Your Weekly Legislative Update

March 9, 2020
Week Eight Session Summary
March 2 - March 6, 2020
Legislative Session 2020

In This Issue...



Coronavirus Dominates Heading into Final Week of 2020 Legislative Session.
The Southern Group reports that the Governor declared a statewide health emergency last week and requested financial aid from House and Senate leaders to ensure his administration is fully staffed to take on the coronavirus. Up to $25 million is being requested to help support containing the spread of the virus.

Higher Education
SB 62 which contained several issues related to our colleges including Dual Enrollment was postponed in its last committee stop on March 4.  It is unclear whether the proposed changes, described below in the bill summaries, will make it into another bill or not this year.

The budget proposals passed by each chamber last week have gone to conference to resolve the differences.  The bottomline separation between the Senate budget proposal SB2500 and the House proposal HB 5001 is about $11 million.  However, there are some key differences within that will require negotiating. These include $21 million in reductions by the House impacting 14 colleges tied to carry forward balances or specific programs.  There are also several colleges slated for special workforce program funding that is included in one chamber’s proposal but not the other’s.

This afternoon, House and Senate Higher Education conferees met again and came to agreement on Industry Certifications, Student Success Incentives, the Seven-Tiered Funding Model based on enrollment size with a base student component of $6.1 million, a compression component with $4.2 million, an enrollment growth component of $11 million, and 1,5 million for workforce programs.  For specifics about the House and Senate positions, both resolved and unresolved, click here.

The possibility of an extended session looms likely if the two chambers do not agree to a budget by Tuesday, March 10 at midnight.  A 72 hour “cooling off” period is required before the chambers can vote on a final budget post conference.

Merger Mania Falls Short
The plan by the Florida House to fold the state's two youngest and smallest universities into the University of Florida died without being considered by the full chamber. House Speaker Jose Oliva on Friday night said the merger proposal in FL HB7087 (20R) is being abandoned because it lacked Senate support. The proposal was on the House calendar for consideration Friday but was postponed when it arose during an all-day floor session. "That's one of those ideas whose time is going to come," Oliva told reporters after the session. "It's unfortunate that it's not today."

Senate President Bill Galvano made it clear Saturday who saved New College from being abolished as an independent institution, and offered a warning to the school that it needs to improve or risk losing independence in the future. Galvano said in a statement released Saturday, "In my view, a merger at this point would be premature, and so I decided to not allow it to move forward."

One amendment put forward by state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D-Orlando) called for New College and Florida Poly to merge with the University of Central Florida, which would have triggered an interesting floor debate. "No one knows why we're doing this," Smith said. "The university that these institutions are merging into has changed at every committee stop, so I figured, why not add UCF into the mix?"

Searches Out of the Sunshine?
Legislation to build a public records wall around would-be college and university presidents handily passed the Florida House Wednesday , putting it to the Senate to decide the future of a proposal that has long been logjammed at the statehouse. The House voted, 99-20, in favor of FL HB7081 (20R), well over the 80 votes needed to hit the two-thirds threshold necessary to create new exemptions to state sunshine laws. Florida senators are close to a deal to exclude colleges from legislation to exempt higher education executive searches from sunshine laws, a move that might give the measure enough votes to get it across the chamber's finish line.

The second to last week of the 2020 Florida Legislative Session had a number of bills being heard, discussed and debated on both chamber floors. In the House chamber, HB 713 passed with a 79-31 vote, meaning its amendment that caps THC for those under 21 also passed. This amendment was proposed to cap flower and derivatives to 10% for those underneath the age of 21 with exceptions such as those terminally ill. A similar amendment has been proposed in the Senate for SB 230 but has yet to be heard and is facing push back concerning the 10% cap. SB 1876 State Hemp Program sponsored by Senator Montford has advanced through the Senate, being placed on third reading for March 9. Its House companion bill, HB 1063 by Representative Drake has currently been temporarily postponed on its second reading.
Week 8 of the 2020 Session saw the end of the committee process and the rush of bills in the House to stay alive.  Per House Rules, a bill must be heard on the Floor by the end of Week 8 in order to be eligible for final passage.  The major environmental bills that we have been working on made good progress this week. SB 712, the Governor’s priority Clean Water Act, passed the Senate 39-0 and will be heard in the House next week.  Also, HB 1091, which increases civil penalties for environmental violations, passed the House 106-0 and will be heard in the Senate.  In addition, the House and Senate began their formal Budget Conference negotiations at the end of the week. Details of the environmental budget will be provided next week.
Health Care
The Florida House this week made good on Speaker Oliva’s top priority by passing not one, but two bills that contain independent practice for advanced practice registered nurses and physician assistants. The initiative has becoming a sticking point to bringing Session in for a close on time as it has become intertwined with budget negotiations, and both Oliva and Senate President Galvano declared this week that it was highly unlikely Session would end on time next Friday as budget conference still has not begun. The House also passed bills this week that give flu and strep testing responsibilities to pharmacists and authorize certified nursing assistants and home health aides to administer medications under the direction of a nurse. Meanwhile, Governor DeSantis announced that tens of thousands of novel coronavirus testing kits were being sent to Florida as the number of Floridians diagnosed rose to nine.
During the second to last week of the 2020 Legislative Session several technology bills remain alive and poised for passage. HB 969, Broadband Internet Service, passed out of both chambers unanimously and will now be transmitted to the Governor for signature. The bill creates the Florida Office of Broadband within the Department of Economic Opportunity Division of Community Development and directs that team to devise strategies aimed at expanding broadband service offerings and coverage across the state. The bill also authorizes funds from the State Transportation Trust Fund be used for broadband infrastructure projects. The House and Senate bills designed to create the Florida Digital Service, the financial technology sandbox and the public records guidelines associated with these initiatives are scheduled to be heard March 9. Expectations are these changes to the state’s IT infrastructure will be enacted.  
Heading to the Governor's desk as an enrolled bill is HB 969 Broadband Internet Service. This bill, which was unanimously passed in both chambers, authorizes the allocation of funds from the State Transportation Trust fund for broadband infrastructure projects. HB 1039 Transportation Network Companies advanced in the House and has been placed on third reading for March 9. This bill focuses on making multiple revisions including Removes for-hire vehicles from list of vehicles that are not considered transportation network carriers, providing immunity from certain liabilities and also that insurance requirements must be satisfied. SB 7018, a priority of Governor DeSantis, is a proposal relating to essential state infrastructure.  Under the current proposal, the FDOT is authorized to plan, design and construct strategic staging areas for emergency response on the Florida Turnpike System and the proposed M-Cores corridors.  These staging areas would be used for staging of emergency supplies, equipment and personnel.  However, a secondary utilization for the staging areas would be specifically for truck parking for commercial motor vehicles.  The bill also requires the Public Service Commission to develop and recommend a plan for the advancement of electric vehicle charging station infrastructure.

We welcome you to track our progress weekly in Capitol Perceptions. Feel free to share it with a college friend who is not an AFC member. The online AFC Advocacy Toolkit is filling up with valuable and informative resources for you including a link to each week’s most recent 2020 AFC/FCS Bill Tracking Matrix. 


For a complete summary spreadsheet of all bills being tracked download each week’s: 2020 AFC/FCS Bill Tracking Matrix.

To review the Council of Presidents Legislative Budget Request CLICK HERE.

Priority Bills the AFC is tracking:

SB 62: K-12 Education
(Sen. Stargel)

K-12 Education; Requiring that a resolution to levy discretionary sales tax include a statement containing certain information; defining the term “early college program”; changing the calculation of full-time equivalent student membership for dual enrollment purposes; providing for calculation of full-time equivalent membership for students earning the Capstone Diploma; requiring school board mental health policies and procedures to include certain items, etc.

SB 62 2/27/2020 Senate - On Committee agenda-- Appropriations, 03/03/20, 1:00 pm, 412 Knott Building --Temporarily Postponed

HB 171/SB 372: Postsecondary Education for Certain Military Personnel (Rep. Ponder/Sen. Lee). 

• Postsecondary Education for Certain Military Personnel BOG and SBE, in consultation with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, to create a uniform process for the awarding of postsecondary credit to certain service members and veterans of the United States Armed Forces

HB 171 Ordered enrolled on Thursday, March 5, 2020.

SB 372  laid on the table, refer to HB 171.

Ordered enrolled. Set for vote in both Chambers. Likely to pass.

HB 725/SB 418: Workforce Education (Rep. Robinson/Sen. Diaz) 

• Authorizes school district career centers to offer an AAS or ASN degree program in nursing, but only to graduates of a licensed practical nursing program offered at that same career center.

HB 725 passed; YEAS 117, NAYS 0 on Thursday, February 20, 2020 2:09 PM.

SB 418 passed 6-1 in Education Committee, now in Appropriations Education Subcommittee.

Passed House. Failed to make it through Senate committees of reference.

SB 774/HB 7081: Public Records and Meetings/Applicant for President/State University or Florida College System Institution (Sen. Diaz/Rep. Latvala)

• Providing an exemption from public records requirements for any personal identifying information of an applicant for president of a state university or Florida College System institution;
• Providing an exemption from public meeting requirements for any meeting held for the purpose of identifying or vetting applicants for president of a state university or Florida College System institution and for any portion of a meeting held for the purpose of establishing qualifications of, or any compensation framework to be offered to, such potential applicants which would disclose personal identifying information of an applicant or potential applicant; providing for future legislative review and repeal of the exemptions; providing a statement of public necessity, etc.

SB 774 2/27/2020 Senate - Placed on Calendar, on 2nd reading.

HB 7081 (formerly SAC4) 3/5/2020 Senate - Received -SJ 478.

This bill is likely to pass.

CS/HB 393/SB738: Jury Service
(Judiciary Committee; Rep. Stone; Sen. Harrell)

Jury Service; Requires certain full-time students who meet specified criteria to be excused from jury service upon request.

CS/HB 393 Added to Second Reading Calendar on Friday, March 6, 2020.

SB 738 CS passed; YEAS 37 NAYS 2 on 03/06/20, now in messages.

Awaiting vote in House.

CS/HB 7087: Higher Education
(Rep. Fine)

Provides for mergers of University of Florida & Florida Polytechnic University & University of Florida & New College of Florida, respectively; revises Florida Academic Scholars award & Florida Medallion Scholars award.

HB 7087 3/6/2020 House - Temporarily postponed, on 2nd Reading.

This bill failed to pass through the committees of reference.

CS/CS/SB 646: Intercollegiate Athlete Compensation and Rights 
(Sen. Mayfield)

Intercollegiate Athlete Compensation and Rights; Authorizing certain intercollegiate athletes to earn compensation for the use of their names, images, or likenesses; prohibiting a postsecondary educational institution and other entities, institutions, and their employees from compensating intercollegiate athletes or prospective intercollegiate athletes for the use of their names, images, or likenesses; prohibiting the revocation or reduction of certain aid as a result of intercollegiate athletes earning certain compensation or obtaining specified representation; providing requirements for certain athlete agents, etc.

SB 646 3/9/2020 House - In Messages


By Dara Kam
Recap and analysis of the week in state government and politics

TALLAHASSEE --- Wash your hands. Cover your face when you sneeze. Stay away from sick people.

Advice grandmothers have been dishing out for ages is popping up on posters, Twitter and public service announcements, as health officials race to contain an outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease, known as COVID-19.

After a rocky start, Gov. Ron DeSantis is holding daily news conferences throughout the state to reassure Floridians that officials are prepared for the potential pandemic.

The outbreak of the deadly disease coincides with the waning days of the 2020 legislative session, meaning lawmakers could pump extra money into the state’s efforts to combat the virus, which is spreading within the Sunshine State.

Frightened citizens are snapping up hand sanitizer and face masks amid international travel bans, sparking trepidation about COVID-19’s impact on Florida’s tourism-based economy.

But concerns about the virus didn’t stop Capitol insiders from wheeling and dealing on the fourth floor outside the House and Senate chambers.

With the scheduled end of the 60-day session just a week away, the activity is escalating. Hail Mary amendments are being filed as lobbyists attempt to resurrect dying bills before the session concludes.

Those who are racing the clock may have a reprieve: The House speaker and Senate president indicated this week that the session may run into overtime to finish the new state budget.

With behind-the-doors deals being cut, rumors about when the session will end --- as well as issues such as the budget, a gambling deal and a major health care scope-of-practice measure --- have to be time-stamped.

And while the activity approaches a climax, the Capitol has plenty of sinks and soap, as well as more than a few hand-sanitizer stations, within reach.


The Republican governor on Thursday said the federal government will send “tens of thousands” of novel coronavirus testing kits to the state and asked people not to purchase a type of tight-fitting mask to protect themselves from the contagion.

DeSantis, speaking to reporters during an appearance in Gadsden County, also announced that five more people had tested positive for COVID-19. That brought to nine the number of Florida-related coronavirus cases, a total that includes one non-Florida resident who is being detained in the state.

And it appeared likely the number would continue climbing.

One of the new cases involved a 72-year-old Santa Rosa County man with underlying medical conditions who had recently traveled abroad. DeSantis said during the Gadsden County appearance that the Florida Department of Health was conducting an investigation but that the man is “not in shape to fully answer all the questions.”

DeSantis also asked people to refrain from purchasing what are known as N95 masks, a type of tight-fitting mask, as a precautionary measure to prevent COVID-19 infection.

“For just the average person going to Amazon and buying a mask, that is not what you need to be doing. The CDC (federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has been very clear on that. In fact, if you put the mask on, you are more likely to be fiddling around your face and actually you may be more likely to transmit the virus if you are in contact with it,” DeSantis said. “Those really need to be used for health-care professionals that are treating patients.”


The hotseat for an embattled domestic violence agency and its onetime chief, Tiffany Carr, is getting hotter.

DeSantis’ administration and Attorney General Ashley Moody on Wednesday took legal action against the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, accusing the group's leaders of misusing public funds to pad executives’ salaries.

The actions came as the House, the state inspector general and Moody’s office ramp up investigations into the taxpayer-backed coalition and Carr, who over a three-year period received $7.5 million in compensation, including more than $3 million in paid time off.

“I am disgusted at the mismanagement and greedy misuse of public funds that were meant to assist victims of domestic violence across the state of Florida,” Moody told reporters Wednesday.

The DeSantis administration’s lawsuit accuses the coalition of breach of contract by, among other things, failing to provide documents, failing to cooperate with investigations and failing to provide accurate and complete information about Carr’s compensation package.

The governor’s lawyers are seeking damages for each of the 51 counts of wrongdoing alleged in the complaint against the coalition, Carr and the 11 other defendants, who serve on the coalition’s board of directors or worked for her.

Moody’s office filed a complaint that asks a judge to freeze the coalition’s assets and to preserve evidence that is key to the ongoing investigations.


In a perennial show of kabuki theater, House and Senate leaders have scrambled to reach a gambling agreement with the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

House Speaker José Oliva indicated Wednesday that lawmakers won’t be able to seal a gambling deal before the scheduled end of the legislative session on March 13.

DeSantis and Senate President Bill Galvano a day earlier held out hope that an agreement, called a compact, could be settled.

They all indicated it might take extra time, however.

Galvano, who was a major player in closing out a 2010 compact with the tribe, remained upbeat Thursday evening, without saying a new agreement was imminent.

“I feel like we can make progress. In general, there are things that are of interest to them (tribal leaders), like the games they don’t have at now this massive casino in South Florida. I don’t know if any of you have seen it, the giant guitar. It’s missing craps and roulette,” the Bradenton Republican told reporters.

For years, the sticking point for the Seminoles has been controversial “designated player” card games that are at the heart of a dispute between the state and the tribe. Pari-mutuels throughout the state are offering the lucrative games, such as Texas Hold ‘Em, at their poker rooms. But a federal judge decided the games breached the 2010 compact with the tribe that gave them exclusive rights to operate “banked card” games, including blackjack.

The tribe ceased revenue-sharing payments --- about $350 million a year --- to the state last spring, after earlier reaching a settlement with former Gov. Rick Scott’s administration.

“On our side, we want to see a revenue share, and we want to get past the legal quagmire that we were put into with the games and the lawsuit and the settlement,” Galvano said Thursday.

STORY OF THE WEEK: The state continued to escalate efforts to combat the outbreak of the deadly novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Those who say cannabis has no effect on the developing brain are science deniers.” --- Rep. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, speaking in favor of a proposal to impose a 10 percent cap on euphoria-inducing THC in medical marijuana for patients younger than 21.

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

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