LegisLetter: April 15, 2019

Volume 26, Number 7

Happy Week 7.

Governor DeSantis joined Chancellor Criser and President John Thrasher

This morning, Governor DeSantis joined Chancellor Criser and President John Thrasher for an on-campus event in Dodd Hall in support of free speech on state university and state college campuses. He has asked that all institutions of higher learning memorialize their commitment to the First Amendment by adopting and posting a value statement. Florida State University proudly embraces diverse opinions, robust debate, and a true spirit of freedom of expression.

In his remarks today, President Thrasher quoted Clark Kerr, chancellor of the university of California Berkeley (1952-1957) and president of the University of California system (1958-1967, “the University is not engaged in making ideas safe for students. It is engaged in making students safe for ideas. Thus, it permits the freest expression of views before students, trusting to their good sense in passing judgment on those views. Only in this way can it best serve American democracy.”

The Governor’s visit comes at a great time because it reminds our legislators of the value and importance of our state universities. We have received excellent feedback on the #OurSuccessIsFloridaSuccess social media campaign. Special thanks to Browning Brooks and her team for publishing powerful reminders of our positive contribution to our students and Florida’s economy. We really have an outstanding story to tell.

FSU Day at the Capitol was a great success! Thank you to all of the colleges and departments that participated. We had over 50 display tables that dazzled capital visitors and regulars. We received such positive feedback – we even received a few Gator compliments.

I want to take a moment to thank Chris Adcock and Toni Moore in the Office of Government Relations for their tireless work. From food and festivities to linens and lighting up the Old Capitol in garnet and gold, we were able to showcase our work in an elegant and festive environment thanks to them.

There is still not a great deal of reportable news on the budget or major higher education legislation. We are in the negotiating period and will likely not know exactly how we will fare until the very end. President Thrasher had key contacts last week, including face-to-face meetings with Senate President Bill Galvano, House Speaker Jose Oliva, Senate Appropriations Chair Rob Bradley, and House Appropriations Chair Travis Cummings. The President was able to convey how important for the state to continue a strong investment in our universities, and especially Florida State.

We continue to watch and wait for the outcome. In the meantime, we are doing all we can to be as helpful and vocal as we can on the issues that impact us.

Thank you for your interest and support. We look forward to another big week.

Go Noles!

Kathy Mears

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 to make this special day possible.

Special thanks also goes 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 and the cheerleaders and members of the Flying High Circus, along with our National Champion Softball and Soccer teams were all also in attendance. 

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, legislative staff, alumni and supporters gathered with students and other members of the campus community to meet, talk and enjoy wonderful food.

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

4 Rivers Smokehouse
Seminole Dining -- Legacy Catering by Sodexo
Coca Cola Bottling of Tallahassee
Sharkey’s Capitol Grill
Ard, Shirley and Rudolph, P.A.
J. Keith Arnold
Slater and Sara Bayliss
Greg and Melanie Black
Ronald L. Book, P.A.
Ken Cashin
Jorge and Ivette Chamizo
Childers Construction Company – Van Champion
ContributionLink, LLC – Brecht Heuchan
Cameron and Tanya Cooper
David R. Custin and Associates, Inc.
Dean, Mead and Dunbar
Reginald R. Garcia, P.A.
Jennifer Green, Liberty Partners of Tallahassee
Larry and Mary Carol Gonzalez
Lee Hinkle
Foley and Lardner, LLP -- Robert H. Hosay
Jim Horne
Johnson and Blanton
Nick and Debbie Iarossi
Jeff Kottkamp, P.A.
Mabry and Associates
The Mayernick Group
Lisa Miller and Associates, LLC
Christopher Moya
Moyle Law Firm, P.A.
Ounce of Prevention Fund of Florida
Larry J. Overton and Associates
Diana H. Padgett
Bill Peebles
Ron Richmond
Sansom Group
David Shepp
Jim and Carole Smith
Guy M. Spearman, III and Delores Spearman
Southern Strategy Group
U. S. Sugar Corporation
Wilson and Associates – Kari Hebrank
Victoria Vangalis Zepp

Spotlight on Bills

Update on Bills

CS/CS/CS HB 839 – Higher Education by Representative Ray Rodrigues (R – Ft. Myers), was heard by the Education Committee, where ten amendments passed  and then the bill reported favorably as a committee substitute. The amendments:

  • require employees or officers of an FCS institution be included in DMS’s website that provides current information relating to such employees or officers of a state agency, a state university, or the State Board of Administration, regardless of the appropriation category from which the person is paid;
  • requires the BOG to define the data and methodology used in performance and preeminence funding, and requires each state university to conduct and submit an audit to the BOG’s Office of Inspector General;
  • provide a definition of “branch campus”; prohibit the BOG from using the consolidated data from USF and its branch campuses for purposes of determining USF’s eligibility for preeminence funding until July 1, 2022 and require the BOG to monitor the fidelity of the implementation of SACSCOC accreditation consolidation;
  • remove the prohibition of a Phosphate Research and Activities Board member serving more than 180 days after the expiration of his or her term;
  • require the Commissioner of Education to provide recommendations to the SBE and the Legislature for future consideration on the most efficient process to achieve a complete performance-based, continuous improvement model that provides for the equitable distribution of performance funds to FCS institutions;
  • make a technical change regarding the transfer of state appropriations by the UF BOT to Shands Teaching Hospital and Clinic, Inc., Shands Jacksonville Medical Center, Inc., Shands Jacksonsville HealthCare, Inc.;
  • authorize the transfer of state appropriations by a university BOT to any of its DSO’s and its subsidiaries and affiliates for only funds pledged for capital projects;
  • establish a “2+2” targeted pathway program for state universities and FCS institutions, and provide requirements such articulation agreements and student participation; and
  • require each district school board to notify students who enroll in articulated acceleration mechanism courses or who take postsecondary examinations of the credit-by-examination equivalency list adopted in rule by the SBE and the dual enrollment course and high school subject area equivalencies approved by the SBE.

A similar bill in the Senate, SB 1296 by Senator Manny Diaz (R – Hialeah Gardens), is waiting to be heard in the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education.

CS/SB 442 – Postsecondary Education for Certain Military Personnel by Senator Tom Lee (R – Brandon), was amended by Military and Veterans Affairs and Space Committee;  Specifically the amendment:

  • Provides for the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs to participate in regulation and rulemaking with the Board of Governors (BOG) and the State Board of Education (SBE);
  • Establishes a workgroup convened by the Articulation Coordinating Committee to develop a uniform process and make recommendations for the award of postsecondary credit based on military experience and credentials;
  • Staffs the workgroup with 13 members representing various entities;
  • Requires the Office of K-20 Articulation to provide administrative support to the workgroup;
  • Authorizes an institution to award credit even if it is not for the purpose of earning a degree or certification;
  • Imposes the following deadlines:
    • The workgroup must provide recommendations to the BOG and the SBE by December 1, 2019;
    • The Articulation Coordinating Committee must facilitate the review of military experience and credentials for postsecondary course equivalencies by January 1, 2020; and
    • The Articulation Coordinating Committee must approve a list of postsecondary course equivalencies and credit no later than November 30, 2020; and Enables spouses and dependents, in addition to active duty service-members and veterans, to have the fee waived on a transcript request.

The bill reported favorably by the Appropriations Committee last week and will next be heard by the full Senate.  The identical bill in the House, HB 217 by Representative Adam Hattersley (D – Riverview), is waiting to be heard by the full House.

Spotlight on Bills

CS/SB 982 – Human Trafficking Education in Schools by Senator Perry Thurston (D – Ft. Lauderdale), requires that information regarding the dangers and signs of human trafficking be included in the comprehensive health education instruction that is required to be administered in the public school system. The bill permits a student to opt out of such human trafficking educational instruction by providing the school with a written note from his or her parent.

The bill also requires the Department of Legal Affairs, subject to appropriations, to develop campaigns to increase awareness of human trafficking.

The bill reported favorably by the Criminal Justice Committee last week and is now waiting to be heard in the Appropriations Committee.  The House companion, HB 259 by Representative Patricia Williams (D – Ft. Lauderdale), is waiting to be heard by the full House.

CS/SB 292 – Education by Senator Tom Lee (R – Brandon), prohibits a district school board from barring a student from lawfully wearing to his or her graduation ceremony a uniform of any of the Armed Forces of the state or of the United States.  The bill is scheduled to be heard by the full Senate this week.  The House Companion, HB 225 by Representative Mike Beltran (R – Valrico), is waiting to be heard by the full House.

SB 382 – Teacher Scholarship Program by Senator Bill Montford (D – Tallahassee, FSU Alum), establishes the Teacher Scholarship (scholarship) Program to encourage students who exhibit academic excellence to pursue a career in education. The bill specifies the following:

  • Eligibility criteria for undergraduate and graduate students in a teacher preparation program to qualify for the scholarship.
    • An eligible undergraduate student may be awarded a scholarship of up to $5,000 per semester, not to exceed $10,000 per year, for 2 undergraduate years or for a maximum of 3 years for a program that requires a fifth year of instruction to obtain an initial teaching certification.
    • An eligible graduate student may be awarded a scholarship of up to $5,000 per semester, not to exceed $10,000 per year, for up to 2 years.
  • Eligibility criteria for scholarship recipients to receive a one-time stipend in the amount of $10,000.
  • Requirements for the Department of Education (DOE) and public postsecondary education institutions with teacher preparation programs approved by the DOE.

The bill reported favorably by the Education Committee last week and is waiting to be heard by the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education.  There is no House companion at this time.

SB 914 – Educational Dollars for Duty Program by Senator Jason Pizzo (D – Miami), revises the Educational Dollars for Duty Program, that provides tuition and fee assistance to eligible members of the Florida National Guard to take courses at a public or private postsecondary institution, public vocational-technical program, a training center for industry certification, or at a facility offering continuing education.

The bill expands participation by allowing an eligible member of the state National Guard who has already obtained a master’s level degree through the program to apply for continued tuition and fee assistance to pursue a doctoral or professional degree. Current law prohibits a person who has obtained a master’s degree through the program from receiving additional funds.

While the bill increases eligibility, tuition and fees are capped at 50 percent of the cost for a doctoral or professional degree program.

The bill reported favorably by the Military, Veterans Affairs and Space Committee last week and is waiting to be heard by the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development.  A similar bill in the House, HB 345 by Representative Ramon Alexander (D – Tallahassee), is waiting to be heard by the Local, Federal and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee.

WMC 2 – Taxation by Representative Bryan Avila (R – Hialeah), provides for several tax reductions and other tax-related modifications designed to directly impact both families and businesses.

The bill includes the following provisions related to sales tax:

  • A reduction in the tax rate for commercial property rentals from 5.7% to 5.35%,
  • A three-day “back-to-school” holiday for certain clothing, school supplies, and personal computers, and
  • A seven-day “disaster preparedness” holiday for specified disaster preparedness items.

Regarding property taxes, the bill includes the following:

  • The requirements for hospitals to qualify for a charitable tax exemption are amended. These are the provisions of CS/HB 1295. Non-profit hospitals would be required to document the value of charitable services they provide, and their current charitable tax exemption would be limited to the value of that charity care.
  • Clarification is provided that usage of school district voted discretionary operating property tax levies is to apply proportionately to charter schools in the levying district in the same manner as charter schools are funded under current law.
  • The timing of payments to local governments in fiscally constrained counties and Monroe County to offset property tax refunds granted to homeowners due to hurricanes in 2016 and 2017 would be slightly delayed in fiscal year 2019-20 to allow for the related state appropriation to be based on actual data, instead of an estimate.
  • Additional flexibility is granted to the Department of Revenue in conducting in-depth reviews of property assessment rolls in counties affected by natural disasters.

Further changes include additional flexibility in the use of tax credits by insurance premium tax payers under the Florida Scholarship Tax Credit Program.

The bill was workshopped by the Ways and Means Committee last week and submitted as HB 7123.  There is no Senate companion at this time.