LegisLetter: March 27, 2017

Volume 24, Number 4

No news is good news, especially when the legislature is in Session. After two whirlwinds, Higher Education had a rather uneventful week.

It wasn’t completely quiet; the Florida House of Representatives took up the single most comprehensive higher education bill for the Session, HB 3 sponsored by Rep. Avila (R-Hialeah). The bill is the House version of Senate President Joe Negron’s top Legislative priority that passed the Senate on the first week of Session.

The House and Senate bills are similar, but not identical. Unlike the Senate bill the House bill does not:

  • Eliminate FSU’s ability to offer unique courses
  • Create a State University Professional and Graduate Degree Excellence Program
  • Expand the Benacquisto scholarship to out-of-state students
  • Provide a scholarship to farmworkers
  • Protect Prepaid students from the block tuition program
  • Provide funds for the Courtelis Matching Grant program

The bill does:

  • Require universities to establish an undergraduate block tuition plan and implement block tuition by Fall 2018
  • Require funding for summer term enrollment be equitably distributed among all Bright Futures award levels.
  • Expands the First-Generation Matching Grant to 2:1 ratio (as SB 2 does), but specifies the additional funding should go to increase the number of eligible students receiving the scholarship. After all eligible students are funded, remaining funds may be used to increase award amounts based on financial need.

Under either bill, there will be additional funding for universities; how much will be determined in the General Appropriations Act which will not be completed until the final week of the Session.

This newsletter contains other issues which are moving through the legislative process. If there is a specific bill of interest, you can sign up for free email alerts through the Florida House of Representatives and Florida Senate websites. You will need to create an online account and specify the bills you want to follow.

Remember, FSU Day at the Capitol is April 4. We invite you to join us in showcasing our wonderful programs and colleges to state leaders and visitors to Tallahassee.

If you have any questions about FSU Day, legislation, or issues not covered in this newsletter, please do not hesitate contacting me at kmears@fsu.edu.

Thank you for your interest in the legislative process, and GO NOLES.


859 - Postsecondary Distance Learning by Rep. Amber Mariano (R - New Port Richey), establishes a council within the Florida Department of Education, consisting of members of Florida’s postsecondary education system, which will:

  • administer the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (SARA) 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 SARA;
  • establish an appeals process for institutions that are denied participation in the SARA;
  • ensure Florida SARA institutions comply with the terms and provisions of the SARA;
  • comply with the terms and provisions of the SARA relating to any state, territory or district approved to participate in the SARA;
  • comply with the reporting requirements in the SARA;
  • develop and administer a complaint resolution process for complaints related to the SARA;
  • delegate any responsibilities to the Commission for Independent Education necessary for Florida’s participation in the SARA;
  • recommend rules necessary to administer the SARA to the Florida State Board of Education;
  • collect fees from each Florida SARA institution; and
  • have the authority to revoke a Florida SARA institution’s participation in the SARA if the institution is not in compliance with the terms of the SARA.

The bill was amended last week in the Postsecondary Education Subcommittee to now:

  • authorize Florida to participate specifically in the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement;
  • require the counsel to apply to participate in the SARA within 60 days after becoming law;
  • specify the terms and conditions with which Florida SARA institutions must comply, including, but not limited to, accreditation and institutional quality, consumer information and protections, disclosure and reporting requirements, complaint mechanisms and financial responsibility; and
  • require the annual fee schedule, proposed by the counsel, be predicated on a graduated scale based on enrollment.

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.

HB 153 - Excess Credit Hour Surcharges by Rep. Amber Mariano (R - New Port Richey), exempts first-time-in-college students who complete the requirements for their baccalaureate degree program within 4 years from the excess credit hour surcharge. Also, credit hours earned in upper-division-level courses that must be repeated to meet the requirements for a baccalaureate degree in a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics discipline are not calculated as hours required to earn a baccalaureate degree.

The bill will have a positive fiscal impact for students who are first-time-in-college students who complete their requirements for their baccalaureate degree within 4 years. The bill would result in a loss of revenue for institutions from students who take excess credit hours beyond the requirements for a baccalaureate degree program.

The bill passed the Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee and is waiting to be heard in the Education Committee. A similar bill in the Senate, SB 1462 by Senator Travis Hutson (R - Palm Coast) has been referred to the Education Committee, the Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education and the Appropriations Committee.

SB 1692 - School Garden Programs Senator Victor Torres, Jr. (D - Kissimmee), directs the Department of Education, in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, to provide information each year to each school district about establishing school garden programs. It allows schools to distribute the produce and exempts schools from any statue or rule that prohibits a student from receiving produce or from consuming produce grown on school grounds.  The bill passed the Agriculture Committee and is now in the Education Committee.  The identical bill in the House, HB 1247 by Representative Patrick Henry (D - Daytona Beach), is waiting to be heard in the PreK -12 Quality Subcommittee.

CS/CS/CS HB 479 - Government Accountability by Representative Larry Metz (R - Groveland, FSU Alum), revises various statutes that ensure government accountability of state and local governments. Specifically, the bill:

  • Specifies that the Governor or Commissioner of Education, or designee, may notify the Legislative Auditing Committee of an entity’s failure to comply with certain auditing and financial reporting requirements;
  • Provides definitions for the terms “abuse,” “fraud,” and “waste;”
  • Requires each agency, the judicial branch, the Justice Administrative Commission, state attorneys, public defenders, criminal conflict and civil regional counsel, the Guardian Ad Litem program, local governmental entities, charter schools, school districts, Florida College System institutions, and state universities to establish and maintain internal controls;
  • Requires counties, municipalities, and water management districts to maintain certain budget documents on their websites for specified timeframes;
  • Requires the Florida Clerks of Court Operations Corporation to notify the Legislature of any clerk not meeting workload performance standards;
  • Revises the monthly financial statement requirements for water management districts;
  • Revises the composition of auditor selection committees;
  • Requires completion of an annual financial audit of the Florida Virtual School;
  • Requires a local governmental entity, district school board, charter school, charter technical career center, Florida College System board of trustees, or university board of trustees to respond to audit recommendations under certain circumstances;
  • Requires an independent certified public accountant conducting an audit of a local governmental entity to determine, as part of the audit, whether the entity’s annual financial report is in agreement with the entity’s audited financial statements;
  • Limits to $150 the amount that may be reimbursed per day for travel lodging expenses for public officers and employees when attending a meeting, conference or convention organized or sponsored by a state agency or the judicial branch;
  • Codifies the statewide travel management system in law and requires certain public entities to report public officer and employee travel information in the system; and
  • Prohibits a board or commission from requiring a member of the public to provide an advance written copy of his or her testimony or comments as a precondition of being given the opportunity to be heard.

The bill passed the Government Accountability Committee last week. A similar bill in the Senate, SB 880 by Senator Kelli Stargel (R - Lakeland), is waiting to be heard in the Appropriations Committee.

SB 1252 - Education by Senator Bill Galvano (R - Bradenton), removes an obsolete date regarding the electronic individual education plan (IEP), and revises the membership of the Higher Educational Coordinating Council (HECC) and the date by which the Board of Governors of the State University System (BOG) must submit an annual accountability report. Specifically, the bill:

  • Deletes the July 1, 2007, deadline for the Florida Department of Education to develop and operate an electronic IEP.
  • Adds the Chancellor of Career and Adult Education to the HECC membership.
  • Codifies March 15 as the deadline for the BOG to submit the board’s annual accountability report.

The bill passed the Education Committee last week.  There is no House companion at this time.

HB 697 - Federal Immigration Enforcement by Representative Larry Metz (R - Groveland, FSU Alum), creates the “Rule of Law Adherence Act” (Act) to require state and local governments and law enforcement agencies, including their officials and employees, to support and cooperate with federal immigration enforcement. Specifically, the bill:

  • prohibits a state or local governmental entity or law enforcement agency from having a law, policy, practice, procedure, or custom which impedes a law enforcement agency from communicating or cooperating with a federal immigration agency on immigration enforcement;
  • prohibits any restriction on a state or local governmental entity or law enforcement agency’s ability to use, maintain, or exchange immigration information for certain enumerated purposes;
  • requires a state or local governmental entity and law enforcement agency to comply with and support the enforcement of federal immigration law;
  • provides procedures for a law enforcement agency and judge to follow when an arrested person cannot provide proof of lawful presence in the United States or is subject to an immigration detainer;
  • requires any sanctuary policies currently in effect be repealed within 90 days of the effective date of the Act;
  • authorizes a board of county commissioners to enact an ordinance to recover costs for complying with an immigration detainer;
  • requires an official or employee of a state or local governmental entity or law enforcement agency to report a violation of the Act to the Attorney General or state attorney, failure to report a violation may result in suspension or removal from office;
  • authorizes the Attorney General or a state attorney to seek an injunction against a state or local governmental entity or law enforcement agency that violates the Act;
  • requires a state or local governmental entity or law enforcement agency that violates the Act to pay a civil penalty of at least $1,000 but no more than $5,000 for each day the policy was in effect;
  • creates a civil cause of action for a person injured by the conduct of an alien unlawfully present in the United States against a state or local governmental entity or law enforcement agency whose violation of the Act contributed to the person’s injury;
  • prohibits the expenditure of public funds to reimburse or defend a public official or employee who violates the Act; and
  • suspends state grant funding eligibility for 5 years for a state government or local government entity or law enforcement agency that violates the Act.

The bill passed the Local, Federal and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee last week. A similar bill in the Senate, SB 786 by Senator Aaron Bean (R - Jacksonville), has been referred to the Judiciary Committee, the Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice, the Appropriations Committee and the Criminal Justice Committee.

HB 757 - Voluntary Prekindergarten Education by Representative Byron Donalds (R - Naples, FSU Alum), revises current law related to voluntary prekindergarten (VPK). Specifically, the bill:

  • requires the Just Read, Florida! Office to train VPK through grade 5 personnel on effective research-based reading instructional strategies and interventions;
  • requires each Early Learning Coalition to coordinate with Florida’s Office of Early Learning (OEL) to assign student identification numbers to each VPK student;
  • requires each public and private school in the VPK program to provide parents the results of the evidence-based pre- and post-assessments within 10 days after administration of each assessment;
  • requires statewide kindergarten screening to emphasize and directly assess early literacy and numeracy skills;
  • authorizes a child that is at risk of not attaining the VPK performance standards to reenroll in one of the school year programs for the subsequent year at the request of the child's parent; and
  • changes the date the DOE must report its findings on district implementation of reading plans from February 1, to December 1, and clarifies that the report must include findings from the previous school year.

The bill appropriates $10 million to the DOE for development and training of VPK through grade 3 teachers, reading coaches and school principals on research-based reading instructional strategies and interventions.

The bill passed the Pre-K -12 Innovation Subcommittee last week.  A similar bill in the senate, SB 468 by Senator Kelli Stargel (R - Lakeland), has been referred to the Education Committee, the Appropriations Subcommittee on Pre-K - 12 Education, the Appropriations Committee and the Rules Committee.

SB 926 - K-12 Student Assessments by Senator Anitere Flores (R - Miami), revises requirements relating to the statewide assessment program as follows:

  • Beginning with the 2017-2018 school year, the statewide, standardized English language arts (ELA) assessment in grades 3-10 and mathematics assessment in grades 3 through 8 must be administered no earlier than the last 3 weeks of the school year.
  • The bill exempts the “grade 3 Reading assessment” from the new testing window.
  • The results from the statewide, standardized ELA and mathematics assessments must be reported to the student’s current teacher and to the student’s teacher for the subsequent school year before the start of the school year. It must contain information related to the student’s performance, including:
  • identification of areas of strength and areas in need of improvement;
  • ways the student’s parent can assist his or her child based on the results;
  • longitudinal data based on the student’s previous performance, if available;
  • a comparison of the student’s score with other students in the school district, state, and, if available, other states; and
  • predictive information on how the student might perform on college entrance assessments.

The bill requires that any new contract for the statewide, standardized ELA and mathematics assessments must define a Level 3 achievement score as “proficient.”

The bill requires the Commissioner of Education to review the SAT and ACT to determine their alignment with Florida’s academic standards for ELA and mathematics. The commissioner must submit a report with the review’s findings to the Governor, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives by December 1, 2017.

The bill also requires school districts to provide results from a district-required local assessment to a student’s teacher within 7 days after the assessment is administered.

The bill is scheduled to be heard today in the Committee today.  The identical bill in the House, HB 773 by Representative Manny Diaz (R - Hialeah Gardens), reported favorably in the PreK - 12 Quality Subcommittee.


CS/SB 110 - Public Records and Public Meetings/Information Technology/Postsecondary Education Institutions by Senator Jeff Brandes (R - St. Petersburg), creates a new public record and meeting exemption for records of state universities and Florida College System (FCS) institutions pertaining to Information Technology (IT) security systems if the disclosure of such records would facilitate the unauthorized access to, or unauthorized modification, disclosure, or destruction of data, information, or IT resources.

The bill was amended last week to add the State Board of Education to the entities who exempt records and meeting transcripts for Florida’s community colleges must be made available.  The bill passed the Education Committee.  A similar bill in the House, HB 501 by Representative Thomas Leek (R - Daytona Beach), is waiting to be heard in the Oversight, Transparency & Administration Subcommittee.

FSU Day at the Capitol