LegisLetter: March 13, 2017
Volume 24, Number 2
There was a flurry of activity down the street at the State Capitol. The 2017 Legislative Session kicked off on Tuesday starting with the opening speeches given by Senate President Joe Negron, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, and Governor Rick Scott. The tone and priorities could not be more different for the three leaders; setting up for what will be an undoubtedly interesting and exciting sixty (or more) days.
Left to Right: William Whitmire, FSU; Chris Crist, USF; Senate President Joe Negron; Asya Owens, FSU; Carlos Diaz, FIU Law
President Negron focused his remarks on the environment, specifically his goal of purchasing land south of Lake Okeechobee to store water when the Army Corps of Engineers orders releases of overflow. Negron also spoke of his desire to elevate Florida’s University System to national prominence through a combination of increased funding and accountability measures. Two Florida State University students were honored with personal invitations by the President to opening day. William Whitmire and Asya Owens were invited to offer the pledge and sit in the gallery to watch the proceedings. The President met these two students when he visited campus as a part of his statewide university tour last summer. We were also honored to have the College of Medicine’s graduate and faculty member Christie Anderson, M.D. serve as the Doctor of the Day for the Senate.
Speaker Corcoran outlined his legislative priorities which focused more on process and procedure. He listed a number of initiatives instituted by the House to increase transparency and strengthen ethics standards. Specific policy goals included abolishing the economic development agencies because he believes their work to be “corporate welfare,” creating a 12-year term limit for appellate judges, and increasing the property homestead exemption to $50,000.
Governor Scott rounded out the opening speeches with his legislative priorities, one which was in direct contrast to House Speaker Corcoran. Scott laid out a case for the continuation of the Florida’s economic incentives, citing the need to compete for jobs with other states. He also promoted $618 million in tax reductions, with the largest portion of the cut going to a phase out of the commercial lease tax.
One thing is certain; all three sides will eventually come together in order for a budget and legislation to pass. We are fortunate that Senate President Negron has included funding for Florida State University as a priority, and we will be on the front lines providing support for his efforts.
Legislative Action Week-In-Review
SB 2, the Senate’s Higher Education funding and reform bill, passed the Florida Senate 36-1. A summary of the bill can be found here. Funding for the initiatives contained in this package will be a part of the Senate appropriations bill which will be revealed later this month.
The House Appropriations Committee held a legislative hearing on Florida’s Colleges and Universities Direct Support Organizations (DSOs). Florida State University’s DSO was established to support the mission and activities of the university with private donations. Vice President of Finance and Administration, Kyle Clark, provided information about our strong accountability policies and clean independent audits of our DSO.
One of the first actions taken by both the House and Senate was to pass a joint rule to govern the budgeting process, which many are lauding as a breakthrough in the process. In order to assure transparency it was agreed that no projects be added to the budget after each chamber has passed their proposals. Additionally, projects will only be funded with recurring funds at the rate they were funded in the previous year. Any additional funds or new projects that have been fully vetted will be funded through non-recurring dollars.
The Senate released its budget cuts on Thursday, none of which impacted FSU. We anticipate the House will release its cuts this week, and expect the House will enact significant cuts to all areas of the budget, including higher education.
Update on Bills
CS/CS/SB 2 – Higher Education by Senator Bill Galvano (R – Bradenton), establishes the “Florida Excellence in Higher Education Act of 2017” to strengthen funding and programmatic mechanisms so that every student in Florida, regardless of his or her economic circumstances, is able to access higher education and graduate in 4 years with a baccalaureate degree. The bill passed the Senate last week and is waiting to be heard in the House. The House Companions, HB 3 and HB 5, by Representative Bryan Avila (R – Hialeah), have been referred to the Postsecondary Education Subcommittee.
SB 104 – Computer Coding by Senator Jeff Brandes (R – St. Petersburg), provides that, beginning in the 2019-2020 school year, high schools may provide opportunities for students to take two credits in computer coding courses and earn a related industry certification to satisfy the required two credits in sequential foreign language instruction for high school graduation. Additionally, the bill requires Florida College System institutions and state universities to recognize the computer coding course credits as foreign language credits. The bill reported favorably by the Education Committee and is now in the Rules Committee. The identical bill in the House, HB 265 by Representative Elizabeth Porter (R – Lake City, FSU Alum), is in the PreK-12 Quality Subcommittee.
HB 859 – Postsecondary Distance Learning by Representative Amber Mariano (R – New Port Richey), establishes a council within the Florida Department of Education (DOE), consisting of members of Florida’s postsecondary education system, which will:
- administer reciprocity agreements with other states to authorize institutions to offer postsecondary distance education in such states;
- review and approve applications from institutions in Florida to participate in the reciprocity agreement;
- establish an appeals process for institutions that are denied participation in the reciprocity agreement;
- ensure Florida institutions comply with the terms and provisions of the reciprocity agreement;
- comply with the terms and provisions of the reciprocity agreement relating to any state, territory or district approved to participate in the reciprocity agreement;
- comply with the reporting requirements in the reciprocity agreement;
- develop and administer a complaint resolution process for complaints related to reciprocity agreement;
- delegate any responsibilities to the Commission for Independent Education (CIE) necessary for Florida’s participation in the reciprocity agreement;
- recommend rules necessary to administer reciprocity agreements to the Florida State Board of Education (SBE);
- collect fees from each Florida institution associated with the reciprocity agreement; and
- have the authority to revoke a Florida institution’s participation in the reciprocity agreement if the institution is not in compliance with the terms of the agreement.
The bill is scheduled to be heard this afternoon in the Postsecondary Education Subcommittee. A similar bill in the Senate, SB 668 by Senator Aaron Bean (R – Jacksonville), has been referred to the Education Committee, the Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education and the Appropriations Committee.
PCB EDC 17-02 – Best and Brightest Teachers and Principals by Representative Michael Bileca (R – Miami), amends the Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship Program eligibility criteria to include additional academic credentials, thereby increasing access to awards under the program.
The bill also establishes the Best and Brightest Principal Program to recognize principals who are able to recruit and retain excellent teachers. With respect to the Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship Program, the bill deletes the statutory expiration date of July 1, 2017, and amends eligibility criteria by:
- lowering the threshold for a qualifying assessment score from the 80th percentile to the 75th percentile based on the National Percentile Ranks in effect when the assessment was taken;
- allowing teachers to use scores from other assessments that measure cognitive ability to qualify;
- allowing teachers to qualify with an assessment score at the 70th percentile or higher if they earned a baccalaureate degree with a Latin honor (e.g., cum laude); and
- allowing teachers to demonstrate they are “highly effective” based solely on their value-added model rating.
The bill creates the Best and Brightest Principal Scholarship Program, which:
- establishes a procedure for identifying principals who qualify for recognition under the program;
- establishes eligibility criteria for principals, as follows:
- The principal must have served as principal at his or her school for at least the last 2 years; and
- The faculty at the principal’s school must have a ratio of best and brightest teachers to other classroom teachers that is at the 80th percentile or higher, statewide, for that school type (elementary, middle, high, or combination);
- provides a monetary award, established in the General Appropriations Act, for principals who are designated as best and brightest and requires that qualifying principals at a Title I school receive a greater award; and
- requires school districts to provide qualifying principals with the autonomy over budgetary and personnel decisions that is currently provided to principals participating in the Principal Autonomy Pilot Program Initiative (PAPPI).
The proposed committee bill is scheduled to be heard in the Education Committee today. A similar bill in the Senate, SB 1552 by Senator David Simmons (R – Longwood) has been filed but not yet referred to committees.
HB 729 – Music Therapist by Representative Mel Ponder (R – Ft. Walton Beach), requires music therapists to register with the Department of Health (DOH). The bill defines “music therapy,” provides examples of acts a music therapist is authorized to perform when providing music therapy, and specifies that music therapy does not include the diagnosis or assessment of any physical, mental, or communication disorder. To register, applicants must submit an application, proof of board certification by CBMT, and pay a fee. The bill requires biennial renewal.
The bill prohibits unregistered people from practicing music therapy or holding themselves out as music therapists in Florida. The bill also provides registration exemptions for certain professionals and students, if such persons do not represent that they are music therapists.
The bill authorizes DOH to establish the application, fees, and to adopt rules as necessary to administer the registration of music therapists. Application, registration and renewal fees may not to exceed $50.
The bill reported favorably by the Health Quality Subcommittee last week. The identical bill in the Senate, SB 562 by Senator Daphne Campbell (D – North Miami Beach), has been referred to the Health Policy Committee, the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, the Appropriations Committee, and the Rules Committee.
HB 351 -- Public Records and Meetings/Postsecondary Education Executive Search by Representative Bob Rommel (R – Naples), creates an exemption from public record and public meeting requirements for information associated with the applicant recruitment process and discussions associated with the applicant search for certain state university and Florida College System (FCS) institution employees. Specifically, the bill provides that any personal identifying information of an applicant for president, provost, or dean of any state university or FCS institution is confidential and exempt from public record requirements. It also creates a public meeting exemption for any meeting held for the purpose of identifying or vetting applicants for president, provost, or dean of any state university or FCS institution.
The bill provides instances when the public meeting exemption does not apply. In addition, it provides that the names of any applicants who comprise a final group of applicants must be released by the state university or FCS institution no later than 10 days before the date of the meeting at which final action or vote is to be taken on the employment of the applicants. All documents containing personal identifying information of any applicants who comprise a final group of applicants become subject to public record requirements when the applicants’ names are released.
The bill provides for repeal of the section on October 2, 2022, unless reviewed and saved from repeal by the Legislature. It also provides a statement of public necessity as required by the State Constitution.
The bill is scheduled to be heard this afternoon in the Postsecondary Education Subcommittee. A similar bill in the Senate, SB 478 by Senator Kathleen Passidomo (R – Naples), has been referred to the Education. Governmental Oversight and Accountability, and the Rules committees.
HB 1079 -- Pub. Rec. and Meetings/Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan for Public Postsecondary Institutions by Representative Bob Rommel (R – Naples), creates an exemption from public record and public meeting requirements for information associated with campus emergency response of a public postsecondary educational institution. “Campus emergency response” is defined as a public postsecondary education institution’s response to or plan for responding to an act of terrorism, public safety crisis, or emergency. The public records exemptions in this bill apply to plans held by a custodial agency before, on, or after the effective date. Also, the bill provides for repeal of the exemption on October 2, 2022, unless reviewed and saved from repeal by the Legislature. The bill is scheduled to be heard in the Postsecondary Education Subcommittee this afternoon. A similar bill in the Senate, SB 1224 by Senator Kathleen Passidomo (R – Naples), has been referred to the Education, Governmental Oversight and Accountability, and the Rules committees.
HB 501 -- Public Records and Meetings/Information Technology/Postsecondary Education Institutions by Representative Thomas Leek (R – Daytona Beach), creates section 1004.055, F.S., which:
- Exempts data or information from technology systems owned, contracted, or maintained by a state university or Florida College System (FCS) institution from Public Records Laws;
- Exempts from Open Meeting laws, public meetings or portions of public meetings revealing data or information from technology systems owned, contracted, or maintained by a state university or FCS institution;
- Requires an exempt portion of a public meeting be recorded, transcribed and exempt from disclosure; and
- Specifies when and to whom exempt records may be released.
The bill provides for repeal of the section on October 2, 2022, unless reviewed and saved from repeal by the Legislature. The bill is scheduled to be heard in the Postsecondary Education Subcommittee this afternoon. A similar bill in the Senate, SB 110, by Senator Jeff Brandes (R – St. Petersburg), has been referred to the Education, Governmental Oversight and Accountability, and the Rules committees.