Legislative Update Pre-Session #2
February 24, 2017
Who Says Public Employee Unions Do Not Have Power?
Representative Scott Plakon (R-Seminole) obviously thinks UFF and other
public employee unions are not good for Florida as he has filed HB 11
which establishes a decertification process for those public sector
unions having less than 50% membership. This union busting tactic is not
new for Plakon as he filed a similar bill in 2011. That bill never
reached any legislative committee.
But times have changed. It
is not an election year and Plakon is emboldened by his prolonged
service in the House of Representatives plus a new and more
anti-employee sentiment in the House.
What does the bill do? The bill, if passed, would add an
additional requirement to an employee union’s annual renewal with the
Public Employees Relations Commission. That requirement is that each
certified bargaining unit (each UFF chapter) of a registered employee
organization (in our case UFF) must provide the number of eligible
employees for union membership and the number of members who pay dues or
do not pay dues. If that information is not presented then the
certification for that bargaining unit is revoked.
If the certified bargaining unit dues paying membership is less
than 50%, that bargaining unit must petition PERC for recertification as
the exclusive bargaining representative within one month after the date
on which the bargaining unit applied for renewal. Application for PERC
recertification requires either voluntary recognition of the union by
the employer or petition to PERC for recertification upon submission of
call for union representation election cards from at least 30% of the
full bargaining unit. If sufficient cards are submitted to PERC, then an
election would be held to re-establish or decertify the union. Note: The
application for recertification must occur within one month of the
initial date of application for annual renewal.
As was stated by FEA in 2011, “Florida law permits public
employees to obtain an election to decertify and exclusive bargaining
representative. “Any employee or group of employees which no longer
desires to be represented by the certified bargaining agent may file
with the commission a petition to revoke certification. FEA believes
legislative proposals that target unions representing public employees
by requiring recertification of unions with membership below 50 percent
of the employees is unconstitutional. These measures are simply to make
life more difficult in as many ways as they can so in the end member
unions go away.”
If we have no power, why this legislation? Because, we are in
many cases, the last impediment opposing anti-worker and anti-public
school legislation. If we are silenced then their goals are more easily
accomplished. Stand with UFF and fight this anti-worker and anti-higher
education agenda! Ask your fellow colleagues to join UFF and strengthen
our union in this important fight for Florida’s future and the
guaranteed right to organize under Article I, Section 6, of Florida’s
Senate Higher Education Package Headed for Floor Vote
a meeting of the Senate Appropriations Committee on February 23rd, SB 2
and SB 4 were combined as SB 2 and passed by a 16-0 committee vote. The
bill saw a number of amendments which improved the bill but did not
address all UFF concerns. The bill, as amended, does the following:
- Increases student financial aid and tuition assistance for Florida
Bright Futures Academic Scholars in fall and spring terms and adds
support to these students in the summer term.
- the state-to-private
match requirements for contributions to the First Generation Matching
Grant Program from 1:1 to 2:1.
- Requires state university boards of
trustees to adopt a student block tuition policy for adoption in the
fall 2018 semester.
- Strengthens “2+2” articulation by establishing
the “2+2” targeted pathway program.
- Requires school districts to
provide notification to students and parents about applying acceleration
mechanism credit to a postsecondary degree.
- Creates a scholarship
program for students from farmworker families.
- Adds the funding
elements from SB 4, namely funding pools for hiring and retaining
top-level faculty and rewarding outstanding graduate programs.
However, there are elements of the bill for which UFF has concerns.
Specifically, we believe that changes to the performance funding metrics
dealing with graduation rates, excess hours provisions, and changes to
the percent-of-normal-time completion rate may limit access to higher
education for lower-income, minority and non-traditional students. The
provision for colleges dealing with on time graduation rates was amended
based on suggestions from college presidents and was supported by the
Association of Florida Colleges. That provision would give the State
Board of Education greater flexibility in defining the cohort of
“full-time” students included under the metric and setting the higher
standard for only those colleges designated “distinguished”
UFF has serious concerns about the university performance metric dealing
with 4-year graduation rate. The reduction of time for graduation will
force universities to accept only those students who can complete the
program in four years. This “cherry picking” will adversely impact the
goal of increased access for diverse populations. Students at urban and
regional universities tend to take longer to graduate due to family
concerns, the need to work to pay for their education, and a host of
other reasons. The scarcity of need based financial aid needs to be
address in the funding of SB 2 to guarantee all Florida students have
equal access and just not those of financial means.
UNIVERSITY EMPLOYEES’ HEALTH INSURANCE
The House Health and
Human Services Committee passed a proposed committee bill, later
renumbered HB 7007, which authorizes the state group insurance program
to include additional benefits and to establish the implementation of
benefit levels as described in the staff analysis of the bill.
“Beginning in the 2020 plan year, the bill provides that state employees
will have health plan choices at four different benefit levels. These
- Platinum Level (at least 90% AV)
- Gold Level (at least 80% AV)
- Silver Level (at least 70% AV)
- Bronze Level (at least 60% AV)”
Note: AV is the “actuarial value”.
This is to encourage younger and healthier employees to select a lower
coverage where they might be able to keep the difference in the cost of
the “base” plan versus a lower tier level of health care. The “base”
plan is not defined and no premiums are mentioned in this legislation.
Both Rich Templin of AFL-CIO and UFF warned against this cost shifting
concept and the fact that most state employees have seen little or no
raise in years. At least, the state has covered the increased insurance
costs. The state plan was described as “benefits rich” but they left out
the other important fact that state employees are “salary poor.” Note:
The real issue is the inflationary cost of medical services and
SOME LEGISLATIVE BRIEFS
SB 374 which has been dubbed the “College Competitiveness
SB 374 deemphasizes four-year programs at current state
colleges. The bill would remove state colleges from the oversight of the
State Board of Education and put them under a new State Board of
Community Colleges. The bill will make 4-year baccalaureate degree
programs a “secondary” mission of the colleges. The bill reinstates a
statewide coordinating board for the Florida Community College System
and removes them from the purview of the State Board of Education. The
bill has passed the Senate Education Committee. The 254-page bill does
not yet have a House companion bill
SB 622 by Senator Greg Steube, GUNS ON CAMPUS
Senator Steube has broken down his overall guns legislation
into multiple bills. SB 622 is legislation to allow carrying of
concealed weapons on college and university campuses. The bill is
deceptively titled and at first glance appears to only impact athletic
events. But it removes college and university facilities from the list
where guns are not permitted. The bill has not been scheduled for a
committee hearing at this time.
FEE WAIVERS FOR GRADUATE ASSISTANTS
Partial fee waivers for graduate assistants are scheduled to be
part of Governor Scott’s college tuition/fees package. UFF will be
seeking to address specific fees for waiver.
PUBLIC RECORDS PROPOSALS HB 351
Pub. Rec. and Meetings/Postsecondary
Education Executive Search General Bill by Rommel (R-Collier)
Pub. Rec. and Meetings/Postsecondary Education Executive
Search: Provides exemption from public records requirements for personal
identifying information of applicant for president, provost, or dean of
state university or FCS institution; provides exemption from public
meeting requirements for meeting held for specified purposes relating to
postsecondary executive search; provides for future legislative review &
repeal; provides statement of public necessity.
UFF strongly oppose this bill and it’s Senate companion SB 478
by Senator Passidomo (R-Collier, Hendry and Lee)
SB 80: Public Records GENERAL BILL by
Requiring a complainant to timely provide certain written notice in
order to be entitled to attorney fees in certain civil actions for
enforcement of Ch. 119, F.S., etc. Public records should remain just
that, public and accessible to all Floridians who file requests.
There is no enforcement mechanism protecting this right, only
the filing of a civil suit. SB 80, by Senator Steube (R, Gainesville),
would change current law so that if a citizen successfully sues a
government agency or official for unlawfully being denied a public
records request, they would not be guaranteed reasonable attorneys’
fees. This action would deter attorneys from advising in these cases
leaving citizens without legal representation and essentially killing
our constitutional right.
This was the last week of Interim Committee meetings.
Legislators and their aides are at home next week. That provides a great
opportunity to go by their office or call them about important issues
included in this update!
The 2017 Legislative Session convenes on
Tuesday, March 7th.