Your Weekly Legislative Update

February 17, 2020
Week Five Session Summary
February 10 - February 14, 2020
Legislative Session 2020

In This Issue...



AFC Makes Itself Known in DC!

A group of about 40 Florida college presidents and trustees, along with AFC CEO Michael Brawer and 2020 AFC President Matt White (Chipola College) descended on Washington DC last week to attend the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) National Legislative Summit. The Summit features in depth presentations on substantive federal policy issues facing higher education nationally. These issues include Pell grant expansion, increases to state investments in community college education, support for student success among other issues. A complete summary is available at

Many of the AFC representatives had a 15 minute meeting with former Florida governor and now Senator, Rick Scott. Dr. Ed Massey (IRSC) led the discussion with the Senator who expressed his support for expanding Pell, as well as funding through agency grants that support local workforce programs. We also had the opportunity to take the same group and a few more, including Presidents Falconetti, Beard, and three SGA students from Polk State College, to meet with Sen. Rubio’s staff on the same issues.

The ACCT reported that during the Summit that two leaders of a key Senate committee expressed optimism that critical components of the Higher Education Act would be reauthorized in the coming months. "That doesn't mean we're going to take that whole big act and reauthorize everything," Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, said during the Community College Congressional Forum held on Capitol Hill Tuesday afternoon. "You could take the position that we're not going to do anything until we do everything. If you take that position, you'll be here about 100 years... I think we can make some progress."

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the ranking Democratic member of the HELP Committee, stressed key areas of focus in reauthorization, including affordability, accountability, expanding access to higher education, and improving campus safety while protecting civil rights. "There are many ways the current system is not working for students or families or our economy today," Murray said. "Too many students tell me they cannot afford the cost of college, especially the ever-increasing cost of living expenses that go along with that. Too many students have been left out of higher education altogether, and too many students don't feel safe on campus today. We've got to fix that."

Both senators touted bipartisan agreement in a wide range of areas important to community colleges, including financial aid and student loan reform, accountability, and including short-term programs in the Pell Grant Program. Alexander predicted movement on key components of the plan in the coming months.

Diane Auer Jones, the USDOE principal deputy undersecretary, stressed the value of "mission-driven accountability," touting the department's rulemaking changes to provide greater flexibility for accreditors to evaluate noncredit programs and eliminate the distinction between regional and national accreditors. She also highlighted changes in reporting requirements, a pilot work-study program that could qualify more work-based learning experiences, and changes in K-12 programs that could benefit dual-enrollment programs at community colleges.

2020 Legislative Session Hits the Back Turn….

The AFC contract lobbyists from the Southern Group reported continued work in the Legislature on numerous policy issues, including:
State Budget
The one thing the 2020 Legislative Session must accomplish is the passing of a state budget, as mandated by the Florid constitution. Week five of this legislative session had the Florida House of Representatives and the Florida Senate passed their respective budgets. There is about a $1.4 billion difference between the two spending proposals, and conference is expected to begin toward the end of this month to resolve the differences.

This past week a major proposal unexpectedly dropped that would merge Florida Polytechnic University into the University of Florida and merge New College into Florida State University. The proposal advanced through the House Education Subcommittee this week on a 12-6 vote (favorable).

The proposal caught top university officials completely by surprise. It would shrink the State University System from 12 schools to 10. Bill sponsor Rep. Randy Fine (R-Melbourne Beach) says the consolidations would make the system more efficient. Merging the schools would lower administrative costs at New College and Florida Poly, Fine said, and leadership roles like provosts — and presidents — would be eliminated.

The presidents of New College and Florida Poly both learned of the legislation after it was filed Monday night. Only a small group of House lawmakers were aware of the proposal that was allegedly drafted without input from any of the affected universities or the Board of Governors. The dramatic legislation falls in line with House priorities to reduce higher education spending.

This bill would also incentivize Medallion Bright Future Scholarship Students who receive 75% tuition and fee scholarship to receive a 100% if they go to a state college instead of a state university. Then if they maintain a 3.5 GPA and choose to complete their degree at a university, they will continue to receive the 100% scholarship. Additionally, EASE and ABLE scholarships for private colleges would become need based. It also amends the stipend for Bright Future scholarships textbooks from $300 a semester to whatever is appropriated in the GAA.

There is no Senate companion bill.

Week five of the 2020 Session saw the House and the Senate finalize their respective Budget proposals, with the Senate at $92.8B and the House at $91.4B, while the DeSantis Administration made a federal funding request for the restoration of the Everglades (more on that to the right). As the committee process begins to wrap up, a number of bills continued their trek to the Floor. In the House, HB 1199, Environmental Protection Act, passed its final committee and has been placed on the Calendar. Meanwhile, HB 1091, which increases civil penalties for environmental violations, cleared its second committee of reference. Over in the Senate, SB 1360, the Florida Endangered and Threatened Species Act, which focuses on revising policy and definitions concerning 'endangered' and 'threatened' species, cleared its first committee. Also advancing was a Senate Resolution, SB 1572, expressing the Legislature’s support of policies that will help the state of Florida prepare for the environmental and economic impacts of climate change and sea-level rise. Finally, SB 1706, Water Testing for Pollution, passed its first committee, and allows for requests to be made to the Department of Health to test the water quality of private and public water systems.

Health Care
One controversial piece of legislation making its way to the finish line relates to eliminating the practice of balance billing patients when they are transported by an out-of-network air ambulance. The bill is now ready for a House floor vote and its final committee hearing in the Senate. A compromise bill related to requiring hospitals to perform biennial patient safety culture surveys has picked up steam in both chambers this week thanks to amendments scaling the language back, as has legislation authorizing certified nursing assistants and home health aides to perform certain tasks delegated by registered nurses.

The Express Lanes Bill (SB 1090) was heard and passed unanimously out of its second committee of reference this week. The bill, which eliminates Express Lanes, is sponsored by Senators Diaz and Taddeo in the Senate. Its House companion bill (HB 829) has yet to get its first hearing. Also this week, the Department’s bill (SB 7054) passed out of its first committee this week. The bill removes the Florida Rail Enterprise, reallocates the office's $60 million budget to rail projects and rail safety improvements and increases the Department's cap on debt service for right-of-way bonds.

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:

HB 3231: The Florida College Risk Management Consortium (Rep. Ponder/Sen. Hutson)
• APPROPRIATION Request: $18,668,823
• The Florida College System Risk Management Consortium;
• Provides an appropriation to offset extensive reserve payouts due to storms for deductibles.

HB 3231 Reported out of Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee   12/10/2019. Now in Appropriations Committee. 1st Reading on Tuesday, January 14, 2020.

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 Bill added to Special Order Calendar (2/19/2020) on Thursday, February 13, 2020 4:07 PM.

SB 372  Retained on Calendar on Thursday, February 13, 2020 4:05 PM.

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 added to Special Order Calendar (2/19/2020) on Thursday, February 13, 2020 4:07 PM.

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

HB 953: Charter Schools (Rep. McClain )

• Authorizes state universities & Florida College System institutions to sponsor charter schools;
• Revises reporting & accountability requirements; provides for funding;
• Authorizes career & professional academy to be offered by charter school.

HB 953 passed out of Education favorable with Committee Substitute (final action) on 02/12/20.

HB 187: Postsecondary Education for Secondary Students (Rep. Zika) 

• Provides reporting requirements for postsecondary institutions;
• Revises provisions relating to dual enrollment programs;
• Renames collegiate high school programs as early college acceleration programs;
• Revises requirements for such programs, provides free instructional materials to certain DE students

HB 187 reported out of Appropriations. CS Filed. Now in Education.

SB 1246: Dual Enrollment (Sen. Stargel)

• Students eligible for dual enrollment programs include students who are enrolled in home education programs;
• Prohibiting district school boards and Florida College System institutions from denying students who have met eligibility requirements from participating in dual enrollment except under specified circumstances;
• Providing that certain independent colleges and universities are eligible for inclusion in the dual enrollment and early admission programs;
• Establishing the Dual Enrollment Scholarship Program, etc.

SB 1246 favorable out of Education on 01/21/20.  Now in Appropriations Subcommittee on Education.

SB 132/HB 55: Sunshine Scholarship Program Establishing the Sunshine Scholarship Program (Sen. Braynon/Rep. Jones

• Requires the Department of Education to administer the program;
• Requires certain financial aid to be credited to a student’s tuition and fees before the award of a Sunshine Scholarship;
• Requires a student to repay the scholarship amount under certain circumstances, etc.

SB 132 favorable out of Education on 01/21/20. Now in Appropriations Subcommittee on Education.

HB 55 favorable from  Higher Education & Career Readiness Subcommittee on 01/22/20.  Now in Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee.

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 passed through the Education Committee and now in Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee.

HB 7081 (formerly SAC4) referred to Education Committee.

HB 1113/SB1270: Fiduciary Duty of Care for Appointed Public Officials and Executive Officers
(Rep. Beltran/Sen. Lee)

Establishes standards for fiduciary duty of care for appointed public officials & executive officers of specified governmental entities; requires training on board governance; requires DBPR to contract for or approve such training programs or publish list of approved training providers; specifies requirements for such training; authorizes training to be provided by in-house counsel for certain governmental entities; requires appointed public officials & executive officers to certify their completion of annual training; requires department to adopt rules; provides exception to training requirement; specifies requirements for appointment of executive officers & general counsels of governmental entities; specifies standards for legal counsel.

HB 1113 now in Government Operations & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee.

SB 1270 on Committee agenda-- Community Affairs.

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 2/14/2020 House - Placed on Calendar.

SB 738 now in Rules.

HB 595/SB 962: Medical Marijuana Employee Protection
(Rep. Polsky; Sen. Berman)

Prohibits employers from taking adverse personnel action against employees or applicants who are qualified patients using medical marijuana; requires employers to provide certain written notice to employees or applicants who test positive for marijuana; provides procedures for if employee or applicant tests positive for marijuana; provides cause of action & damages.

HB 595 now in Oversight, Transparency & Public Management Subcommittee.

SB 962 referred to Governmental Oversight and Accountability, Judiciary and Rules.

HB 883/SB 534: Education
(Rep. Duggan/Sen. Diaz)

Requiring DOE to maintain a disqualification list of individuals; revises provisions relating to employment & termination of public school & private school employees; revises duties of DOE, Commissioner of Education, & school districts relating to employee conduct & employment & termination of public school & private school employees.

HB 883 favorable out of Education With Committee Substitute (final action).

SB 534 01/14/20 S CS by Education read 1st time - SJ 126 on Tuesday, January 14, 2020 7:54 PM.


By Ana Ceballas
Recap and analysis of the week in state government and politics

TALLAHASSEE --- On Valentine’s Day two years ago, tragedy struck Parkland, Florida and the nation.

A former student opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, killing 17 students and faculty and injuring 17 other people.

A day before the two-year anniversary, the Senate held a moment of silence for the victims of the mass shooting.

“In the days, weeks, months and now the two years that have followed that heartbreaking tragedy, we have come to learn so much about the victims --- their lives, their dreams, and the special place they held in their families and their communities,” Senate President Bill Galvano said at the start of Thursday’s floor session.

“They have left an unfillable void,” Galvano, R-Bradenton, added.

To memorialize Florida’s deadliest school shooting, senators, staff and people watching from the public gallery paused and stood in silence for a minute.

Then, business in the chamber resumed.

The Senate passed its $92.8 billion spending plan, which is about $1.4 billion more than the House spending plan that also was passed on Thursday.

The unanimous passage of the two chambers’ spending proposals officially kicked off budget negotiations. Sticking points between the two plans include funding for the environment, affordable housing and teacher pay.

The House wants to devote $20 million to Florida Forever, the state’s land conservation program, but the Senate wants to pump $125 million into the program.

Meanwhile, the Senate is looking to fully fund affordable-housing programs at $387 million, while the House wants to spend $147 million and “sweep” other affordable-housing trust fund money to balance the rest of the budget

The two chambers also disagree on how much to spend on raising teacher salaries, a priority of Gov. Ron DeSantis. The Senate wants to spend $500 million and the House is offering $650 million. Neither chamber has proposed money for bonuses requested by the governor.

The competing budgets were just part of what kept lawmakers busy in the Capitol, where there was also a flurry of investigations, proposed deals and controversial bills as activity ramps up in advance of the March 13 close of the 2020 session.


DeSantis and the Florida House on Thursday intensified an inquiry into Florida’s domestic violence agency, calling for additional investigations and issuing subpoenas over the former head of the taxpayer-backed organization’s compensation.

The governor asked state Inspector General Melinda Miguel to investigate the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence’s “exorbitant compensation payouts” and “abuse of state dollars” to determine if any criminal wrongdoing has occurred at the organization.

“Governor DeSantis will not tolerate wasteful or fraudulent spending, particularly from an organization that purports to serve the vulnerable victims of domestic violence,” Helen Aguirre Ferre, a spokeswoman for DeSantis, said in a statement.

Five hours later, the Florida House subpoenaed 14 individuals who have worked at the organization to further dig into how Tiffany Carr, the agency’s former CEO, was able to receive millions of dollars in compensation for her work at the coalition. Carr is among those who were subpoenaed by the House.

The House Public Integrity & Ethics Committee staff director Don Rubottom said that, after reviewing documents the organization turned over Wednesday night, it appeared Carr received $4.2 million in paid time off between July 2013 through her resignation in October 2019.

Committee Chairman Tom Leek said the compensation outlined in the documents is significantly higher than the roughly $750,000 annual salary the organization had initially reported to the committee, which launched an investigation in the coalition last year.

“When I was first advised of the amounts that we were talking about, it was hard to put together words about what it means. It’s beyond what any of us thought was out there,” Leek, R-Ormond Beach, told reporters after the committee meeting.

The coalition, which received $46.7 million this fiscal year in state and federal funding, oversees domestic violence programs in the state as part of a contract with the Florida Department of Children and Families.


House and Senate leaders are continuing to huddle on a sweeping gambling deal that could open the door to sports betting in the state, but the Seminole Tribe of Florida --- a key player in any agreement --- isn’t yet part of the discussions, Galvano said Thursday.

Galvano emphasized legislative leaders have not reached an accord.

“It’s premature to believe that there is a negotiated deal between the chambers. That has not occurred yet,” Galvano, a Bradenton Republican who was instrumental in the passage of a 2010 agreement between the state and the tribe, told The News Service of Florida in an interview.

For five years, lawmakers have grappled with thorny and elusive gambling issues, to no avail.

Discussions between Galvano and House Speaker José Oliva, and talks between Sen. Travis Hutson, R-St. Augustine, and his House counterpart, Rep. Mike LaRosa, R-St. Cloud, remain at the “100,000-foot level,” Hutson said in an interview.

According to Hutson, the “starting point” of the negotiations is a plan solidified last spring by the tribe and Sen. Wilton Simpson, a Trilby Republican who is slated to become Senate president in November.

“There has been nothing inked in pen or put in writing that we’ve agreed to. But we do feel like we’ve moved a lot closer towards being able to say that we’re in lockstep and key, and then we will go see the governor. But at this time, we’re not there,” Hutson said.

If the House and Senate can agree on a gambling proposal, the governor would also have to sign off on the deal. And, if the state wants a revised revenue-sharing agreement with the tribe, Seminole leaders also would have to give the plan their blessing.


A House committee signed off on a controversial proposal that would merge universities, despite emotional testimony from students and leaders at public and private colleges who oppose the measure.

In addition to the mergers, the bill would revise the rules of three college scholarship programs, which led two Republicans on the House Education Committee to say the proposed changes felt “rushed” and inconsistent with the state’s school-choice philosophy.

“I feel that if all the provisions of this bill become law, we will be in jeopardy of maintaining our status as the number-one higher education system in the country,” Rep. Amber Mariano, R-Hudson, said.

But Rep. Randy Fine, a Palm Bay Republican who is sponsoring the bill (PCB EDC 20-03), argued it is designed to save the state “tens of millions of dollars,” savings that he later suggested could be used to expand other education programs or pay for water projects or health-care services.

The bill would merge New College of Florida into Florida State University and fold Florida Polytechnic University into the University of Florida.

Fine said officials at FSU and UF are “well-versed on the (consolidation) plans,” but admitted he did not warn leaders at New College or Florida Polytechnic that a bill would be coming.

Leaders of New College and Florida Polytechnic urged the House panel to vote against the measure, adding that they were caught off guard by the bill.

“We found out about it on the news yesterday (Tuesday). We had no idea it was coming,” Robert Stork, a member of Florida Polytechnic’s board of trustees, said.

STORY OF THE WEEK: The House and Senate approved their proposed state spending plans, officially kicking off budget negotiations between the two chambers.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “We cannot represent and defend the indefensible. If in fact these are the true numbers, it’s not defensible and it’s egregious and it’s wrong.” --- Lobbyist Brian Ballard, whose firm, Ballard Partners, on Thursday dropped the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence Coalition as a client, after nine years of representation.

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

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