January 21, 2020
Volume 27, Number 2
Last Tuesday, state lawmakers opened the 2020 Legislative Session surrounded by family members and celebratory foliage. In his State of the State speech to a joint session of the House and Senate, Governor DeSantis declared this session the “year of the teacher,” and advocated for a minimum base pay for K-12 teachers of $47,500. House and Senate leaders were cautious in their embrace of the proposal, however, citing limited resources and a long list of initiatives that require funding. So, the parameters are set and the debates have begun.
Yesterday’s holiday will make for a more concentrated workweek as lawmakers grind through dozens of bills during committee meetings this week. Late today, the Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee will hear a bill that repeals the law that designated the building housing the Florida State College of Law as B.K. Roberts Hall.
On Wednesday, the House Higher Education Committee will be briefed by a panel of university CFO’s, including FSU Vice President Kyle Clark, on university naming policies. For an overview of other bills we are following this week, please see the Spotlight on Bills section of this newsletter.
You too can follow the legislative action via the Florida Channel. As always, please feel free to contact me with questions or concerns, or for copies of bills and their analysis. I can be reached at (850) 644-4453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
CS/SB 1114 – Cost-of-living Adjustments to State Employee Salaries by Senator Bill Montford (D – Tallahassee, FSU Alum)
CS/SB 1114 – Cost-of-living Adjustments to State Employee Salaries by Senator Bill Montford (D – Tallahassee, FSU Alum), creates an annual salary adjustment for eligible state employees filling established positions in the executive and judicial branches, and certain employees of the state university system, contingent upon an appropriation by the Legislature. The pay adjustments are equivalent to the percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index during the third quarter over the prior year’s third quarter. The percentage increase for 2020 is estimated to be two percent.
The fiscal impact of a pay adjustment implemented pursuant to this bill is estimated to be $95.2 million for FY 2020-21 and $190.3 million annually thereafter.
The bill reported favorably by the Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee last week and is now in the Appropriations Committee. A similar bill in the House, HB 845 by Representative Ramon Alexander (D – Tallahassee) is waiting to be heard in the Oversight, Transparency & Public Management Subcommittee.
SB 96 – Educational Opportunities for Veterans by Senator Janet Cruz (D – Tampa)
SB 96 – Educational Opportunities for Veterans by Senator Janet Cruz (D – Tampa), grants disabled veterans an education benefit to fully provide for the cost of tuition and fees charged at a public postsecondary academic institution. An award provided in this bill is intended to supplement what is provided to a recipient through the federal Post 9/11 GI Bill to reach a 100 percent payment of tuition and fees. To qualify, a veteran must have been:
- Determined to have a service-connected 100-percent total and permanent disability rating for compensation;
- Determined to have a service-connected total and permanent disability rating of 100 percent and have received disability retirement pay from a branch of the United States Armed Services; or
- Issued a valid identification card by the state Department of Veterans’ Affairs either identifying the veteran as having a 100-percent, service-connected permanent and total disability rating for compensation; or who has a service-connected total and permanent disability rating of 100 percent and receives disability retirement pay from the Armed Forces.
Beginning with the 2020-2021 academic year, a disabled veteran who receives a tuition benefit to attend a state university or a Florida College System institution under the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008 (also known as the Post-9/11 GI Bill), but who does not qualify for the 100-percent eligibility tier federally, is eligible for an award of tuition and fees. To qualify under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, a veteran must have served after September 10, 2001, an aggregate minimum of 90 days active duty; been discharged or released for a service-connected disability after serving a minimum 30 consecutive days of active duty; or been designated a Purple Heart recipient. A person who serves less than 36 months is eligible for a reduced benefit, ranging from 40 to 90 percent of the full benefit.
The bill reported favorably by the Military and Veterans Affairs and Space Committee and is now awaiting hearing in the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education. There is no House companion at this time.
SB 7042 –State University Facility Designations by Senator Bill Montford (D – Tallahassee, FSU Alum)
SB 7042 –State University Facility Designations by Senator Bill Montford (D – Tallahassee, FSU Alum), establishes a process for naming and renaming state university facilities. Specifically, the bill:
- Requires the Board of Governors (BOG) to adopt regulations to specify authority, procedures, and elements related to the naming or renaming of any state university facilities.
- Requires the BOG regulations to specify the respective responsibilities of the BOG and state university boards of trustees and presidents, and procedural requirements regarding transparency, public engagement, nongift-related and gift-related considerations, approval, and other transparency and accountability requirements deemed appropriate by the BOG.
- Repeals Florida law that designated the building housing the FSU College of Law as the B.K. Roberts Hall.
- Provides legislative intent regarding the naming of the FSU College of Law facility.
The bill is scheduled to be heard in the Governmental Oversight & Accountability Committee later today. There is no House companion at this time.
SB 1088 – Teacher Salary Enhancement by Senator Manny Diaz (R – Hialeah Gardens)
SB 1088 – Teacher Salary Enhancement by Senator Manny Diaz (R – Hialeah Gardens), establishes a new teacher salary enhancement to increase teacher salaries as prescribed by the Legislature in the General Appropriations Act (GAA). The bill allows a school district that meets the teacher salary enhancement requirements specified in the GAA to use any additional funds provided in the allocation for any district operating expenditure. The bill reported favorably by the Education Committee last week and is waiting to be heard by the Appropriations Committee. There is no House companion at this time.
HB 581—Civic Education by Representative Ben Diamond (D – St. Petersburg)
HB 581—Civic Education by Representative Ben Diamond (D – St. Petersburg), requires the Commissioner of Education to develop minimum criteria for a civic literacy practicum that may be incorporated into a school’s curriculum for the high school United States Government course beginning with the 2021-2022 school year. The civic literacy practicum must be nonpartisan, focus on addressing at least one community issue, and promote civil discourse.
The bill establishes minimum requirements for a student to complete a civic literacy practicum, including identifying a civic issue, researching and developing an involvement plan to address the issue, and creating a portfolio evaluating and reflecting on the experience and outcome, or likely outcome, of his or her involvement.
The hours a student spends implementing an involvement plan may be counted toward community service requirements of the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program. School districts should integrate practicum activities and hours into requirements for academic awards. The bill requires the State Board of Education to establish criteria and annually designate public schools that provide students with high-quality civic learning as Freedom Schools. The bill reported favorably by the PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee last week and is now in the PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee. A similar bill in the Senate, SB 918 by Senator Jeff Brandes (R – St. Petersburg) is scheduled to be heard by the Education Committee today.
CS/SB 534 – Education by Senator Manny Diaz (R – Hialeah Gardens)
CS/SB 534 – Education by Senator Manny Diaz (R – Hialeah Gardens), requires the Department of Education (DOE) to maintain a list of persons permanently disqualified from employment in a public school or a private school that participates in a state educational scholarship program. The bill requires the disqualification list to include the identities of persons whose misconduct affects the health, safety, or welfare of a student and proscribes public schools, private schools participating in state scholarship programs, and approved virtual instruction providers from employing a person in a position with direct contact with students if the person is included on the disqualification list. The bill also:
- Requires that educational support employees be included to the same extent required for instructional personnel and school administrators in policies establishing standards of ethical conduct and procedures for investigating, reporting, and terminating personnel.
- Requires the complete investigation of complaints of misconduct by public school personnel and provides authority for the DOE to place a person on the disqualification list.
- Provides that a person commits a felony of the third degree for employing a person identified on the disqualification list.
- Provides authority for the DOE to remove a person from the disqualification list.
- Prohibits district school boards from rescreening an employee of an approved virtual instruction provider who has been screened in accordance with the rules for instructional and non-instructional personnel with direct contact with students in a district school system.
The bill reported favorably by the Education Committee and is waiting to be heard by the Appropriations Committee. The House companion, HB 883 by Representative Wyman Duggan (R – Jacksonville) is scheduled to be heard later today by the PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee.
SB 1302 –Sovereign Immunity by Senator Anitere Flores (R – Miami)
SB 1302 –Sovereign Immunity by Senator Anitere Flores (R – Miami), waives the sovereign immunity of the state and its agencies and subdivisions for tort claims for damages resulting from the actions of government employees acting in the scope of employment, if those actions are in bad faith, with a malicious purpose, or in a manner exhibiting a disregard for human rights, safety, or property.
The bill also increases the per-occurrence limit on the collectability of judgments against government entities from $300,000 to $1 million, and eliminates the $200,000-per-claimant limit. These new limits will apply to lawsuits that have not been adjudicated before the effective date of the bill.
The bill further allows government entities to settle claims in any amount without the approval of a claim bill by the Legislature. In contrast, current law allows government entities to settle and pay amounts exceeding the sovereign immunity caps only to the extent of insurance coverage. Otherwise, current law requires that the payment of the portion of a claim or judgment exceeding the sovereign immunity caps be approved by the Legislature in a claim bill. The bill is scheduled to be heard by the Judiciary Committee later today. There is no House companion at this time.
SB 1220 – Education by Senator Manny Diaz (R – Hialeah Gardens)
SB 1220 – Education by Senator Manny Diaz (R – Hialeah Gardens), modifies provisions relating to initial teacher preparation (ITP) programs, demonstration of subject area mastery for educator certification, and the Education Practices Commission (EPC). Specifically, the bill:
- Modifies admissions and uniform core curricula requirements for ITP programs by:
- Changing from an admission requirement to a program requirement the provisions related to student grade point average and mastery of general knowledge.
- Modifying ITP program core curricula relating to reading instructional strategies and adding a new requirement for mental health strategies and support.
- Authorizes an additional option to demonstrate mastery of subject area competence to include a bachelor’s degree in the subject area, with conditions.
- Modifies requirements relating to the EPC to specify that:
- The Commissioner of Education may select and remove the EPC executive director, and may establish the duties of the executive director.
- The administrative assignment of the EPC to the Department of Education includes fiscal accountability.
- The EPC may expend funds for legal services, and removes the authority to expend funds for a general counsel or access to counsel.
The bill is scheduled to be heard in the Education Committee later today. There is no House companion at this time.