March 22, 2021
Volume 28, Number 4
Thank you for taking a few moments to review the Legisletter. As week four of the legislative session begins at the Capitol, major policy initiatives are becoming clearer as they make their way through the committee process. It is also anticipated that subcommittee budget recommendations could be released this week.
Last week, HB 233 related to Intellectual Freedom and Viewpoint Diversity was passed in the House and the companion bill in the Senate, SB 264, passed in the Appropriations Committee. SB 86 relating to Student Financial Aid is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee with a new strike-all amendment on Tuesday.
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 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 in 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/SB 758 – Fiduciary Duty of Care for appointed Public Officials and Executive Officers by Senator Manny Diaz (R – Hialeah Gardens)
CS/SB 758 – Fiduciary Duty of Care for appointed Public Officials and Executive Officers by Senator Manny Diaz (R – Hialeah Gardens), establishes an express fiduciary duty of care for appointed public officials and executive officers acting on behalf of governmental entities. The bill makes a statement of legislative findings providing that:
- Appointed public officials and executive officers acting on behalf of governmental entities owe a fiduciary duty to the entities they serve; and
- Codifying a fiduciary duty of care will require that appointed public officials and executive officers stay adequately informed of affairs, perform due diligence, perform reasonable oversight, and practice fiscal responsibility regarding decisions involving corporate and proprietary commitments on behalf of a governmental entity.
The bill establishes training requirements for each appointed public official and executive officer to begin on January 1, 2022. The bill specifies that a minimum of five hours of board governance training must be completed for each term served and provide written certification of compliance with the board governance training.
The bill requires the appointment of an executive officer or general counsel to be subject to approval by a majority vote of the governing body of the governmental entity. The bill specifies that all legal counsel employed by a governmental entity must represent the legal interests and positions of the governmental entity and not the interest of any individual or employee of the governmental entity, unless such representation is directed by the governmental entity.
The reported favorably by the Community Affairs Committee last week and is waiting to be heard by the Appropriations Committee. A similar bill in the House, HB 573 by Representative Mike Beltran (R – Valrico), reported favorably by the Public Integrity and Elections Committee.
HB 7035 – School Safety by Representative Chip LaMarca (R – Lighthouse Point)
HB 7035 – School Safety by Representative Chip LaMarca (R – Lighthouse Point), improves transparency around school safety and security, addresses student mental health and clarifies juvenile diversion policies by:
- Requiring district school boards and charter school governing boards to adopt a plan that guides family reunification when K-12 public schools are closed or unexpectedly evacuated due to natural or manmade disasters.
- Creating a parental right in the Florida Education Code to timely notification of school safety and emergency incidents and to access school safety and environmental incident reporting (SESIR) data.
- Revising emergency notification procedures to include specified unlawful acts or significant emergencies.
- Requiring all safe-school officers, not just school resource officers, to complete mental health crisis intervention training.
- Adding school-related data to the annual Baker Act report issued by the Department of Children and Families.
- Strengthening school mental health coordination and implementation by authorizing school districts to enter into contracts or interagency agreements with managing entities for the provision of behavioral health services.
- Requiring the Department of Education to work with the Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute to produce an annual report on the availability and effectiveness of mental health services provided under the Mental Health Assistance Allocation.
- Clarifying what acts require a school to refer a student to law enforcement for civil citation or similar prearrest diversion program or assign a student to a school-based intervention program.
The bill reinforces the oversight and sanctioning authority of the Commissioner of Education to oversee school safety and security compliance in the state.
The bill was filed by the Early Learning and Elementary Education Subcommittee last week. There is no Senate companion at this time.
HB 791 Workforce and Postsecondary Education – by Representative Joe Harding (R – Ocala)
HB 791 Workforce and Postsecondary Education – by Representative Joe Harding (R – Ocala), increase access to and articulation in postsecondary education, the bill:
- Requires the State Board of Education (SBE), by January 31, 2022, to adopt rules to develop and implement alternative methods for assessing the basic communication and computation skills of students who intend to enter a degree program at a Florida College System (FCS) institution.
- Authorizes FCS institutions to use the SBE approved alternative methods in lieu of common placement tests to assess student readiness for college-level work in communication and computation and for student admission counseling.
- Revises student eligibility for initial enrollment in college credit dual enrollment to include a demonstrated level of achievement of college-level communication and computation skills as determined by a common placement test or an alternative method of assessment.
- Authorizes FCS institutions to accept for admission to associate degree programs, a high school equivalency diploma issued by another state which is recognized as equivalent by the SBE and is based on an assessment recognized by the United States Department of Education.
- Requires the statewide articulation agreement to establish three mathematics pathways for students by aligning mathematics courses to programs, meta-majors, and careers and requires a representative committee consisting of faculty from the state university system, the FCS, and school district career centers to collaborate to identify the mathematics pathways.
- Authorizes the SBE and the Board of Governors to adopt regulations regarding documentation and procedures to implement the exemption of tuition and fees for students experiencing homelessness.
The bill reported favorably by the Secondary Education and Career Development Subcommittee. A comparable bill in the Senate, SB 366 by Senator Travis Hutson (R – Palm Coast), reported favorably by the Education Committee and is waiting to be heard by the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education.
CS/SB 1768 – Agriculture and Nutrition by Darryl Rouson (D – St. Petersburg)
CS/SB 1768 – Agriculture and Nutrition by Darryl Rouson (D – St. Petersburg), provides several provisions to improve the overall condition of agriculture and nutrition in the state. Specifically, the bill:
- Requires state agencies, universities, and colleges to give preference to food commodities grown or produced in the state in certain purchasing agreements and provides conditions for such a preference;
- Requires certain schools to implement a program for special assistance certification and reimbursement alternatives to provide universal free school breakfast and lunch meals and provides an exception to this requirement;
- Establishes the Agricultural Surplus Purchase Program within the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (department) to purchase agricultural commodities from farmers in the state who are unable to sell their agricultural commodities for specified reasons;
- Establishes the Local Food Pantry Infrastructure Assistance Grant within the department to build food pantry capacity to manage donated food, increase availability of perishable food items, and minimize the loss of perishable food items before distribution; and
- Establishes the Healthy Food Access Pilot Program within the department to increase access to healthy and affordable food via grants to specified entities who implement transit system projects that connect low income and low access communities to specified food sources.
The bill reported favorably by the Agriculture Committee last week. A similar bill in the House, HB 1191 by Representative Allison Tant (D – Tallahassee, FSU Alum), is waiting to be heard by the Environment, Agriculture and Flooding Subcommittee.
Update on Bills
CS/SB 264 – Higher Education by Senator Ray Rodrigues (R – Ft. Myers)
CS/SB 264 – Higher Education by Senator Ray Rodrigues (R – Ft. Myers), was amended last week by the Appropriations Committee with a committee substitute. The committee substitute adds requirements designed to protect the expression of diverse viewpoints at Florida College System (FCS) institutions and state universities. The bill:
- Requires each FCS institution and state university to annually assess the intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity at that institution using a survey adopted by the State Board of Education (SBE) or the Board of Governors of the State University System (BOG), as applicable.
- Specifies that the SBE, the BOG, FCS institutions, and state universities may not shield students from protected free speech.
- Includes in the definition of protected expressive activities the recording and publishing of video and audio recorded in classrooms, and clarifies that protected expressive activities include the nonconsensual recording and publication of video and audio recorded in outdoor areas of campus and in classrooms.
The amended bill reported favorably and will next be heard by the full Senate. The House companion, HB 233 by Representative Spencer Roach (R – North Ft. Myers), had it’s first hearing by the full House on Thursday.
CS/SB 86 – Student Financial Aid by Senator Dennis Baxley (R – Lady Lake, FSU Alum)
CS/SB 86 – Student Financial Aid by Senator Dennis Baxley (R – Lady Lake, FSU Alum), modifies provisions relating to postsecondary financial aid programs, and establishes new financial aid programs for Pell Grant eligible students and students without a high school diploma. The bill was amended last week by a strike-all committee substitute. The committee substitute:
- Requires the Board of Governors (BOG) office to create, by Jan 1, 2022, an online dashboard of data regarding state university graduates.
- Requires each state university board of trustees to adopt procedures to connect undergraduates to career planning, approved by the BOG by March 1, 2022, to include a hold on student registration after the student’s first year until the student meets specified provisions.
- Requires the BOG and State Board of Education (SBE) to identify and publish a list of career certificate and undergraduate and graduate degree programs that do not lead directly to employment.
- Authorizes the Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida (ICUF) to identify a list for its member institutions. Institutions licensed by the Commission for Independent Education will be included on the SBE list.
- Requires the BOG, SBE, and ICUF to also publish their methodology in identifying programs for the list.
- Specifies that an annually updated list is effective for the next academic year.
- Modifies eligibility for state financial aid to remove the provision in the bill making certain students ineligible for financial aid award, and:
- Applies provisions relating to a program list only to merit-based awards under the Bright Futures Scholarship Program and Benacquisto Scholarship programs, rather than all state financial aid programs.
- Extends implementation of modified eligibility for a Bright Futures or Benacquisto scholarship based on the identified list to students initially funded in 2023-2024.
- Specifies that a student in an associate of arts degree program or in a baccalaureate program prior to admittance to a major may receive a maximum award, up to 60 credit hours.
- Specifies that a student who has been admitted to a certificate, diploma, or career degree, or major program that is not on the list may receive the maximum award specified for the scholarship program.
- Specifies that a student who has been admitted to a certificate, diploma, or career degree, or major program that is on the list may receive a reduced award, as specified in the General Appropriations Act.
- Clarifies that a reduced award applies to a program of study that was on the list at the time of the student’s initial enrollment, or if the student changes major. A student may receive a maximum award if the program is removed from the list before the student is admitted to the major.
- Modifies the provision deducting acceleration credits from a Bright Futures award to apply only to those credits that apply to a certificate, diploma, associate in applied science or associate in science degrees, or to general education.
- Modifies the graduate program provision of a Bright Futures award to specify that in 2022-2023 the graduate program must not be on a specified list.
- Modifies the Florida Endeavor Scholarship student eligibility requirements to authorize a student to earn an award prior to initial enrollment, and:
- Authorizes scholarship funds to be used for testing fees, including GED test fees.
- Specifies that a student who meets basic skills assessment requirements, or is enrolled in an Integrated Education and Training program, may receive an award.
- Specifies renewal requirements, including demonstration of progress by meeting program standards toward completion of a certificate or diploma.
The amended bill reported favorably by the Education Committee and is scheduled to be heard by the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education tomorrow. A comparable bill in the House, HB 281 by Representative Wyman Duggan (R – Jacksonville), 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:
- Removes the restriction that Florida Postsecondary Comprehensive Transition Program (FPCTP) grant funds be used only for start-up and enhancement costs and removes the maximum annual award for the grants.
- 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.
The bill passed out of the Senate last week and will now go to the House. A comparable bill in the House, HB 281 by Representative Wyman Duggan (R – Jacksonville), reported favorably by the Post-Secondary Education and Lifelong Learning Subcommittee.
CS/SB 1014 – Employee Organizations by Senator Dennis Baxley (R – Lady Lake, FSU Alum)
CS/SB 1014 – Employee Organizations by Senator Dennis Baxley (R – Lady Lake, FSU Alum), requires employee organizations that have been certified as the bargaining agent for a unit of K-12 instructional personnel to disclose in its application for registration renewal the number of employees who are eligible for representation and the number of employees who are represented by the employee organization as of December 31 of that renewal period. An employee organization whose dues-paying membership, as of December 31 of that renewal period, is less than 50 percent of the employees eligible for representation must petition for recertification with the Public Employees Relations Commission (Commission).
The bill requires K-12 instructional personnel to pay dues and uniform assessments directly to the employee organization and prohibits dues and uniform assessments from being deducted and collected by a district school board.
The bill requires K-12 instructional personnel to sign and submit a form to the employee organization acknowledging Florida is a right-to-work state before the employee organization can collect dues or uniform assessments. The bill specifies the language and font of the acknowledgement.
The bill creates a process with which employee organizations representing instructional personnel employed by a Florida College System (FCS) or State University System (SUS) institution must comply with when submitting an application for renewal of registration.
The bill requires an employee organization representing instructional personnel employed by an FCS or an SUS institution to apply for recertification if it does not meet the 50 percent threshold for dues-paying membership within the bargaining unit. An FCS or SUS institution is authorized to challenge an employee organization’s application for renewal of registration if it believes that the application is inaccurate.
The bill reported favorably by the Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee last. Week. The identical bill in the House, HB 835 by Representative Cord Byrd (R – Jacksonville Beach), is waiting to be heard by the State Administration and Technology Appropriations Subcommittee.
HB 7017 - Foreign Influence by Representative Erin Grall (R – Vero Beach)
HB 7017 - Foreign Influence by Representative Erin Grall (R – Vero Beach), proposes greater disclosure of foreign support for public entities, scrutiny of grant applicants and purveyors of goods and services with certain foreign connections, thorough scrutiny of foreign applicants for research positions and of foreign travel and activities of employees of major research institutions.
Specifically, the bill requires:
- State agencies and political subdivisions to disclose all foreign donations and grants of $50,000 or more to the Department of Financial Services (DFS);
- Applicants for grants from or those proposing contracts with state agencies and political subdivisions to disclose all foreign financial connections with any of seven countries of concern;
- Universities and colleges, including their Direct Support Organizations (DSOs) and other affiliates, to disclose all foreign donations and grants of $50,000 or more to either the Board of Governors of the State University System (BOG) or the Florida Department of Education.
The bill also:
- Prohibits agreements for or the acceptance of donations conditioned on a program to promote the language and culture of any of seven countries of concern;
- Requires thorough screening of foreign applicants for research positions and foreign travel and activities of employees for every higher education institution and related research institutes having a research budget of $10 million or more.
The bill reported favorably by the Education and Employment Committee last week and is scheduled to be heard by the Appropriations Committee later today. A similar bill in the Senate, SB 2010 by Senator Manny Diaz (R – Hialeah Gardens), is scheduled to be heard by the Education Committee on Wednesday.