May 10, 2023
Volume 30

End-of-Session Bill Highlights

View the highlights

HB 931: Postsecondary Educational Institutions by Rep. Spencer Roach (R- North Fort Myers)

  • Prohibits the use of political loyalty tests in an institution’s hiring, admissions, or promotion processes
  • Requires each state university to establish an Office of Public Policy Events (OPPE), which must organize, publicize, and stage debates or group forums that address a range of public policy issues.
  • Designates the Florida Student Association (FSA) as the nonprofit advocacy group for State University System (SUS) students and requires the FSA president’s due process rights be protected to the extent other students participating in student government activities have their due process rights protected. The chancellor of the BOG is authorized to designate an alternate entity if the FSA fails to meet the standard established in law
  • The fiscal impact of the bill can be absorbed within existing resources

If approved by the Governor, this bill will take effect on July 1, 2023.

SB 266: Higher Education by Sen. Erin Grall (R- Fort Pierce)

This bill contains various provisions relating to higher education, including:

  1. Prohibited Expenditures
    The bill prohibits public postsecondary institutions or their DSO’s, from expending any funds, regardless of source, on programs or activities that advocate for DEI or promote or engage in political or social activism. However, the bill clarifies that the use of student fees to support student-led organizations for these purposes are not prohibited.
    • Compliance with general or federal laws or regulations,
    • For obtaining or retaining institutional or discipline-specific accreditation with BOG or SBE approval; or
    • For access programs for:
      • Military veterans,
      • Pell Grant recipients,
      • First generation college students,
      • Nontraditional students,
      • 2+2 Transfer students,
      • Students from low-income families, or
      • Students with unique abilities.
  2. General Education
    • The bill prohibits general education core courses that distort significant historical events, teach identity politics, or violate the Florida Educational Equity Act, or are based on divisive concepts and establishes new standards and adoption procedures for these courses.
    • Requires all universities to offer at least one general education core course in each of the identified subject areas and upon the transfer of credit for such course regardless of whether the receiving institution offers the identical general education core course.
    • A public postsecondary educational institution may not require a student to complete an additional course to meet a subject area distribution requirement that was completed by the student with a course that has since been removed as a general education course.
  3. Academic Centers at SUS Institutions
    The bill re-aligns the missions of the Florida Institute of Politics at FSU and renames the Institute to the Florida Institute for Governance and Civics, re-aligns the missions of the Adam Smith Center for the Study of Economic Freedom at Florida International University, re-aligns the missions of the Hamilton Center for Classical and Civic Education at the University of Florida and establishes the Institute for Risk Management & Insurance Education at the University of Central Florida.
  4. Accreditation
    The bill clarifies that public postsecondary institutions are not required to change accrediting agencies or associations more than once and provides additional protections for postsecondary education institutions from retaliatory and adverse actions by accrediting agencies and associations.
  5. Responsibilities of Boards of Trustees at SUS Institutions
    • The bill clarifies that university presidents have the final authority to hire the provost, the deans, and all full-time faculty for the university.
    • The BOT must have procedures to review the university president’s selection and reappointment of his or her executive management team before such contracts and salaries become effective.
    • Prohibits the use of statements, pledges, or oaths, except those to uphold state or federal law or constitutions, in the institution’s admissions, hiring, employment, promotion, tenure, disciplinary, or evaluation processes.
    • Clarifies that issues related to faculty grievance procedures may not be appealed beyond the level of a university president or designee.
    • BOT must annually review in summary, the performance evaluations for all academic and administrative personnel earning 200k or more.
  6. Preeminence
    The bill supports continued investment in Florida’s workforce by adding an additional standard for the Preeminent State Research University Program related to annual STEM-related research expenditures, including federal expenditures, of $50 million or more.
  7. Fee Waivers
    • Revises provisions related to the Buy One, Get One Free Tuition & Fee Waiver to protect students from losing the waiver based on a change to an approved program and requiring the BOG to identify two teacher preparation programs for inclusion in the waiver.
    • Adds “new parents” as an eligible population for the State University Free Seat Program.

If approved by the Governor, this bill will take effect on July 1, 2023.

SB 7026: Higher Education Finances by Appropriations Committee on Education

This bill provides flexibility for state universities and colleges relating to the use of funds in the following areas:

  • Removing restrictions on certain uses of carry forward fund balances, including caps on maintenance and remodeling projects and the requirement that funds only be used for nonrecurring operating expenditures;
  • Removing the requirement that universities comply with certain procurement processes and authorizes the Board of Governors to establish procedures for universities to follow;
  • Revises the limitation on the annual compensation of state university employees from $200,000 to $250,000; and
  • Authorizes state universities to waive out-of-state fees for student-athletes receiving an athletic scholarship.

If approved by the Governor, this bill will take effect on July 1, 2023.

SB 846: Agreements of Educational Entities and Foreign Entities by Sen. Brian Avila (R- Hialeah Gardens)

This bill prohibits a state university or state college, including their direct support organizations (DSOs), from accepting any grant from or participating in any agreement with any college, university, or entity that is based in a foreign country of concern or any foreign principal, unless the state university or state college has received approval from the Board of Governors (BOG) or the State Board of Education (SBE), respectively. The grant or agreement must otherwise be legal and deemed by the BOG or SBE, as applicable, to be valuable to students, the state university or state college, and not detrimental to the safety or security of the United States or United States residents.

The bill also prohibits a state university, state college, or any employee or representative of such entities, from soliciting or accepting a gift in their official capacity – regardless of value – from a college or university based in a foreign country of concern or a foreign principal. Pursuant to current law, these and other institutions of higher education must disclose foreign gifts and contracts from non-foreign countries of concern valued at $50,000 or more.

Beginning December 1, 2024, the BOG and Department of Education must submit a report to the Governor, President of the Senate, and Speaker of the House relating to partnerships and agreements of state universities and state colleges, respectively, with colleges and universities based in a foreign country of concern and with foreign principals of concern, as defined in the bill.

Florida law identifies foreign countries of concern to include the People's Republic of China, the Russian Federation, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the Republic of Cuba, the Venezuelan regime of Nicolás Maduro, and the Syrian Arab Republic.

The Governor signed this bill on May 8, 2023 and it will take effect on July 1, 2023.

SB 7024: Retirement by Governmental Oversight and Accountability

Establishes the contribution rates paid by employers that participate in the Florida Retirement System (FRS) beginning July 1, 2023. These rates are intended to fund the full, normal cost and the amortization of the unfunded actuarial liability of the FRS. With these modifications to employer contribution rates, the FRS Trust Fund will receive roughly $350.5 million more in revenue on an annual basis beginning July 1, 2023. The public employers that will incur these additional costs are state agencies, state universities and colleges, school districts, counties, municipalities, and other governmental entities that participate in the FRS.

The bill also increases the monthly Retiree Health Insurance Subsidy from $5 to $7.50 for each year of service, effective July 1, 2023. The maximum benefit is adjusted from $150 to $225 per month and the minimum benefit is adjusted from $30 to $45 per month. The employer-paid contribution rate is increased to account for the increased benefit. The bill revises the definition of the term "normal retirement date" for Special Risk Class members enrolled after July 1, 2011, from 30 years of service or age 60 to 25 years of service or age 55.

Eliminates the restrictive entry window for eligible FRS members to participate in Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP) for all retirement classes. Allows entry into DROP for eligible members at any age as long as years of service or age and vesting requirements are met. Extends the maximum amount of time for a qualified FRS member to participate in DROP from 60 calendar months to 96 calendar months for all classes. Increases the interest rate applied to a member’s accrued monthly benefit from 1.3 percent to 4 percent. Extends the maximum amount of time for Instructional Personnel to participate in DROP from 96 to 120 calendar months, effective June 30, 2023. The extension sunsets June 30, 2029.

The bill will increase the aggregate amounts that employers participating in the FRS must pay for retiree benefits.

If approved by the Governor, this bill will take effect on July 1, 2023.

HB 1521: Facility Requirements Based on Sex by Rep. Rachel Plakon (R- Longwood)

This bill requires public and private sector-covered entities that maintain a restroom or changing facility to have restrooms separately designated for males and females or a unisex restroom or changing facility. Makes it a second-degree misdemeanor for a person 18 years of age or older to willfully enter a restroom or changing facility designated for the opposite sex and refuse to immediately depart. Authorizes the Attorney General to bring a civil action to enforce these provisions against any covered entity, to seek injunctive relief, and to impose a fine of up to $10,000 for any covered entity found to have willfully violated such provisions. Directs fines collected to be deposited in the General Revenue Fund. Exempts individuals born with certain verifiable disorders of sex development. Limits instances when a person may enter a restroom or changing facility designated for the opposite sex to the following circumstances:

  • For assisting or chaperoning a child under the age of 12, an elderly person, or a disabled person,
  • For law enforcement or governmental regulatory purposes,
  • For emergency situations, such as rendering emergency medical assistance,
  • For custodial, maintenance, or inspection purposes, if not in use,
  • If the appropriately designated restroom or changing facility is out of order or under repair and the opposite designated restroom or changing facility contains no person of the opposite sex.

If approved by the Governor, this bill will take effect on July 1, 2023.

SB 596: Board of Governors of the State University System by Sen. Jonathan Martin (R- Fort Myers)

This bill authorizes the BOG Inspector General, or designee, to issue and serve subpoenas and subpoenas duces tecum on behalf of the BOG or a state university to compel the attendance of witnesses and the production of documents if the BOG determined that a university board of trustees is unable or unwilling to address substantiated allegations relating to waste, fraud, or financial mismanagement within a state university.

If approved by the Governor, this bill will take effect on July 1, 2023.

SB 274: Nursing Education Pathway for Military Combat Medics by Sen. Brian Avila (R- Hialeah Gardens)

Expands existing law for awarding postsecondary credit for military training and education courses to include the application of military combat medic training credit or clock hours in an accredited nursing education program. The process, as established by the Department of Education Articulation Coordinating Committee (ACC), must be approved by the BOG and SBE.

If approved by the Governor, this bill will take effect immediately.

HB 7B: Intercollegiate Athlete Compensation and Rights by Rep. Chip LaMarca (R- Lighthouse Point)

This bill removed certain restrictions relating to Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL). Maintained educational provisions and expanded the scope of the workshops to include entrepreneurship. This bill provided liability protection for postsecondary institutions and their employees related to the loss of an athlete’s NIL compensation due to routine decisions.

HB 7B was signed into law by the Governor on February 16, 2023, and took effect immediately.

HB 7063: Taxation by Ways & Means Committee

This bill contains various provisions relating to tax breaks, including:

  • Short-Term Sales Tax Holidays
    • Two Back-to-School Sales Tax Holidays
    • Two Two-Week 2023 Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holidays
    • Freedom Week to Freedom Summer, a 3-month Sales Tax Holiday on Recreational Items
    • 2023 Skilled Worker Tools Sales Tax Holiday
    • Sales Tax-Free Gas Stoves, and Energy Efficient Appliances
    • Freezes Local Cell Phone and TV Tax for three years
  • Permanent Sales Tax Relief
    • Baby and Toddler Products
    • Hygiene Products
    • Agricultural Fencing
    • Renewable Natural Gas Machinery and Equipment
    • Firearm Safety Devices
  • Property Tax Relief
    • Allows disabled veterans and surviving spouses who are entitled to complete homestead exemptions to receive refunds of taxes they had to pay in the year they purchase a homestead
    • Clarifies that disabled veterans and surviving spouses may transfer their homestead exemptions to another property
    • Expands the exemption for surviving spouses of first responders killed in the line of duty to include spouses of federal law enforcement officers
    • Prohibits the levy of special assessments on agricultural lands
    • Clarifies that parsonages, burial grounds, and tombs owned by houses of worship are used for religious purposes, and are therefore exempt
    • Extends the educational property exemption to certain schools that lease property
    • Makes clarifying changes to Florida’s automatic property tax refund process for properties that are damaged and become uninhabitable
  • Business Tax Relief
    • Cuts the business rent tax from 5.5% to 4.5% beginning in December 2023
    • Creates a tax credit for investment in equipment to produce breast milk fortifiers
    • Increases the annual Brownfield Rehabilitation program cap by $25 million
    • Increases the annual credit limit for the Strong Families Tax Credit from $10 million to $20 million to help provide more child welfare services in Florida communities
    • Creates a tax credit for installing graywater treatment systems on residential property
  • Tax Relief for Workforce Housing
    • Creates New Partnership with Businesses to Help Fund Workforce Housing
    • Increases Community Contribution Tax Credit Program Limits
    • Creates Sales Tax Refund for Building Materials
    • Creates “Missing Middle” Property Tax Exemption

If approved by the Governor, this bill will take effect on July 1, 2023.