiness Subcommittee, the bill aims to promote apprenticeships and enhance Florida's talent pool through numerous new initiatives.The subcommittee last week voted unanimously to advance this extensive workforce bill in line with proposals from the Senate and Gov. Ron DeSantis. The legislation would create the Strengthening Alignment between Industry and Learning to 60, or SAIL, program to increase the number of working-age adults holding a post-secondary certificate, degree, or training experience to 60 percent by the year 2030, a DeSantis priority. The program requires the Department of Education and state university system Board of Governors to work together in supporting public and private partnerships and facilitating reverse transfer and career pathway agreements. The bill would shake up the Higher Education Coordinating Council, renaming it the Florida Talent Development Council and assigning a new mission to "develop a strategic plan for talent development in Florida."

The committee bill also establishes the Florida Apprenticeship Grant under the Department of Education, matching a plan approved Tuesday by the Senate Committee on Education. FLAG would allow apprenticeship programs to expand using funding directly from the state instead of having to go through a K-12 school or college.

House Staff Analysis

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

2018 - 2017 - 2016 - 2015 - 2014 - 2013 - 2012 - 2011 - 2010 - 2009 - 2008 - 2007