LegisLetter: January 16, 2018

Volume 25, Number 2

The cold January temperatures in Tallahassee for the beginning of the 2018 Legislative Session matched the icy atmosphere inside the Capitol. The news accounts of the opening day speeches included phrases such as “bitter divisions,” “finger pointing,” and “storms and scandals” Not the descriptions you would hope for when forecasting the upcoming sixty-day session.

Senate President Joe Negron offered a bright spot for Florida State University in his remarks when he doubled-down on his commitment to increase funding for the State University System. He lauded FSU for our rise in the U.S. News and World Report rankings.

To read the full remarks of the State of the State speech and opening speeches of the presiding officers, click on their names here: Governor Rick Scott, Senate President Joe Negron, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

During the first week, the Senate unanimously passed SB 4, the Excellence in Higher Education Act of 2018. A summary of the bill was included in the first edition of the Legisletter. Last year, in a surprise move, Governor Scott vetoed a similar bill passed by the House and Senate. The Governor did not veto the accompanying line items in the budget for programs created or increased in the vetoed bill. Thus, programs that benefitted FSU such as the World Class Scholars and Professional and Graduate Degree Excellence were in effect for one year.

This year, the Senate tucked funding for the Bright Futures Scholarship in the policy bill. That means if SB 4 reaches the Governor’s desk, his decision to sign or veto becomes more complicated. In order to veto the bill, the Governor must also eliminate the funding for the significant expansion of Bright Futures.  This is one of several chess moves that leaders are setting up this session.

The House of Representatives is expected to take their first actions on the bill this Wednesday.

Last Friday evening, the House published their version of SB 4. It has many of the same provisions as the Senate bill, but it takes Senator Negron’s funding approach in a different direction. The bill (which has not yet passed a single committee) would shift the funding formula for universities to a complete performance-based model. The implications are difficult to identify because the bill does include a specific model; the Board of Governors and an outside consulting group (yet to be named) would provide the legislature with suggestions in the next year. The bill would require the legislature to adopt and implement a performance-funding model in the FY 2019-2020.

Florida State University will be on the front line monitoring, and hopefully impacting, the legislation as it moves through the process. We are also working diligently to secure more resources so that we can continue our rise to the Top 25.

It will undoubtedly be an eventful Session. We look forward to keeping you updated over the remaining 53 days (but who is counting?).

As a reminder, the Legislature has instituted more restrictive policies on lobbying, so please notify us before appearing at the legislature – even if you are asked to speak.

As always, please do not hesitate contacting our office if we can be of any assistance to you.

Happy Week Two of Session, and Go Noles!

Kathy Mears

FSU Day at the Capitol

The annual salute to Florida State’s significant contributions to our state will take place on Tuesday, February 6, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

FSU Day at the Capitol has become one of the most popular traditions during the legislative session, and provides a wonderful opportunity to showcase our University’s programs and accomplishments to our friends in the legislature.

Through this event, Florida State is able to emphasize the University's long and proud heritage, and bring attention to the extraordinary achievements of our students, faculty and staff.

Preceding the day’s festivities, a “Seminole Evening” reception will be held on February 5th , starting at 5:30 p.m. on the 22nd floor of the Capitol. This special event is sponsored by the FSU Student Government Association and all University supporters are welcome to attend.

As always, FSU Day at the Capitol will include informative displays, which will be positioned throughout the plaza level, second and third floor rotundas. Also featured will be University “celebrities” – administrators, legislative alumni and more – along with performances by the FSU pep band, cheerleaders and Flying High Circus. 

A special celebration of all things FSU will take place in the Capitol courtyard beginning at 11:30 a.m. with refreshments available for all to enjoy.

If you have any questions, please contact Toni Moore in the FSU Governmental Relations office at tmoore@fsu.edu or 644-3847.

Mark your calendars now for this Garnet and Gold event on February 6!

Spotlight on Bills 011518

Update on Bills

CS SB 4 – Higher Education by Senator Bill Galvano (R – Bradenton), establishes the “Florida Excellence in Higher Education Act of 2018 to expand financial aid provisions and incentivize postsecondary institutions to emphasize on-time graduation, etc.  The bill passed out of the Senate last week and is waiting to be heard in the House.  A similar bill in the House, HB 423 by Representative Ray Rodrigues (R – Ft. Myers), is scheduled to be heard in the Post-Secondary Education Subcommittee tomorrow.

Spotlight on Bills

HB 11 – Government Accountability by Representative Larry Metz (R – Groveland, FSU Alum), amends statutes pertaining to government accountability and auditing. 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 certain employees under certain circumstances;
  • 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 out of the House last week and is waiting to be heard in the Senate.  A similar bill in the Senate, SB 354 by Senator Kelli Stargel (R – Lakeland), reported favorably by the Community Affairs Committee and is now in the Appropriations Committee.

CS/SB 88 – High School Graduation Requirements by Senator Dorothy Hukill (R – Port Orange), specifies financial literacy standards and instruction for students entering grade 9 in the 2018-2019 school year and thereafter. Specifically, the bill revises:

  • The Next Generation Sunshine State Standards to establish requirements for financial literacy distinct from the existing financial literacy requirements specified under the economics curricular content within the standards for social studies; and
  • The requirements for a student to earn a standard high school diploma to:
    • Establish a separate one-half credit requirement in personal financial literacy and specifying related instruction.
    • Reduce the number of required elective credits from eight to seven and one-half.

The bill passed out of the Senate last week and is waiting to be heard in the House.  The identical bill in the House, HB 323 by Representative Heather Fitzenhagen (R – Ft. Myers), waiting to be heard by the PreK-12 Quality Subcommittee.

HB 827 – Instructional Materials by Representative Byron Donalds (R – Naples, FSU Alum), transfers the responsibility for adopting state instructional materials from the Commissioner of Education to the SBE. Under the bill, the SBE must adopt instructional materials for a given academic subject at a regularly scheduled state board meeting no later than July 1 of the year before the 5-year adoption cycle is scheduled to begin and allow public comment on instructional materials at any meeting in which an adoption is considered. The bill also specifies that members of the public must be provided access to, and the opportunity to submit comments on, instructional materials recommended for adoption by state instructional materials reviewers and that any submitted comments related to a specific recommended instructional material must be provided to the SBE as part of its consideration.

The bill provides that instructional materials recommended for adoption may be more rigorous than the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards (NGSSS), so long as they are aligned with the NGSSS. The bill also requires the state instructional materials reviewer affidavit to include a statement that, to the best of the reviewer’s knowledge, instructional materials he or she recommends for adoption are, at a minimum, aligned to the NGSSS. If the SBE finds that instructional materials fully meet or are more rigorous than the NGSSS, the materials are not subject to preadoption public review procedures by the local school district; however, a district school board may still initiate such procedures if he or she has evidence that the materials are not aligned to the NGSSS or do not meet state adoption criteria or standards.

The bill reported favorably by the PreK – 12 Quality Subcommittee last week.  The Senate companion, SB 1644 by Senator Tom Lee (R – Brandon), has been referred to the Education and the Rules Committees.

SB 1056 – Computer Coding Instruction by Senator Kathleen Passidomo (R – Naples), promotes opportunities for public middle and high school students to learn computer coding taught by qualified teachers. Specifically, the bill:

  • Expands access to coding courses for students, which:
    • Phases-in a requirement for school districts with a specified number of traditional public middle and high schools to provide coding courses within specified timeframes.
    • Requires the Commissioner of Education to at least annually identify and publish a list of courses that include substantial coding content and meet the specified definition of a coding course.
  • Creates opportunities for teachers to be certified and trained to teach coding courses, and:
    • Requires the Department of Education (DOE) to award funding to a school district or consortium of school districts to deliver or facilitate training for educators to earn a credential to teach coding courses.
    • Specifies the qualifications for an educator to teach a coding course.
  • Provides the following incentives in the form of a one-time bonus to a public school educator:
    • $3,000, if the educator earns or already holds a certification in computer science, and meets other specified criteria.
    • $1,500, if the educator earns an applicable industry certification, and meets other specified criteria.
  • Requires the DOE to provide “high-need district technology grants” to school districts based on a school district’s high need. The bill appropriates $15 million in nonrecurring funds from the General Revenue Fund to the Department of Education for the 2018-2019 fiscal year.

The bill is scheduled to be heard in the Education Committee today.  There is no House companion at this time.

SB 252 – State Employee Higher Education Fee Waivers by Senator Greg Steube (R – Sarasota), modifies the tuition and fee waiver benefit that is extended to the employees of the State of Florida. Specifically, the bill modifies from 6 credit hours per term to 18 credit hours per calendar year the requirement that state universities and Florida College System institutions waive tuition and fees for state employees, on a space-available basis.

The bill is scheduled to be in the Education Committee today. The identical bill in the House, HB 1371 by Representative Loranne Ausley (D – Tallahassee), is waiting to be heard in the Post-Secondary Education Subcommittee.

CS/SB 540 – Postsecondary Education by Senator Dorothy Hukill (R – Port Orange), creates the “Community College Competitiveness Act of 2018” to strengthen state leadership and accountability for Florida’s community colleges as an essential component of this state’s system of higher education. Specifically, the bill:

  • Modifies the governance of the Florida Community College System by:
    • Renaming the Florida College System as the Florida Community College System; and
    • Establishing a State Board of Community Colleges (SBCC), and transferring specified responsibilities from the State Board of Education to the SBCC.
  • Clarifies expectations and oversight of baccalaureate degree programs offered by community colleges, and:
    • Modifies the baccalaureate approval process for all community colleges.
    • Establishes a 20 percent cap on upper-level, undergraduate full-time equivalent (FTE) enrollment at each community college, and a 10 percent cap on upper-level, undergraduate FTE enrollment for the Florida Community College System, and specifies conditions for planned and purposeful growth of baccalaureate degree programs.
  • Establishes the “2+2” targeted pathway program to provide students guaranteed access to baccalaureate degree programs at state universities.
  • Establishes the Supporting Students for Academic Success program to fund the efforts of community colleges in assisting students enrolled in an associate in arts (AA) degree program to complete college-credit courses, graduate with an AA degree, and transfer to a baccalaureate degree program.
  • Modifies the community college performance accountability metrics and standards to promote on-time student graduation.
  • Enhances transparency and accountability of community college direct-support organizations

The bill is scheduled to be heard in the Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education tomorrow.  A similar bill in the House, HB 831 by Representative Joe Gruters (R – Sarasota, FSU Alum), is waiting to be heard in the Postsecondary Education Subcommittee.