April 05, 2021
Volume 28, Number 6
Dear Seminole Family,
Thank you for taking a few moments to review this week’s Legisletter as we enter week six of the 2021 Legislative Session.
On Wednesday of last week, we celebrated (virtual) FSU Day at the Capitol! Please see the separate summary below recapping the day.
Last week, CS/CS/SB 264, Intellectual Freedom, was substituted for the CS/CS/HB 233, and taken up in the Senate. The bill includes provisions related to a survey of intellectual freedom, the prohibition of shielding students from speech protected by the First Amendment, recording in the classroom, as well as a provision relating to student governments and codes of conduct.
Below you will find additional 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 in Florida the best in the country as we continue to educate the next generation of elite students.
Yours in Seminole Spirit,
FSU Day at the Capitol!
FSU Day at the Capitol went virtual this year! Last Wednesday, FSU Day was celebrated through a social media campaign on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. President Thrasher kicked-off the day by highlighting key university successes and introducing our Seminole Caucus. Throughout the day, numerous colleges and departments joined in with videos and posts highlighting their students and programs. By days end, more than 196,000 people viewed the FSU Day at the Capitol social media content. Thank you to all who made this FSU Day a tremendous success!
Spotlight on Bills
SB 7070 - Impact of COVID-19 on Educational Institutions by Senator Joe Gruters (R – Sarasota, FSU Alum)
SB 7070 - Impact of COVID-19 on Educational Institutions by Senator Joe Gruters (R – Sarasota, FSU Alum), creates liability protections for educational institutions for actions related to the COVID19 pandemic and creates accountability and prekindergarten provisions in recognition of the public health emergency caused by COVID-19. Specifically, the bill:
- Creates specified liability protections for an educational institution that has taken reasonably necessary actions to diminish the impact or the spread of COVID-19 and provides immunity from any civil damages, equitable relief, or other remedies relating to such actions.
- Establishes that these liability protections apply retroactively to causes of actions accruing on or after the date of the declaration of the COVID-19 public health emergency by the State Surgeon General, and must apply prospectively to causes of action that accrue before the end of the academic term during which the emergency declaration expires or is terminated.
- Creates waivers from accountability requirements relating to the use of school grades, school improvement ratings, and student performance results from the statewide, standardized assessments for the 2020-2021 school year.
- Authorizes a parent or guardian to request that his or her grade three public school student be retained.
- Waives the provision that requires a summer prekindergarten program delivered by a public school or private prekindergarten provider to consist of at least 300 hours and waives the school readiness program requirement that no more than 22 percent of funds provided to an early learning coalition to implement its approved school readiness program to be used for administrative costs, quality activities, and non-direct services.
The bill reported favorably by the Education Committee last week. There is no House companion at this time.
CS/HB 747 - Resident Status for Tuition Purposes for Persons Serving Outside the State by Representative Joe Harding (R – Ocala)
CS/HB 747 - Resident Status for Tuition Purposes for Persons Serving Outside the State by Representative Joe Harding (R – Ocala), prohibits a person from losing his or her resident status for tuition purposes solely by reason of serving out-of-state as civilian personnel on assignment for the United States Department of State, United States Department of Homeland Security, United States Department of Defense, or while teaching at a United States Department of Defense Dependent School. If such person is a dependent child, he or she would not lose his or her resident status for tuition purposes solely by reason of his or her parents serving in such capacities. The bill’s proposed changes would apply to students enrolling at charter technical career centers, career centers operated by school districts, Florida College System institutions, and state universities.
The bill reported favorably by the Post-Secondary Education and Lifelong Learning Subcommittee. A similar bill in the Senate, SB 1714 by Senator Gayle Harrell (R – Stuart), has been referred to the Education Committee, The Appropriations Subcommittee on Education and the Appropriations Committee.
CS/SB 824 – Bright Futures Scholarship Program by Senator Bobby Powell (D – West Palm Beach, FSU Alum)
CS/SB 824 – Bright Futures Scholarship Program by Senator Bobby Powell (D – West Palm Beach, FSU Alum), allows a student that was found guilty of a felony charge, if committed while under the age of eighteen, to be eligible for an initial award from any of the scholarships under the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program.
The bill reported favorably by the Education Committee. A comparable bill in the House, HB 671 by Representative Travaris McCurdy (D – Orlando), is waiting to be heard in the Post-Secondary Education and Lifelong Learning Subcommittee.
CS/HB 1227 Guidance Services by Representative Kristen Arrington (D – Kissimmee)
CS/HB 1227 Guidance Services by Representative Kristen Arrington (D – Kissimmee), requires public schools to provide information on career education opportunities to students and their parents, the bill:
- Requires a middle grade student’s personalized academic and career plan to include informing a student of the career and technical education (CTE) graduation pathway option, work-based learning (WBL) opportunities, and to be developed in consultation with a certified school counselor.
- Expands the required annual school district notification on high school acceleration options to include information on career academies and courses, the CTE graduation pathway, WBL opportunities, and contact information for a certified school counselor, and requires the information to be provided in a language understandable to students and parents.
The bill reported favorably by the Secondary Education and Career Development Subcommittee and is waiting to be heard by the Education and Employment Committee. A comparable bill in the Senate, SB 624 by Senator Randolph Bracy (D – Orlando), has been referred to the Education, Commerce and Tourism, and Appropriations committees.
HB 559 – Computer Science Instruction in Elementary Schools by Representative Fred Hawkins (R – St. Cloud)
HB 559 – Computer Science Instruction in Elementary Schools by Representative Fred Hawkins (R – St. Cloud), revises requirements for computer science instruction to include computational thinking and foundational computer science skills in elementary schools and instruction to develop students’ computer usage and digital literacy skills in middle school.
The bill reported favorably by the PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee and is waiting to be heard by the Education and Employment Committee. There is no Senate companion at this time.
SB 1654 – Education by Senator Joe Gruters (R – Sarasota, FSU Alum)
SB 1654 – Education by Senator Joe Gruters (R – Sarasota, FSU Alum), revises district school board responsibilities, virtual instruction provider requirements, high-performing school district flexibility, and funding for virtual courses and certain assessments. Specifically, the bill:
- Authorizes district school boards to conduct daily business in person; through the use of telecommunications networks, or a combination thereof.
- Retains monthly communication requirements between teachers in virtual instructional programs and families, but removes that the monthly contact must be made by phone.
- Requires that an approved virtual provider contract must be terminated if the provider receives two consecutive school grades of “F.”
- Authorizes high-performing school districts to provide up to two days of virtual instruction as part of the required 180 actual teaching days.
In addition, the bill modifies how virtual education is funded. Instead of funding virtual courses only if the student completes the course with a passing grade or credits earned, the bill requires that a student who is reported during the second and third membership surveys and does not complete the virtual course credits or content prescribed, must be calculated at 80 percent of a full-time equivalent (FTE) student.
A similar provision is added for funding a student enrolled in a course requiring passage of a statewide, standardized end-of-course (EOC) exam to earn a standard high school diploma.
The bill reported favorably by the Education Committee last week. There is no House companion.
Update 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), 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, 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 passed out of the House last week and was taken up in the Senate in lieu of SB 264 by Senator Ray Rodrigues (R – Ft. Myers). The bill is on the calendar for final vote later this week.
CS/CS/SB 86 – Student Financial Aid by Senator Dennis Baxley (R – Lady Lady, FSU Alum)
CS/CS/SB 86 – Student Financial Aid by Senator Dennis Baxley (R – Lady Lady, FSU Alum), was amended this week with a strike-all amendment. The latest version of the bill 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. Specifically, the bill:
- Requires the Board of Governors office to create an online dashboard of data regarding state university graduates, which must include post-graduation salary; student loan debt; debt-to-income ratio; estimated loan payment as a percentage of income; and percentage of graduates who have continued their education.
- Requires each state university board of trustees to adopt procedures to connect undergraduate students to career planning, coaching, and related programs during the first academic year of the student’s enrollment.
- 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.
- Requires the BOG, State Board of Education, and the Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida (ICUF) to each identify and publish a list of career certificate, undergraduate, and graduate degree programs that do not lead directly to employment.
- Modifies the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program by:
- Changing that the Florida Academic Scholars (FAS) and Florida Medallion Scholars (FMS) award amounts shall be specified in the General Appropriations Act (GAA).
- Creating additional eligibility options for FAS and FMS awards for students who earn an associate degree through dual enrollment or who earn an Advanced Placement Capstone Diploma.
- Specifies that the 2021-2022 academic year is the final year of initial eligibility for nonresident students to qualify for the Benacquisto Scholarship program, and modifies that the award shall be specified in the GAA.
The amended bill reported favorably by the Appropriations Committee last week. 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 and is waiting to be heard by the Appropriations Committee.
CS/SB 2010 Foreign Influence by Senator Manny Diaz (R – Hialeah Gardens)
CS/SB 2010 Foreign Influence by Senator Manny Diaz (R – Hialeah Gardens), was amended last week by a strike-all committee substitute. The amended bill provides safeguards against foreign influence through establishing processes that govern screening and disclosure of foreign gifts, contracts, employment, travel, and research arrangements, as well as cultural agreements, with countries of concern. Specifically, the bill:
- Requires specified entities that apply for or receive any gift or grant with a value of $50,000 or more from any foreign source to disclose such gift or grant to the appropriate agency, along with additional specified information.
- Requires the Department of Financial Services (DFS) to manage a website to publish required disclosures and maintain an active and current list of ineligible entities on the website, and requires DFS to investigate an allegation of a disclosure violation.
- Requires the Department of Management Services to, at least once every five years, screen specified vendors participating in the online procurement system.
- Subjects an institution of higher education that knowingly, willfully, or negligently fails to disclose to a civil penalty of 105 percent of the amount of the undisclosed gift.
- Requires each state university or specified entity that receives state appropriations or state tax revenue and has a research budget of $10 million or more to screen applicants for research or research-related support positions who are citizens of a foreign country and who are not permanent residents of the United States, or who are citizens or permanent residents of the United States who have any affiliation with an institution or program, or at least one year of prior employment or training, in a specified foreign country of concern.
- Requires the state university or entity to maintain records of applications, expenses, and payments or honoraria related to approved international travel. Such records must be retained for at least three years.
- Prohibits specified participation in cultural agreements with or acceptance of any grant from a foreign country of concern, or any entity controlled by such a country, for specified activities.
The amended bill reported favorably by the Education Committee. A similar bill in the House, HB 7017 by Representative Erin Grall (R – Vero Beach), is waiting to be heard by the State Affairs Committee.