LegisLetter: April 10, 2017

Volume 24, Number 6

Week five of the (supposed) nine-week legislative session was wrapped up last week with no new major developments in the higher education policy and budget arenas.

The House and Senate are poised to finalize their respective chambers’ budgets during floor deliberations this week. They remain billions of dollars apart, though both sides have expressed a willingness to compromise on some issues. The next two weeks will be filled with key clues on which bills will likely survive because most House and Senate Committees will stop meeting this week or next week.

We will also find whether there can be agreement on the broad categories of budget funding. If they can reach agreement, then the House and Senate members will enter into “budget conference” negotiations. Conference typically takes several weeks to complete, so if they don’t reach agreement on broad budget funding categories in the next two weeks, there is little prospect of a timely budget resolution.

Florida State University will be on the front lines at the Capitol advocating for increased funding and educating members on the needs of our campus.

Governmental Relations received a big boost in that effort during FSU Day last week. We blanketed three floors of the Capitol with garnet and gold ambassadors from many of our schools and programs. Student Government Association members met with members of the House and Senate, and our Pep Band entertained the masses in the Capitol Courtyard. We fed over 1,000 friends and fans during the lunch hour.

Below are some photos from the event, and a copy of the full–page flyer we handed out to participants.

I look forward to providing weekly updates on major legislative issues relative to Higher Education throughout the Session. If you have questions about specific bills making their way through the process, we would be glad to help answer them. You can reach me at kmears@fsu.edu or you can call our office at 850-644-4453.

Go Noles!


Seminole Spirit Fills the Capitol

The Florida capitol rocked garnet and gold last Tuesday during FSU Day at the Capitol. Thank you to everyone who took time out of their busy schedules to share the accomplishments of their departments and programs with the legislative community, and to the volunteers who helped make this special day possible.

Special thanks also go out to Tom Block, our emcee for the noontime activities in the capitol courtyard, who introduced the FSU alumni currently serving in the legislature. The Seminole Sound spirit band, FSU cheerleaders and performers from the Flying High Circus were there to entertain the crowd.  Coach Lonnie Alameda and Coach Jimbo Fisher, along with student-athletes Deondre Francois and Ryan Izzo, also took part in the lunchtime program.

The festivities began the night before on the 22nd floor of the Capitol with “A Seminole Evening,” reception hosted by the FSU Student Government Association. State lawmakers, the Governor, legislative staff, alumni and supporters gathered with students and other members of the campus community to meet and talk while the storm raged outside.

These special events would not have been possible, of course, without the support of our generous sponsors:

Classic Fare Catering by Aramark
Coca Cola Bottling of Tallahassee
Sharkey’s Capitol Café
4 Rivers Smokehouse
Florida Beer Wholesalers Association
Tri-Eagle Sales
Wine and Spirits Distributors of Florida
J. Keith Arnold
Slater and Sara Bayliss
Greg and Melanie Black
Ronald Book, P.A.
Jorge and Ivette Chamizo
Childers Construction Company – Van Champion
ContributionLink, LLC
Cameron and Tanya Cooper
Reggie Garcia Law
Foley and Lardner, LLP -- Robert H. Hosay
Jim Horne
Johnson and Blanton
Nick and Debbie Iarossi
Jeff Kottkamp, P.A.
Mabry and Associates
Frank and Tracy Mayernick
Christopher Moya
Ounce of Prevention Fund of Florida – Doug Sessions
Larry J. Overton and Associates
Diana Hadi Padgett Governmental Consultant
Ron Richmond
Peebles and Smith, Inc.
Jim and Carole Smith
Guy and Delores Spearman
Southern Strategy Group
U. S. Sugar Corporation

Thanks for making 2017 FSU Day at the Capitol a great success

FSU On The Rise

Florida State University is ranked 38 in the U.S. News and World ReportPublic University Rankings. We leapt 5 spots in one year, more than any other top 50 univeristy in America.

FSU is ranked by U.S. News and World Report as the second most efficient public university in America.


Spotlight on Bills 041017

HB 5601 – Higher Education by Representative Carlos Trujillo (R – Miami), is a committee bill that conforms statutes to the House proposed General Appropriations Act (GAA) for Fiscal Year 2017-18. The bill removes the provision that allows a college or university direct support organization (DSO) to use personal services from the college or university. The bill prohibits a college or university DSO from giving, either directly or indirectly, any gift to a political committee and removes any exceptions.

The bill narrows the provisions of current law relating to the confidentiality of records of a university or college DSO.  Pursuant to the bill, only records relating to the identity of donors who wish to remain anonymous will be confidential.  The House proposed General Appropriations Act removes $9.9 million in recurring general revenue funds from the Florida College System and $53.2 million in recurring general revenue funds from the State University System.  The bill passed the Appropriations Committee and is waiting to be heard by the full House.  The Senate companion, SB 2500 is the proposed Senate budget which currently does not include this language.

HB 7109 – Taxation by Rep. Jim Boyd, (R – Bradenton, FSU Alum), provides a wide range of tax reductions and modifications designed to directly impact both households and businesses, and to improve tax administration. The bill:

  • Reduces the state sales tax rate on rental of commercial real estate (business rent tax) from 6% to 4.5% for two years, beginning January 1, 2018, then maintains a permanent tax rate reduction from 6% to 5.5% beginning January 1, 2020.
  • Includes new, extended, or expanded sales tax exemptions for:
    • Diapers and incontinence products;
    • Products used to control menstrual flow;
    • Certain animal health products and other agricultural related items;
    • Certain resales of admissions;
    • Certain sales made between certain financial institutions and related parties; and
    • Sales of college textbooks and instructional materials for one year.
  • The bill includes the following sales tax holidays:
    • A ten-day “back-to-school” holiday for clothing, footwear, school supplies, and computers;
    • A nine-day “disaster preparedness” holiday for certain items related to disaster preparedness; and
    • An annual one-day “veterans” holiday for purchases of clothing and footwear.

For property tax purposes, the bill provides property tax relief for certain property used to provide affordable housing, amends the definition of inventory to include certain construction and agricultural equipment, and clarifies the documentation required to obtain an exemption for certain nonprofit homes for the aged. For corporate income tax, the bill:

  • Increases the annual tax credits available for voluntary brownfields clean-up from $5 million per year to $10 million per year and provides an additional $15 million for FY 2017-18 and increases the amount available for research and development tax credits in calendar year 2018 from $9 million to $20 million.
  • Extends the Community Contribution Tax Credit program by one year, through FY 2018-19, while maintaining the current funding level of $24.9 million in tax credits (also may be taken against sales tax and insurance premiums tax).
  • Changes filing dates for certain income tax returns and certain estimated tax payments.

Additionally, the bill includes: various changes to accomplish general tax administration improvements; elimination of several tax registration fees; exempting highway safety taxes and fees for certain marine boat trailers owned by ch. 501(c)(3) organizations; amending the definition of “beer” and “malt beverage”; and the repeal of certain distributions from the cigarette tax.

The total impact of the bill in fiscal year 2017-2018 is -$296.5 million (-$276.0 million recurring).  The bill was filed as a committee bill last week.  A similar bill in the Senate, SB 490 by Senator Keith Perry (R – Gainesville), passed the Appropriations Subcommittee on Finance and Tax.

CS/SB 1500 -- Retirement of Instructional Personnel and School Administrators by Senator Debbie Mayfield (R – Melbourne), modifies the Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP) for instructional and administrative personnel in grades K-12 to prevent the classroom disruption caused by such personnel’s retirement when it occurs during the school year. For current DROP participants, the bill allows termination of DROP after the school year. For participants who enter DROP on or after July 1, 2017, the bill requires termination of DROP after the school year. The bill provides an effective date of July 1, 2017. The bill  passed by the Government Oversight and Accountability Committee last week.  The House companion, HB 1223 by Representative Randy Fine (R – Palm Bay), is waiting to be heard in the PreK – 12 Quality Subcommittee.

HB 1331 – Education by Representative Erin Grall (R – Vero Beach), establishes the Schools of Excellence Program to provide administrative flexibility to the state’s highest performing schools. The bill requires the State Board of Education to designate a school as a School of Excellence if it has a school grades score in the 80th percentile or higher, statewide, for schools of its type (elementary, middle, high, or combination) for 2 of the last 3 school years. A school retains its designation for 3 years unless it earns a school grade lower than a “B” during that span. A school may renew its designation if it remains in the 80th percentile or higher for 2 of the 3 years and does not receive a grade lower than a “B.” The bill provides the following administrative flexibilities to a School of Excellence:

  • Exemption from any provision in law or rule that expressly requires a minimum period of daily or weekly instruction in reading.
  • The same autonomy over personnel and budgetary decisions for the school’s principal as provided to principals participating in the Principal Autonomy Pilot Project Initiative.
  • Exemption from district-set starting and stopping times for the school day.
  • Allowing a teacher to substitute 1 school year of employment at a School of Excellence for 20 in-service points toward the renewal of their professional certificate, up to 60 in-service points.
  • Calculation for compliance with maximum class size at the school level rather than the classroom level.

Under the bill, a temporary certificate holder who completes an approved professional development certification program and earns a highly effective rating will qualify for a renewable professional certificate without having to complete additional classwork or pass the Professional Education Test.

The bill allows charter schools and charter management organizations to offer a professional development certification and educator competence program and requires the mentorship and induction component of a program to, at a minimum, provide weekly opportunities for specified mentoring and induction activities. The mentorship and induction activities must be provided for a teacher’s first year in the program and may be provided until the teacher attains his or her professional certificate.

The bill requires the DOE to adopt standards for approving a professional development certification and educator competence program, including the mentorship and induction component.

The bill allows mentoring activities, including serving as a mentor, to count towards a teacher’s in-service requirements for certification renewal.

The bill requires professional development activities to provide training to mentors. The bill requires model professional development programs disseminated by the DOE to include effective mentorship activities to new teachers and training to mentors. The bill also streamlines the temporary certificate application process.

The bill passed the Education Committee, and will next be heard by the full Senate.

CS/HB 1111 – Teacher Certification by Representative Rene Placencia (R – Titusville), was amended last week to require the Department of Education to provide an electronic notification one year in advance of the expiration of a temporary educator certificate.  The bill passed the Education Committee.

SB 782 – High School Graduation Requirement by Senator Debbie Mayfield (R – Melbourne), revises the high school graduation requirements for satisfying the mandatory one-credit requirement in physical education. Specifically, the bill deletes the requirement for students who participate in two full seasons of an interscholastic sport to pass a competency test on personal fitness in order to satisfy the physical education credit required for graduation with a standard high school diploma.  The bill passed the Health Policy Committee.  The House companion, HB 6015 by Representative Ralph Massullo (R – Beverly Hills), has been referred to the PreK-12 Quality Subcommittee and the Education Committee.

CS/SB 1314 – Educational Option by Senator Denise Grimsley (R – Lake Placid), revises the Florida Tax Credit (FTC) Scholarship Program to:

  • Require the Florida Department of Revenue to provide Scholarship-Funding Organizations (SFOs) a copy of its letter denying or approving certain transactions.
  • Allow a dependent child of a parent or guardian who is a member of the U.S. Armed Forces to apply for the FTC at any time.
  • Specify that a parent must approve any payment made by funds transfer.
  • Change the deadline from September 15 to August 15 for a private school participating in the FTC to submit its report to the SFO on the results of its agreed-upon procedures.
  • Provide that the Commissioner of the Florida Department of Education (DOE) may determine that a private school is ineligible to participate in the FTC program if the school has consecutive years of material exceptions listed in its agreed-upon procedures report.
  • Authorize the Learning System Institute at the Florida State University to be compensated for additional research through the project grant award issued by the DOE.
  • Increase the FTC scholarship award amount to a percentage of the unweighted FTE funding amount for that state fiscal year and thereafter as follows:
    • 88 percent for a student in kindergarten through grade 5.
    • 92 percent for a student enrolled in grades 7-8.
    • 96 percent for a student enrolled in grades 9-12.
  • Raise the transportation scholarship award for a student who chooses a public school outside of his or her district from $500 to $750.
  • Provide that an SFO can make payments by fund transfer, subject to parent approval, and specifies that a student’s scholarship award may not be reduced for debit card or electronic payment fees.

The bill passed the Education Committee last week.  The House companion, HB 15 by Representative Jennifer Sullivan (R – Eustis), passed the Education Committee.

Update on Bills

CS/SB 1552 -- Florida Best and Brightest Teacher and Principal Scholar Award Program by Senator David Simmons (R – Longwood), was amended by the Education Committee to authorize a classroom teacher and school administrator to satisfy the achievement eligibility requirement by achieving a cumulative undergraduate or graduate grade point average of at least 3.5 on a 4.0 scale, as verified on the teacher’s or administrator’s official final transcript.  The Senate companion, SB 1410 by Senator Keith Perry (R – Gainesville), has been referred to the Education Committee, the Appropriations Subcommittee on Pre-K - 12 Education, the Appropriations Committee and the Rules Committee.

SB 436 – Religious Expression in Public Schools by Senator Dennis Baxley (R – Ocala, FSU Alum), creates the “Florida Student and School Personnel Religious Liberties Act,” protecting K-12 public school students, their parents, and school personnel from discrimination based on their religious belief and expression.

The bill protects students from discrimination based on their religion in several ways. Regarding coursework, the bill requires that students’ work be graded according to the expected academic standards, without regard for any religious content. Also, if students in a given school setting are permitted to wear clothing, jewelry, or accessories that display a secular message or symbol, then students may also wear items displaying religious messages or symbols. Moreover, the bill authorizes students to express themselves in a religious manner, and to engage in and organize religious activities to the same extent as secular expressions and activities are permitted.

The bill passed the Legislature and will now go to the Governor for signature.