Your Weekly Legislative Update

January 17, 2020
Week One Session Summary
January 14 - January 17, 2020
Legislative Session 2020

In This Issue...



The 2020 Florida Legislative Session started with a bang and it looks like it will be a lively 60 days. The Florida College System is in a good position out of the gate. The annual FCS budget request is being positively received in general in both the Senate and the House. Some very key issues regarding dual enrollment, credit for military education, charter schools at colleges, and ASN degrees offered at technical colleges are among the bills we are watching very closely at this point. These bills are covered below.

Governor Ron DeSantis’ $91.4B budget proposal starts the process. “My budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2020-2021 builds on our successes of the past year, placing emphasis where it is needed while remaining fiscally responsible to Florida taxpayers,” said Governor DeSantis. “The budget includes key investments in our K-12 education system, our environment and the well-being of our residents, while recommending over $480 million in savings and over $300 million in tax relief. Although there is still more we can do to improve our state, which we hope to accomplish through this budget, Florida’s future has never been bolder, brighter or better than it is today.”

His budget includes $480.5 million in savings – such as administrative efficiencies and elimination of earmarks. The budget places $5.6 billion in total reserves, including $1.4 billion of General Revenue, which is more than 6 percent of the total budget and more than $200 million more than the current year budget. It also offers $300 million in tax relief, including a $56 million 8-day Back to School Sales Tax Holiday, a 10-day Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday and property tax relief of over $247 million.

In Education, there is $22.9 billion for the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP), an increase of over $1 billion.
This includes over $900 million for recruiting and retaining the best classroom teachers and principals in Florida. Over $600 million is included to raise the minimum salary for full-time classroom teachers to $47,500, which would provide more than 101,000 teachers with a pay raise. Additionally, $300 million is recommended for the Florida Classroom Teacher and Principal Bonus programs. The budget invests $25 million in key workforce development initiatives: $10 million for the Pathways to Careers Opportunities Grant Program, $10 million for the Work Florida Student Success Incentive Fund at State Colleges and $5 million for the Work Florida Student Success Incentive Fund at District Postsecondary Programs. The budget recommends an increase of funding of more than $22 million for Florida colleges and nearly $24 million for Florida universities, all while maintaining no increase in tuition.

Other key areas comprising the Governor’s proposal include $625M for Everglades Restoration, positioning Florida to be able to reach the Governor’s goal of investing $2.5 billion over four years, to address water quality improvements, springs restoration and combat the harmful effects of algal blooms and red tide. The budget also invests $50 million in beach nourishment to address Florida’s critically eroded shorelines, nearly $9 million in coral reef protection funding, as well as $154 million to protect Florida’s prized properties and water: $100 million for the Florida Forever Program and $54 million in new funding for state parks.

Additionally, Health and Human Services is targeted for about $54M to cover opioid issues, mental health and substance abuse, nursing homes for veterans, and seniors. Transportation and Economic Development is provided $387 million to fully fund Workforce and Affordable Housing Programs: $119.8 million for the State Apartment Incentive Loan (SAIL) Program and $267.2 million for the State Housing Initiative Partnership (SHIP) Program. The budget provides $8.8 billion for the State Transportation Work Program, including $2.8 billion for highway construction, $865.7 million in lane resurfacing and $436.2 million in scheduled repairs and replacement of bridges. The Bolder, Brighter, Better Future budget includes $50 million for the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund to provide funding for job training and public infrastructure projects that support growth and employment in Florida.

For the two most recent hurricanes to strike Florida, Irma and Michael, the State of Florida is projected to spend over $1.9 billion on hurricane-related expenses – $627.8 million for Hurricane Irma and $1.3 billion so far for Hurricane Michael. The budget includes $25 million through the Hurricane Michael Recovery Grant Program for the repair and replacement of critical infrastructure and to improve the capacity of emergency services.

The Governor is also asking for $4.5 million to implement the first Statewide Behavior Threat Assessment strategy in the country and invests more than $14.5 million to expand and enhance FDLE’s crime databases that the department uses daily to investigate crimes and apprehend criminals. Governor DeSantis is also recommending over $89.7 million and additional staffing at the Florida Department of Corrections for needed improvements, including retention bonuses and a pilot program to transition correctional officers from a 12-hour shift to an 8.5-hour shift.

With the 2020 elections getting closer, elections security is in the forefront, and $6.6 million is being sought for state-level election oversight activities, with a focus on cybersecurity enhancements to Florida’s election system.

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 passed House Higher Education Appropriations Committee on 12/3/19; Now in full Appropriations.

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

SB 372 passed House Military, Veterans Affairs, and Space Committee on 10/15/19; Passed House Education Committee on 12/09/19; Now in full Appropriations.

HB 171 passed House Higher Education and Career Readiness on 11/14/19; Passed Higher Education Appropriations on 1/15/20; Now in Education.

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.

SB 418 passed House Education on 12/9/19; Now in Appropriations Subcommittee on Education.

HB725 passed House Higher Education and Career Readiness on 1/16/20; Now in Higher Education Appropriations 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 House PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee on 1/15/20; Now in House Appropriations.

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 passed House PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee on 1/15/20; Now in Appropriations.

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 passed Senate PreK-12 Innovation Committee on 1/15/20; Now in Appropriations.


TALLAHASSEE --- State lawmakers this week kicked off the 2020 legislative session with an action-packed schedule that featured speeches from Republican leaders, early tension over high-profile issues and a key Florida Supreme Court ruling.
In his State of the State address Tuesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis told legislators that, while much has been done in the last year, there is “much more to do.”

“This will require a lot of toil and sweat and it will require not just words, but deeds. We can’t rest on past accomplishments,” the governor said. “Our only easy day was yesterday.”

By Friday morning, the spotlight on Tuesday’s opening-day ceremonies and kickoff of the 2020 legislative session was refocused on debates being hashed out in committee rooms. In five short days, Florida lawmakers had fast-tracked bills to require parental consent for minors’ abortions, loosen sentences for certain drug-traffickers and ban local governments from regulating sunscreens.

House panels approved legislation that would make it harder to put constitutional amendments on the ballot and would clear the way for speciality, or “boutique,” hospitals.

In the Senate, an education committee on Monday set the stage for DeSantis’ teacher-pay plans, even as a sea of educators and students crowded outside the Capitol to protest inadequate funding for the state’s public school system.
Republican leaders this week also provided a glimpse into some of the big fights the session might bring.

One clash will revolve around a sweeping gun-control measure, aimed at closing the gun-show “loophole,” that would create a system to track private gun sales. A priority of Senate President Bill Galvano, the National Rifle Assocation is taking aim at the measure. DeSantis and House Speaker Jose Oliva also expressed skepticism about the bill, putting its future in doubt.
Republican leaders also may not see eye-to-eye on immigration, Visit Florida and health care, so get the popcorn ready as the House and Senate square off over those high-profile issues and more during the next 60 days.

Lashing out at the health-care industry as “robber barons” on the opening day of session, Oliva’s aggressive remarks painted a bleak picture of the industry as putting profits over patients. The Miami Lakes Republican outlined what he considers to be a fix, including allowing advanced practice registered nurses to provide care independently from physicians. It’s not clear, though, that DeSantis or the Senate see things the same way, setting the stage for a potentially contentious back-and-forth over the next weeks.

Oliva dedicated a large part of his 18-minute opening day speech in the House to the need to revamp medical professional licensure regulations, which he called “archaic and backward.” He has encouraged lawmakers to allow “health-care professionals to practice to the extent of their training.”

Revamping the health-care industry has been a top priority for Oliva in his two years as speaker. He has called for a more free-market approach and helped lead efforts to pass a bill that authorized the state to establish two international drug importation programs, an issue that DeSantis also touched upon in his opening State of the State speech.

Siding with the Republican governor, the Florida Supreme Court decided Thursday that a state law requiring payment of “legal financial obligations” properly carried out a constitutional amendment restoring voting rights to felons who have completed their sentences. The amendment’s “use of the broad phrase ‘all terms of sentence’ can only reasonably be understood to similarly encompass ‘the ultimate sanctions imposed,’ including ‘costs.’ Or in the words of the sponsor’s counsel, the phrase encompasses ‘all obligations’ or ‘all matters,’ ” the court decided.

More than 71 percent of Floridians supported what appeared on the November 2018 ballot as Amendment 4, which granted voting-rights restoration to felons “who have completed all terms of their sentence, including parole or probation,” excluding people “convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense.” But the meaning of “all terms of their sentence” became a contentious sticking point for the Legislature as it crafted a law to carry out the amendment. Lawmakers finally settled on a measure requiring felons to pay “legal financial obligations,” such as restitution, fines and fees, to be eligible to have voting rights restored. But voting-rights groups and civil-rights advocates quickly filed a federal lawsuit challenging the state law, arguing in part that linking voting rights and financial obligations amounts to an unconstitutional “poll tax.”

The justices’ opinion, requested by DeSantis, relied in part on arguments made by proponents of the constitutional amendment when seeking Florida Supreme Court approval to get the measure on the 2018 ballot. The drafters of the amendment wrote at the time that they “intend that individuals with felony convictions, excluding those convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense, will automatically regain their right to vote upon fulfillment of all obligations imposed under their criminal sentence,” Thursday’s opinion said. “In other words, the sponsor intended that ‘all terms’ refer to obligations, not durational periods,” the opinion reads.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle in October ruled that Florida cannot deny the right to vote to felons who have served their sentences but are “genuinely unable” to pay legal financial obligations. DeSantis’ administration has appealed that ruling.
Thursday’s Florida Supreme Court opinion siding with the state, widely expected by court watchers, came as the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals prepares to hear arguments Jan. 28 in the separate federal lawsuit.

The Florida Senate is on the brink of approving a bipartisan bill that would loosen sentencing laws for certain drug-trafficking offenses, a move that has the potential of significantly reducing the state’s prison population. The measure, which would allow for shorter sentences and more judicial discretion, was unanimously approved Thursday by the Senate Appropriations Committee, the last hurdle before heading to the floor for a full Senate vote.

Senate budget chief Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, said the committee’s overwhelming support of the bill “sends a strong message” about the Senate’s support for criminal justice reform during the 2020 legislative session, which began Tuesday.
But it’s unclear whether the Florida House will embrace the proposed sentencing changes. Under the new guidelines laid out in Bradley's measure, judges would be allowed to consider shorter sentences and lower fines for drug-trafficking defendants who meet certain criteria. The bill (SB 346) would also set a maximum incarceration time of 12 months for people who buy or possess less than two grams of a controlled substance, other than fentanyl.

STORY OF THE WEEK: Florida’s 60-day legislative session kicked off Tuesday, with Republican leaders highlighting priorities such as education, health care and public safety.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “To me it is a bright day when we are discussing up to $900 million in teacher salaries. I know the devil is in the details, but this is the first step and I appreciate you taking this initiative.” --- Sen. Bill Montford, a Tallahassee Democrat who is a former Leon County superintendent of schools, speaking about a measure (SB 1088) that could be the first step toward increasing raising pay for public school teachers.

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

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