March 15, 2021
Volume 28, Number 3
Thank you for taking a few moments to review this week’s Legisletter as we enter week three of the 2021 Legislative Session.
Of note last week, SB 86 dealing with Student Financial Aid, was temporarily postponed in the Senate Education Committee. An expected amended version is currently on the agenda to be heard in the same committee this week.
Looking ahead, The House and Senate Appropriations Committees and Subcommittees will continue to work on crafting their respective budgets this week while balancing the current revenue projections and the impact of federal COVID 19 relief funds. The policy committees and subcommittees will also continue their work vetting bills through the process and both chambers are scheduled to spend time in full session.
Below you will find updates on some of the bills that we are tracking related to the work of the University. Please reach out to me or Toni Moore if you have any questions about these bills or anything related to the legislative process.
It is also more important than ever to register to “Advocate for Florida State” by going to http://www.advocateforfloridastate.fsu.edu and signing up to receive updates and alerts.
I wish you all the best and am grateful for your interest in keeping FSU and the state university system of Florida the best in the country as we continue to educate the next generation of elite students.
Yours in Seminole Spirit,
Spotlight on Bills
CS/CS/HB 233 – Postsecondary Education by Representative Spencer Roach (R – North Ft. Myers)
CS/CS/HB 233 – Postsecondary Education by Representative Spencer Roach (R – North Ft. Myers), provides that intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity are essential to the education of Florida’s college and university students.
To assess the status of intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity, the bill requires the State Board of Education (SBE) and Board of Governors of the State University System (BOG) to select or create a survey to be administered by all Florida College System (FCS) institutions and state universities annually. Beginning September 1, 2022, the results of this survey are to be compiled by the SBE and the BOG, respectively, and published each September. Additionally, to encourage intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity, the bill prohibits the SBE, the BOG, FCS institutions, and state universities from shielding students, faculty, or staff from protected free speech.
The bill authorizes the recording, for specified purposes, of video and audio in classrooms at Florida’s public institutions of higher education, while clarifying that the nonconsensual recording of video and audio in classrooms is permissible. Furthermore, the bill clarifies that faculty research, lectures, writings, and commentary, whether published or unpublished, are protected expressive rights. Any person injured by the unauthorized publishing of video and audio can seek civil remedy including injunctive relief and damages.
Providing further protections for students, the bill requires that state university student government associations provide elected or appointed officers a direct appeal, with no conditions precedent, to a senior university administrator of any discipline, suspension, or removal from office. Furthermore, all FCS institutions and state universities are required to adopt student codes of conduct that meet a set of minimum due process protections including, but not limited to, a presumption of innocence for accused students, a burden of proof that must be carried by the institution, and a right to an impartial hearing officer.
The bill was amended last week by the Education and Employment Committee to provide that, when video or audio recorded in a classroom is published without the lecturer’s consent, the lecturer may be entitled to damages plus court costs and reasonable attorney fees, with the total recovery not to exceed $200,000. The bill is scheduled to be heard by the full House on Thursday. The Senate companion, CS/SB 264 by Senator Ray Rodrigues (R – Ft. Myers), is waiting to be heard by the Appropriations Committee.
CS/SB 1436 – Florida Postsecondary Academic Library Network by Senator Joe Gruters (R – Sarasota, FSU Alum)
CS/SB 1436 – Florida Postsecondary Academic Library Network by Senator Joe Gruters (R – Sarasota, FSU Alum), establishes the Florida Postsecondary Academic Library Network (Network) under the joint oversight of the BOG and the Department of Education, and repeals the Complete Florida Plus Program (Complete Florida Plus). The bill retains certain functions from Complete Florida Plus Program, with modifications, and adds new functions. The bill:
- Maintains Complete Florida Plus purposes related to distance learning courses and degree programs, and online academic support services, but specifies that the Network purposes must include providing recommendations on the use and distribution of open-access textbooks and education resources to reduce costs.
- Specifies that the Network single library automation system and associated resources and services must include a shared Internet-based catalog and discovery tool, an Internet-based searchable collection of electronic resources, an integrated library management system, and a statewide searchable database that includes an inventory of digital archives and collections that public postsecondary education institutions hold.
- Increases reporting requirements on host entity performance in delivering specified services.
- Maintains an online admissions and computer-assisted student advising system, but removes the Complete Florida Plus requirement that the advising system support K-20 education.
- Requires, by June 1, 2022, the Commissioner of Education and the Chancellor of the BOG to provide a joint recommendation for a process by which school district career centers and charter technical career centers would access appropriate Network services.
The bill reported favorably by the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education. The House companion, HB 847 by Representative Cord Byrd (R – Jacksonville Beach), reported favorably by the Post-Secondary Education and Lifelong Learning Subcommittee.
CS/CS/SB 52 – Postsecondary Education by Senator Ray Rodrigues (R – Ft. Myers)
CS/CS/SB 52 – Postsecondary Education by Senator Ray Rodrigues (R – Ft. Myers), contains provisions to help postsecondary institutions provide certain educational and financial benefits and support to students and employees. Specifically, the bill:
- Clarifies that postsecondary tuition and fee exemptions apply to a student who is currently in the custody of the Department of Children and Families or a specified relative or nonrelative, or who was at the time he or she reached 18 years of age.
- Establishes the Dual Enrollment Scholarship Program to reimburse eligible postsecondary institutions for tuition and related costs for dual enrollment courses taken by certain students, and specifies reporting deadlines.
- Authorizes a university board of trustees, subject to approval by the Board of Governors, to target certain employees for bonuses by implementing a bonus scheme based on awards for work performance or employee recruitment and retention.
For the 2021-2022 fiscal year, the Dual Enrollment Scholarship Program is estimated to cost $28.5 million.
The bill reported favorably by the Appropriations Committee last week and is waiting to be heard by the full Senate. A similar bill in the House, HB 281 by Representative Wyman Duggan (R – Jacksonville), reported favorably by the Post-Secondary Education and Lifelong Learning Subcommittee. A comparable bill in the Senate, SB 86 by Senator Dennis Baxley (R – Lady Lake, FSU Alum), is scheduled to be heard by the Education Committee tomorrow.
CS/SB 782 – Educational Opportunities for Veterans by Senator Janet Cruz (D – Tampa)
CS/SB 782 – Educational Opportunities for Veterans by Senator Janet Cruz (D – Tampa), grants disabled veterans who qualify as residents of the state 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.
The bill reported favorably by the Military and Veterans Affairs, Space and Domestic Security Committee last week. A similar bill in the House, HB 1347 by Representative Daisy Morales (D – Orlando), is waiting to be heard in the Local Administration and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee.
HB 997 – Public Records and Meetings/Postsecondary Education Executive Search by Representative Sam Garrison (R – Orange Park)
HB 997 – Public Records and Meetings/Postsecondary Education Executive Search by Representative Sam Garrison (R – Orange Park), creates an exemption from public record and public meeting requirements for information associated with the applicant recruitment process and discussions associated with the applicant search for the position of president of a state university or FCS institution.
The bill provides that any personal identifying information of an applicant for president of a state university or FCS institution is confidential and exempt from public record requirements. The bill provides that the personal identifying information of applicants who comprise a final group of applicants for president is no longer confidential and exempt from public record requirements at least 21 days before the date of a meeting at which either an interview is conducted or at which final action or a vote is to be taken on the employment of applicants.
The bill also creates a public meeting exemption for any meeting held for the purpose of identifying or vetting applicants for president of a state university or FCS institution, including any portion of a meeting that would disclose the personal identifying information of applicants. However, a recording must be made of any closed portion of a meeting and the meeting cannot be held off the record. The recording is exempt from public record requirements. The public meeting exemption does not apply to a meeting held for the purpose of establishing the qualifications of potential applicants or establishing a compensation framework. Any meeting held after a final group of applicants has been selected at which an interview is to be conducted or at which final action or a vote is to be taken on the employment of applicants must be open to the public.
The bill reported favorably by the Post-Secondary Education and Lifelong Learning Subcommittee last week. A similar bill in the Senate, SB 220 by Senator Jeff Brandes (R – St. Petersburg), is waiting to be heard by the Rules Committee.
HB 507 – Education by Representative Alex Rizo (R – Hialeah)
HB 507 – Education by Representative Alex Rizo (R – Hialeah), updates the postsecondary civic literacy requirements to include both passing a civic literacy assessment and completing a course in civic literacy. These requirements may be met in high school through the administration of the civic literacy assessment in the required U.S. Government course and completion of an approved civic literacy course through an articulated accelerated mechanism, such as dual enrollment.
The bill provides the Department of Education the authority to hold patents, trademarks, copyrights, and service marks. The bill provides additional protections for assessments by including more assessments under the protection of State Board of Education test security rules. The bill deletes obsolete language relating to prior statewide standardized assessments and updates the assessment publication requirement in anticipation of the implementation of new state standards.
Additionally, the bill provides, subject to appropriation, for school districts to select either the SAT or the ACT and administer the selected assessment for all grade 11 students.
The bill reported favorably by the Secondary Education and Career Development Subcommittee last week and is now waiting to be heard in the Post-Secondary Education and Lifelong Learning Subcommittee. A similar bill in the Senate, SB 1108 by Senator Manny Diaz (R – Hialeah Gardens), has been referred to the Judiciary, Education, and Appropriations committees.
CS/SB 598 – Back-to-school Sales Tax Holiday by Senator Keith Perry (R – Grainsville),
CS/SB 598 – Back-to-school Sales Tax Holiday by Senator Keith Perry (R – Grainsville), establishes a 10-day “back-to-school” sales tax holiday from Friday, July 30, 2021, to Sunday, August 8, 2021, for certain clothing, school supplies, personal computers, and personal computer-related accessories.
The bill reported favorably by the Finance and Tax Committee last week. There is no House companion at this time.
SB 1450 – Civic Education Curriculum by Senator Ray Rodrigues (R – Ft. Myers),
SB 1450 – Civic Education Curriculum by Senator Ray Rodrigues (R – Ft. Myers), requires the Florida Department of Education (DOE) to develop or approve an integrated civic education curriculum for public school students in kindergarten through grade 12. The bill provides requirements for the civic education curriculum to aid in students’ development of civic responsibility and knowledge.
The bill also establishes the “Portraits in Patriotism Act,” which integrates into the civics education curriculum personal stories of diverse individuals who demonstrate civic-minded qualities, including first-person accounts of victims of other nations’ governing philosophies who can compare those philosophies with the philosophies of the United States.
The bill provides that the United States Government course that is required to earn a standard high school diploma include a comparative discussion of political ideologies that conflict with the principles of freedom and democracy in the nation’s founding principles.
The bill reported favorably by the Education Committee and is now waiting to be heard by the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education. The Identical bill in the House, HB 5 by Representative Ardian Zika (R – Land O’Lakes), reported favorably by the PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee last week.
CS/SB 200 – Student Retention by Senator Lori Berman (D – Boynton Beach),
CS/SB 200 – Student Retention by Senator Lori Berman (D – Boynton Beach), authorizes a parent to request that his or her K-8 public school student be retained, for the 2021-2022 school year, in the grade level to which the student was assigned at the beginning of the 2020-21 school year. Specifically, the bill requires:
- Parents to submit a retention request in writing to the school district superintendent by June 30, 2021;
- The superintendent to grant the retention request if timely filed, but authorizes the superintendent to grant a late request;
- That a student retained under this act may not qualify for midyear promotion and must remain in the grade retained until the student qualifies for promotion at the end of the school year; and
- School districts to report to the Department of Education the number of retained students under this act.
The bill reported favorably by the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education. The identical bill in the House, HB 1025 by Representative Kelly Skidmore (D – Boca Raton), is waiting to be heard by the Early Learning and Elementary Education Subcommittee.