LegisLetter: February 19, 2018

Volume 25, Number 7

All of the progress in the early part of the Legislative Session has decelerated. The engine is in idle, but there is a definite sense that the legislature is revving up for the final three weeks.

Since there is no new action to report on this week, this edition of the Legisletter will highlight three expected events that did not occur. The House of Representatives did not take up the Higher Education bill as rumored, the House and Senate did not agree on budget allocations as anticipated, and there were no appointments to the conference committees as needed to begin the budget reconciliation process.

While it is not unusual for the legislature to operate at an uneven pace, there is typically more information available on the cause of the stalled momentum.

The next three weeks will be eventful. If not, the summer will be very busy in the state capitol.

As we enter into the final stretch, Florida State University has many budget priorities that are in either the House or Senate budget. For a complete listing, please see the January 8 edition of the Legisletter.

The Government Relations team will be on the ground every day advocating for more resources and better policies to help Florida State University continue our climb of excellence.

Thank you for your interest and support.

Go Noles!

Kathy Mears

Spotlight on Bills

Update on Bills

CS/SB 844 – Excess Credit Hour Surcharge by Senator Aaron Bean (R – Jacksonville), was amended to:

  • Modify the bill provision regarding the application of the excess hour surcharge for first-time-in-college students who graduate with a baccalaureate degree in 4 years. Specifically, the committee substitute requires a state university to refund the assessed excess hour surcharge, for up to 12 credit hours, to any first-time-in-college student who completes a baccalaureate degree program within 4 years after initial enrollment in a state university.
  • Remove from the bill the provision specifying the assessment of the excess hour surcharge for each credit hour in excess of 120 percent of the credit hours required to complete the baccalaureate degree for students enrolled in a degree program designated by the Board of Governors as an area of strategic emphasis in a science, technology, engineering, mathematics, or health discipline.

The bill passed the Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education last week and is waiting to be heard by the Appropriations Committee. The House companion, HB 565 by Representative Amber Mariano (R – Port Richey), reported favorably by the Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee and will next be heard by the Education Committee.

CS/SB 1234 – Free Expression on Campus by Senator Dennis Baxley (R – Lady Lake, FSU Alum), was amended last week. The amendment retains the substance of the bill with the following modifications:

  • Adds to the bill a provision related to state university student fees to:
    • Require a student government organization to provide a written explanation regarding the funding determination to a recognized student organization that submits a request for activity and service fee funding.
    • Require each student government association to maintain on its website an organized record of the funding requests and awards it receives and requests.
  • Revises the bill provision related to compensatory damages associated with the cause of action to provide the aggrieved party at least $500 per violation and removes from the bill the $50 limit for additional violations.
  • Clarifies the definition of a public institution of higher education in the bill to remove state college from that definition and maintains in the definition the reference to Florida College System institution as defined in law.

The amended bill reported favorably by the Education Committee and is now in the Judiciary Committee. A similar bill in the House, CS/HB 909 by Representative Bob Rommel (R – Naples), was amended by the Civil Justice and Claims Subcommittee and reported favorably as a committee substitute. The amendment:

  • Clarified that a civil action to enforce the bill is against the public institution of higher education.
  • Specified that if the court finds that a violation occurred, the court must award the greater of $500 per violation or compensatory damages.
  • Removed the per day minimum damages.

HB 1213 – Computer Science Instruction by Representative Elizabeth Porter (R – Lake City, FSU Alum), increase opportunities for students to participate in computer science instruction.

The bill was amended last week by the PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee who adopted two amendments and reported the bill favorably as a committee substitute.

  • The first amendment removes the requirement that school districts must offer computer science courses identified by the Department of Education so that at least 10 percent of a school district’s middle schools, high schools, and combination schools with grades 6th -12th were offering at least one computer science course by the 2020-2021 school year.
  • The second amendment removes the needs-based technology grant for school districts whose Digital Classroom Allocation funds are insufficient to meet costs associated with the requirements of this bill.

The Senate companion, SB 1056 by Senator Kathleen Passidomo (R – Naples), is waiting to be heard by the Appropriations Committee.

Spotlight on Bills

CS/SB 1548 – K-12 Student Safety by Senator Lauren Book (D – Plantation), modifies Florida law regarding educator certification requirements and district school board duties relating to school safety. Specifically, the bill:

  • Expands the applicability of certain employment disqualification criteria to include all positions that require direct contact with students.
  • Grants the Department of Education and the Education Practices Commission additional authority to enforce the educator certification requirements and impose penalties against persons who do not comply with certification requirements.
  • Requires the holder of a Florida educator certification to agree to inform his or her employer within 48 hours if arrested for any disqualifying offense while employed in a position that requires the certification.
  • Provides that persons employed as part-time teachers by the district school board are not exempt from the certification requirements for all school-based personnel.
  • Specifies that an adjunct teaching certificate may not be used to fulfill the certification requirements for a person who is employed and renders service as an athletic coach in any public school in Florida.
  • Requires an educator who has been placed on probation to immediately notify the investigative office in the DOE upon separation from employment in any public or private position requiring a Florida educator’s certificate.

The bill reported favorably by the Criminal Justice Committee and is now in the Appropriations Committee. A comparable bill in the House, HB 7055 by Representative Michael Bileca (R – Miami), has passed the House.

CS/SB 1006 – Disaster Response and Preparedness by Senator Bill Montford (D- Tallahassee, FSU Alum), amends the State Emergency Management Act by modifying certain components of the state comprehensive emergency management plan (CEMP), assigning additional responsibilities to the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM), and enhancing the participation of state colleges and universities during emergencies. Specifically, the bill requires the FDEM to:

  • Include in the CEMP policy guidance for sheltering people with special needs or mental illness and individuals experiencing homelessness, and strategies for sheltering and evacuating persons with service animals or pets;
  • Publish information on its website regarding policies governing the acceptance of service animals or pets at shelters;
  • Include in its statewide public awareness programs information on the different types of shelters available such as special needs shelters and shelters that accept individuals with service animals or pets;
  • Deploy public or private resources to provide guidance regarding procedures and required documentation to any entity entitled to receive reimbursements for disaster-related expenditures from FEMA; and
  • Establish and maintain, in coordination with each local emergency management agency, a registry with each homeless shelter and homeless service provider in the state.

The bill also requires Florida College System institutions and state universities to provide facilities, necessary personnel to staff such facilities, and transportation assistance during a declared state or local disaster, if requested by a local emergency manager.

The bill reported favorably by the Military and Veterans Affairs, Space and Domestic Security Committee. The House companion, HB 1443 by Representative Ramon Alexander (D – Tallahassee), is waiting to be heard in the Oversight, Transparency and Administration Subcommittee.

PCB WMS 18-03 – Taxation by Representative Paul Renner (R – Palm Coast), is a proposed committee bill that provides for a wide range of tax reductions and modifications designed to directly impact both households and businesses. The bill contains several provisions related to sales tax:

  • Tax rate reduction for tax on commercial rentals (business rent tax).
  • Includes new, extended, or expanded sales tax exemptions for:
    • Sales tax credits for contributions to the Gardner Scholarship and Florida Tax Credit Scholarship programs;
    • Certain generators for nursing homes and assisted living facilities;
    • Certain purchases of agriculture related fencing materials and building materials for repair of storm damage from Hurricane Irma;
  • Sales tax holidays:
    • A ten-day “back-to-school” holiday for clothing, footwear, school supplies, and computers;
    • Three seven-day “disaster preparedness” holiday for sales of specified items related to disaster preparedness.

For property tax purposes, the bill provides property tax relief for certain homestead property damaged by Hurricanes Hermine, Matthew or Irma; for certain citrus processing equipment idled as a result of citrus greening or Hurricane Irma; for certain unremarried surviving spouses of disabled ex-service-members and updates the list of named military operations for which deployed service-members may receive property tax relief for their homestead property.

For corporate income tax purposes, the bill provides an additional $13 million for tax credits for fiscal year 2018-19 for voluntary brownfields clean-up and an additional $6.5 million for community contribution tax credits in fiscal year 2019-20 (also may be taken against sales tax and insurance premiums tax).

Further changes include: an 18 percent reduction in certain traffic fines if the driver attends a driver improvement course; exemptions from documentary stamp taxes for certain transfers of property between spouses and for certain notes and mortgages given for loans made in connection with local housing finance authorities; exemption from certain fuel taxes for certain agricultural related uses; several changes adding flexibility to the use of tax credits under the Florida Scholarship Tax Credit Program; a requirement for reporting of certain financial information by certain recipients of sales tax and cigarette tax distributions; and a clarification to the uses for which the local infrastructure sales surtax may be used.

The total impact of the bill in fiscal year 2018-19 is -$332.7 million (-$262.2 million recurring).

HB 633—Florida Smart City Challenge Grant Program by Representative Jason Fischer (R – Jacksonville), creates a permanent Florida Smart City Challenge Grant Program within DOT. Goals for the program include:

  • Developing smart mobility solutions to local transportation challenges;
  • Deploying technology with an immediate impact on moving people and goods, including the transportation disadvantaged;
  • Advancing autonomous, connected and electric vehicle technologies, as well as other emerging technologies that support our workforce;
  • Relying on renewable energy sources and electronic technologies; and
  • Creating a mobility demonstration community in Florida.

The bill provides eligibility requirements and requires DOT to issue a request for proposal for the award of grants by September 1, 2018. DOT may award grants of up to $6 million to up to three recipients. Grant funds may fund up to 50 percent of the cost of the project. The bill provides various reporting requirements and requires DOT to provide administrative support for the program.

The bill was amended and reported favorably last week by the Transportation and Tourism Subcommittee. The amendment modified program goals related to grid-integrated vehicles and fossil fuel consumption; modified dates by which both proposals and awards are made, and clarified such proposals and awards are subject to appropriation; expanded allowable award recipients to at least three; removed a $6 million award cap; and authorized the selection of independent entities related to administrative support functions.

A similar bill in the Senate, SB 852 by Senator Jeff Brandes (R – St. Petersburg), is waiting to be heard by the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development.