LegisLetter: April 3, 2017

Volume 24, Number 5

We have reached the halfway point in the 60-day Legislative Session, although many observers, legislators, and staff believe there is a strong chance that Legislators will not conclude their business on time. The most widely-read political blog in Florida declared this week that those involved in the legislative process should cancel any summer plans in anticipation of special session(s). While “hope springs eternal” for a smooth and timely ending, the chances look dim due to the differences on almost every policy and budget issue between the chambers.

Perhaps the best example is the annual budget. The Senate published their version Thursday with a total of $83.2 billion in spending. The House published their budget on Friday, with a total of $81.2 billion. The two-billion-dollar difference was a result of spending increases in the Senate and broad cuts in the House; both budgets meet the Florida Constitutional requirement to be balanced.

Below is a quick comparison of the major differences in the legislative budgets that have the greatest impact on Florida State University.




  • $176 M in PECO projects
  • $45 M in CITF
  • $46 M in Reno/Remodeling
  • $13 M for University Lab Schools
  • $4.2 M in Facility Enhancement Challenge Grants


  • $0 for PECO projects
  • $45 M in CITF
  • $115 M in Reno/Remodeling
  • $5.7 for University Lab Schools
  • $0 in Facility Enhancement Challenge Grants



Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences Building

  • House $0
  • Senate $24 million

Interdisciplinary Research & Commercialization Building

  • House $0
  • Senate $10 million

Legacy Hall - College of Business

  • House $0
  • Senate $7 million

STEM Teaching Lab

  • House $0
  • Senate $ 5 million

Strategic Land Acquisition

  • House $0
  • Senate $5 million

Florida High Science, Technology, Arts and Math (STEAM) Building

  • House $0
  • Senate $7.5 million



Neither the House nor Senate robustly funded new projects. We understand there is a new expectation by both chambers (for different reasons) to move away from funding individual projects. We will be mindful of this dynamic as we prepare our requests for the budget next year.

Development of Next Generation Ultra-High Field Magnets - $300,000 request

  • House $0
  • Senate $300,000

FCAAP - $5 million request

  • House $0
  • Senate $0

Center for Advanced Power Systems Expansion and Diversification – $750,000 request

  • House $0
  • Senate $750,000

Themed Experience Academic Center $2 million request

  • House $0
  • Senate $0

College of Medicine Behavioral Health Research - $489,619 request

  • House $479,000
  • Senate $489,619

Panama City Campus Mosquito Surveillance - $700,000 request

  • House $350,000
  • Senate $700,000

Panama City Campus Joint Agency in-Water Strike Force (JAWS) - $ 2 million request

  • House $0
  • Senate $1.9 million



  • House - An overall decrease of 3.6% or $171 M after start-up adjustments
  • Senate - An overall increase of 7.2% or $334.4 M after start-up adjustments

There are many other issues within the nearly 1000 pages of the House and Senate bills. Clearly, there is a lot of work that must be done to reconcile the differences and present a budget to Governor Scott. Whether that can be done in the next thirty days is a great unknown.

It is important to note that when past Florida Legislatures have not been able to reach agreement during the sixty-day session, they pick up where they left off; they do not start the budget process from scratch. Thus, programs and buildings that are not in the House or Senate budget today are not likely to have a second opportunity to receive funding this fiscal year.

Special thanks go out to Senate President Joe Negron and the entire Florida Senate for producing a budget that reflects a strong commitment to Florida’s higher education system and to Florida State University. We received by far the largest share of funding in the Senate’s budget. While we know there is a long way to go in the process, we are grateful for the commitment and confidence that the Senate has in Florida State.

Remember, tonight is our Florida State University reception on the 22nd Floor of the Capitol at 5:30 p.m., and Tuesday is FSU Day. We’re literally lighting up the town in garnet and gold. Monday night the pillars of the old capitol will shine with Seminole pride; we hope you will be able to join us to showcase our wonderful university.

We look forward to another exciting week in the Florida Capitol.



Our big day is almost here! After months of planning, FSU Day at the Capitol for 2017 takes place tomorrow and promises to be another great event. As in the past, FSU Day emphasizes the university's proud heritage and spotlights the extraordinary accomplishments of our students and faculty.

Please join us from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm for informative displays on the plaza level and second and third floor rotundas. During the lunch hour, appearances by FSU celebrities and members of the Seminole legislative caucus, and performances by the pep band, cheerleaders and Flying High Circus will begin at 11:30 in the capitol courtyard, with refreshments available for all to enjoy.

In addition, our sixth annual “Seminole Evening” reception will be held tonight from 5:30 to 7:30 on the 22nd floor of the capitol. Come by for this meet-and-greet with our legislators and the Governor.

We look forward to seeing you this evening and tomorrow in your Garnet and Gold!


Update on Bills

CS/HB 1137 – Use of State Funds by Representative Katie Edwards (D – Sunrise), provides that when an employee of a state agency or the judicial branch is attending a meeting, conference, or convention organized or sponsored in whole or in part by a state agency or the judicial branch, the reimbursement for lodging expenses may not exceed $150 per day.

The bill provides that a state entity requesting state funds to construct or contract for the construction of a new building must comply with maximum cost per square foot requirements provided in the bill. All new building construction must utilize the maximum cost nearest in proximity to the location of the building proposed for construction.

The bill was amended last week by the Government Operations and Technology Appropriations Subcommittee and passed as a committee substitute. The amendment removed the following sections from the bill:

  • Removes section 2, pertaining to Maximum Cost Per Square Foot for New State-funded Building Construction; and,
  • Removes section 3, pertaining to Legislative Budget Requests

A comparable bill in the Senate, SB 1668 by Senator Keith Perry (R – Gainesville), appears on the Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee agenda today.

CS/HB 7057 – Civic Literacy by Representative Jake Raburn (R – Valrico), was amended last week by the Pre-K – 12 Appropriations Subcommittee to clarify that an existing civics assessment may be used to demonstrate student competency, instead of creating a new assessment. A similar bill in the Senate, SB 1720 by Senator Kelli Stargel (R – Lakeland)  appears on the Education Committee agenda today.

CS HB 265 – Computer Coding Instruction by Representative Elizabeth Porter (R – Lake City, FSU Alum), was amended last week by the House PreK-12 Quality Subcommittee and reported the bill favorably as a committee substitute. The proposed committee substitute differs from the originally filed bill by:

  • deleting the bill’s requirement that state universities and Florida College System institutions accept certain computer coding courses as satisfying foreign language admissions requirements;
  • deleting the bill’s provision expressly authorizing the Florida Virtual School to offer computer coding courses;
  • requiring the Articulation Coordinating Committee to provide recommendations to the Board of Governors, the State Board of Education, and the Legislature that identify:
    • computer science courses, including computer coding and programming courses, which may be used to satisfy State University System admissions requirements in math and science;
    • common academic and technical skills needed for students to help meet projected labor market demands in computer science, information technology, and related fields in Florida;
    • how middle and high school students, including underrepresented and nontraditional students, can be encouraged to pursue further studies and careers in computer science, information technology, and related fields;
    • secondary course sequences which prepare students to succeed in postsecondary educational programs in computer science, information technology, and related fields;
    • gaps in current policy, curricula, programs, and practices that inhibit students from pursuing postsecondary education and careers in computer science and related fields;
    • appropriate educator qualifications and computer science pedagogy to maintain technologically current instructional knowledge and practices in teacher preparation programs; and
    • common definitions for terms related to computer science, including terms such as computer coding and computer programming, for consistent use across the Florida K-20 education system;
  • requiring the Commissioner of Education to identify high school-level courses that incorporate the standards in the Course Code Directory;
  • if a student is enrolled in an identified course that satisfies a specified postsecondary admissions requirement in Florida, requiring the school district to notify the student that he or she should contact any out-of-state or private institution to which they are applying to see whether the course satisfies any admissions requirements;
  • requiring the Department of Education to annually report the number of individuals who hold a valid educator certificate in computer science or a related field; and
  • requiring the State Board of Education to consult with the Board of Governors and school districts to develop strategies for recruiting computer science teachers, update certification requirements, provide professional development, and identify pathways toward computer science certification.

The Senate companion, SB 104 by Senator Jeff Brandes (R – St. Petersburg), passed the Education Committee and is waiting to be heard by the Rules Committee.

CS/SB 668 – Postsecondary Distance Education by Senator Aaron Bean (R – Jacksonville), was amended last week to:

  • Authorize Florida to participate specifically in the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA).
  • Specify that all parties to the SARA must be willing to accept each other’s authorization of accredited institutions to offer distance educational services.
  • Require the Postsecondary Reciprocal Distance Education Coordinating Council (Council) to apply to participate in the SARA within 60 days after the effective date of this act.
  • 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.
  • Require the annual fee schedule, proposed by the Council, be based on a graduated scale based on enrollment.

A similar bill in the House, CS/CS HB 859 by Representative Amber Mariano (R – New Port Richey), passed the Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee.

Spotlight on Bills

HB 5007 – Florida Retirement System by Representative Matt Caldwell (R – Lehigh Acres), provides that members of the FRS have two plan options available for participation: the pension plan, which is a defined benefit plan, and the investment plan, which is a defined contribution plan. In addition to the two primary plans, some eligible members have the choice of participating in optional retirement programs. The bill provides that:

  • Effective July 1, 2017, the bill authorizes renewed membership in the investment plan for retirees of the investment plan and certain optional retirement programs. Such renewed member will be a renewed member of the appropriate membership class in the investment plan, unless employed in a position eligible for participation in an optional retirement program, in which case the retiree will become a renewed member of such applicable program.
  • Effective July 1, 2017, the bill expands the survivor benefit for members of the Special Risk Class. Specifically, it provides that such survivor benefits are retroactive to July 1, 2002.
  • Effective July 1, 2017, the bill also establishes a survivor benefit for all other membership classes of the investment plan who are killed in the line of duty and provides that the benefit is retroactive to July 1, 2002. The survivor benefits are the same as those currently provided for other membership classes of the pension plan. It also provides a process for calculating the retroactive benefit.
  • Effective July 1, 2017, the bill closes the Senior Management Service Optional Annuity Program to new participants. The bill also prohibits elected officials from joining the Senior Management Service Class in lieu of the Elected Officers’ Class.
  • Effective January 1, 2018, the bill changes the default from the pension plan to the investment plan for members who do not affirmatively choose a plan.
  • Effective July 1, 2018, the bill prohibits members initially enrolled in a position covered by the Elected Officers’ Class from participating in the pension plan and requires participation in the investment plan. It also reduces the service accrual rate for purposes of calculating the pension plan benefit from 3.3 percent to 3.0 percent for certain members of the Elected Officers’ Class including the judicial branch.

The bill provides that the bill, which includes providing benefits that are managed, administered, and funded in an actuarially sound manner, serves a proper and legitimate state purpose. It adjusts the employer contribution rates in order to fund FRS benefits and address the unfunded actuarial liability.

Based on the results of special actuarial studies, the benefit changes proposed by the bill will have a negative fiscal impact of $17.3 million for fiscal year 2017-18.

The Government Accountability Committee filed the bill last week.  A similar bill in the Senate, SB 7002 by Senator Dennis Baxley (R – Ocala, FSU Alum), has been referred to the Appropriations Committee.

CS/CS HB 1375 – Specialty License Plates by Representative James Grant (R – Tampa), is a comprehensive bill relating to specialty license plates.  Specifically, the bill: 

  • Revises the pre-sale voucher requirement for specialty license plates from 1,000 to 4,000 before manufacture of that specialty license plate can begin.
  • Authorizes a person with a discontinued specialty license plate to keep the plate for the remainder of the 10-year license plate replacement period.
  • Provides direction to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) on the discontinuance of specialty license plates and establishes a timeframe of 180 days to distribute the remaining annual use fees held or collected by the Department.
  • Authorizes revenues from specialty license plates for an out-of-state institution to be expended outside of Florida.
  • Revises the minimum active specialty license plate requirement from 1,000 to 4,000. Effective July 1, 2019, if the number of valid specialty plate registrations falls below 4,000 for at least 12 consecutive months the Department must discontinue the issuance of that specialty plate.
  • Maintains the exemption for collegiate specialty plates from the active specialty plate minimum and adds license plates of institutions in the State University System, Florida professional sports team license plates and license plates with a statutory eligibility limitation for purchase.
  • Directs DHSMV to audit, every two years, and all organizations that receive funds from the specialty license plate program not already subject to the Florida Single Audit Act.

The bill will likely have an insignificant fiscal impact to DHSMV related to programming hours associated with the design of the new specialty license plates, and a significant negative fiscal impact related to audits of specialty license plates and reviews and reports required by the bill.  The bill passed the Transportation and Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee last week.  A similar bill in the Senate, SB 1060 by Senator Kevin Rader (D – Boca Raton), passed the Transportation Committee.

CS/SB 396 – Student Loan Debt by Senator Dorothy Hukill (R – Port Orange) and Senator Aaron Bean (R – Jacksonville), requires postsecondary education institutions to provide information regarding student loans annually to students. Specifically, the bill:

  • Defines “student loans” to mean federal loans disbursed to a student to pay for education related expenses.
  • Establishes the requirement that a postsecondary education institution that disburses state financial aid provide the following up-to-date information annually to each student receiving student loans:
    • An estimate of the student’s total amount of borrowed student loans.
    • An estimate of the student’s total potential loan repayment amount associated with the total amount of student loans borrowed by the student.
    • An estimate of the student’s monthly loan repayment amount for the student’s total amount of borrowed student loans.
    • The percentage of the borrowing limit that the student has reached at the time the information is provided.
  • Provides that an institution does not incur liability for providing the specified information.

The bill is waiting to be heard by the full Senate.  A similar bill in the House, HB 867 by Representative Thomas Leek (R – Daytona Beach), passed the Postsecondary Education Subcommittee.

HB 1235 – Military and Veterans Support by Representative Mel Ponder (R – Ft. Walton Beach, FSU Alum), provides many benefits to active duty service members and veterans of the United States Armed Forces. The bill contains provisions relating to rental applications, veteran-owned businesses, employment of military spouses and student veteran support. Specifically, the bill:

  • Requires expedited processing of a housing rental application, if required, for a military service member’s spouse and other adult dependents who plan to reside in the same rental unit;
  • Requires the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs (FDVA) to create a website to streamline the procedure for applying for certification as a veteran business enterprise;
  • Authorizes the Florida Supreme Court to admit the spouse of a military service member to practice law in this state provided that the Florida Board of Bar Examiners certifies that the spouse meets certain criteria;
  • Requires the Department of Education (DOE) to expedite the processing of educator certification requests for the spouse of a military service member and extends the validity period of a temporary educator certificate for two additional years; and
  • Provides legislative intent regarding the collaboration between the State Board of Education and the Board of Governors on issues related to academic credit for military training and coursework, student progression and success, and student services.

The bill was amended last week to provide that the requirement for a landlord, condominium association, cooperative association, and homeowners association to process a housing rental application from a military service member within seven days of submission also applies to the service member’s spouse and any adult dependents of the service member who are to reside in the same rental unit.

The bill passed the Local, Federal & Veterans Affairs Subcommittee. A similar bill in the Senate, SB 1588 by Senator Jack Latvala (R – Clearwater), passed the Judiciary Committee last week.

HB 989 – Instructional Materials for Public K-12 Education by Representative Byron Donalds (R – Naples, FSU Alum), provides for greater transparency in the district-level adoption process of instructional materials and provides more opportunities to review and challenge materials made available to students by:

  • allowing parents and residents of the county to provide the district school board evidence that an instructional material for adoption by the district does not meet the state criteria, contains prohibited content, or is otherwise inappropriate or unsuitable;
  • allowing county residents to contest the adoption of an instructional material and object to the use of a material made available to students;
  • requiring the process for contesting the adoption of an instructional material to provide for an impartial hearing officer;
  • requiring school districts to discontinue use of a material found to be inappropriate or unsuitable;
  • requiring school districts to provide access to library materials upon written request;
  • requiring school districts to maintain a current list of purchased instructional materials on their websites;
  • requiring that instructional materials purchased using the instructional materials allocation be on the state-adopted list unless purchased through a district instructional materials program;
  • requiring that instructional materials purchased through a district instructional materials program meet the criteria for inclusion in the state-adopted list, be aligned to the state academic standards, and be consistent with course expectations and course descriptions;
  • eliminating the requirement that 50 percent of the instructional materials allocation be used to purchase electronic or digital materials; and
  • clarifying that a school district is responsible for the content of all materials made available to students, including those that may not meet the statutory definition of an instructional material.

The bill also specifies that an instructional material must be free of content that is pornographic or harmful to minors in order to be recommended for inclusion in the state-adopted list and that any material used in a classroom must also be free of such content.

The bill appears on the PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee agenda today.  The Senate companion, CS SB 1210 by Senator Tom Lee (R – Brandon), passed the Education Committee.

CS/HB 67 Public School Recess by Representative Rene Placencia (R – Titusville), allows district school boards to include free-play recess for students in kindergarten through 3rd grade in the currently mandated 150 minutes per week physical education requirement. Additionally, the bill requires each school district to provide free-play recess each week on days when physical education classes are not held for students in kindergarten through 5th grade so that there are at least 20 minutes of free-play recess.  The bill passed the PreK – 12 Innovation Subcommittee.  The identical bill in the Senate, SB 78 by Senator Anitere Flores (R – Miami), is on the Senate calendar waiting to be heard by the full Senate this week.