LegisLetter: January 22, 2018

Volume 25, Number 3

It was a busy week at the Capitol for Florida State University. The Florida House of Representatives requires all funding requests to be put into individual appropriation bills. A bill must be heard in at least one House committee to be considered in the House budget. All but two of Florida States budget bills were heard in committees last week. We received unanimous support for the following projects:

  • HB 2695 – FAMU-FSU College of Engineering Building C
  • HB 2813 –Rural Northwest Florida Public Health Mosquito Surveillance
  • HB 3771 Pepper Center Long Term Care Training and Assessment
  • HB 4325 – Development of Next Generation Ultra High Field Magnets
  • HB 4337 – Center for Advanced Power Systems Expansion and Diversification

A vote in committee does not guarantee budget success, but we are grateful to our legislative sponsors in the Florida House for getting these projects a step closer in the process.

The House and Senate are expected to publish their respective versions of their budget bills late this week or early next week. The two sides will have extensive differences that will need to be reconciled in a budget conference later in Session.

Our building projects do not need to be filed as budget bills this year because they were partially funded last session. President Thrasher has met with many legislators in the House and Senate advocating for our share of PECO (facility) funds. We expect decisions on PECO to be a part of the budget conference.

As expected, the Florida House of Representatives held a committee hearing on HB 423, the companion bill to the Senate President’s Higher Education priority legislation (SB4). The bill retains many elements of SB 4 including permanently establishing the World Class Scholar program and the Professional and Graduate Degree Excellence Program. The bill also expands Bright Futures and the Benaquisto Scholarship.

The bill contains the same requirement for universities to set block tuition, but extends the implementation date to the Fall of 2019.

The House bill does contain significant additions; some that are very controversial. You can read the full summary of the bill in this edition of the Legisletter. We expect this legislation to undergo significant changes throughout the Session. At this time, the House Sponsor and House leadership have indicated a willingness to work with universities to make changes. We will be following closely and keep you apprised.

Thank you for your interest in governmental relations and for your support of Florida State University.

Go Noles!

Kathy Mears

Spotlight on Bill 012218

Update on Bills

CS/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.  The bill was amended last week to:

  • Shift the focus of the bill from computer coding courses to computer science courses;
  • Make adjustments to teacher bonus amounts and disbursements;
  • Make adjustments to the award of high-need technology grants to school districts (based on whether digital classroom funds or instructional materials funds are insufficient to meet the costs), and
  • Remove from the bill the $15 million appropriation.

The amended bill reported favorably by the Education Committee.  A similar bill in the House, HB 1213 by Representative Elizabeth Porter (R – Lake City, FSU Alum), is now in the PreK – 12 Innovation Subcommittee.

Spotlight on Bills

CS/HB 423 – Higher Education by Representative Ray Rodrigues (R – Ft. Myers), establishes the “Excellence in Higher Education Act of 2018”. Specifically, the bill:

  • Modifies state university performance funding metrics and requires the Board of Governors (BOG) to develop and implement a performance agreement with each university.
  • Requires the BOG to work with each university to establish 1-year, 2-year, 3-year, and 4-year improvement benchmarks for determining eligibility for performance funding.
  • Requires the BOG to submit a plan for transitioning from the current partial performance-based funding model to a complete performance-based continuous improvement funding model focused on outcomes.
  • Revises excellence standards for the Preeminent State Research Universities Program.
  • Revises requirements for SUS institution direct-support organizations (DSO).
  • Expands the Florida Bright Futures Academic Scholars (FAS) award to cover 100 percent of tuition and specified fees plus $300 per fall and spring semester for textbooks and college-related expenses and the Florida Bright Futures Medallion Scholars award to cover 75 percent of tuition and fees.
  • Authorizes the use of the Bright Futures Scholarship during the summer-term if funding is provided.
  • Expands eligibility for the Benacquisto Scholarship Program to include eligible out-of-state students.
  • Revises the state-to-private match requirements for the First Generation Matching Grant Program.
  • Establishes the Florida Farmworker Student Scholarship Program for farmworkers and their children.
  • Requires each state university to adopt an undergraduate block tuition policy for fall 2019.
  • Establishes the World Class Faculty and Scholar Program to support the efforts of state universities to recruit and retain exemplary faculty and research scholars.
  • Establishes the State University Professional and Graduate Degree Excellence Program to enhance the quality and excellence of state university programs in medicine, law, and business.
  • Requires a reverse transfer agreement for Florida College System (FCS) associate in arts degree (AA) transfer students who transfer to a state university prior to earning the AA degree.
  • Allows FCS institutions to require students to take the college placement test for diagnostic purposes.
  • Requires the BOG to enter into an agreement with the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) for access to individual reemployment assistance wage reports for auditing and evaluation purposes;
  • Prohibits ratio of state university students to administrators from exceeding ratio of students to faculty.
  • Requires the University of South Florida (USF) to develop and implement a plan for phasing-out the separate accreditation of the USF St. Petersburg and USF Manatee/Sarasota campuses.

The bill reported favorably by the Post-Secondary Education Subcommittee last week and will next be heard by the Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education.  The Senate companion, SB 4 by Senator Bill Galvano (R – Bradenton), is waiting to be heard in the House.

HB 909 – Free Expression on Campus by Representative Bob Rommel (R – Naples), authorizes public institutions of higher education to create and enforce restrictions on expressive activities on campus.  The bill provides cause of action for violation of the act and, provides for specific damages and statute of limitations.  The bill is waiting to be heard in the Post-Secondary Education Subcommittee.  A Senate companion, SB 1234 by Senator Dennis Baxley (R – Lady Lake, FSU Alum), has been referred to the Education and Judiciary committees.

SB 96 – Human Trafficking Education in Schools by Senator Greg Stuebe (R – Sarasota), adds information on the dangers and signs of human trafficking to the required instruction for middle grades and high school students in the state’s public school system.  Specifically, the bill requires health education programs in public schools to include information on the dangers and signs of human trafficking. This new requirement must include, but is not limited to, information on the warning signs of human trafficking, terms used by traffickers, red flags that would indicate a trafficker’s malicious intent toward a student, websites that are popular with traffickers, and details on how a student may get help. Required instruction in the dangers and signs of human trafficking may result in increased awareness within the public school system about human trafficking and how students may receive help.

The bill authorizes a student to opt out of the human trafficking portion of health education instruction by providing the school with a written note from his or her parent.

The bill reported favorably by the Education Committee and is now in the Appropriations committee.  There’s no House companion at this time.

SB 600 -- Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program by Senator Daphne Campbell (D – North Miami Beach), revises the criteria for renewal of Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program awards to include 30 hours of volunteer service during the academic term or summer.  The bill provides an exception for a student who enlists in military service.  The bill has been referred to the Education Committee, the Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education and the Appropriations Committee.  There is no House companion at this time.

HB 779 – Education Facilities as Emergency Shelters by Representative Janet Cruz (D – Tampa), requires a school district, Florida College System institution, or state university that has received public education capital outlay funds for a facility to make such facility available to the county and state emergency management offices as a resource during a state of emergency as an emergency shelter or any other capacity that may be necessary.

The bill is waiting to be heard in the Education Committee.  The identical bill in the Senate, SB 1556 by Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez (D – Miami), has been referred to the Education Committee, the Appropriations Subcommittee on Pre-K – 12 Education and the Appropriations Committee.