Florida Legislature, Update 5


Legislative Update – Session Update #5

April 13, 2017

House and Senate Adopt 2017-18 Budget Proposals

legislative update

Both House and Senate passed their versions
of the 2017-18 state budget this week. This paves the way for joint
meetings of the House and Senate members appointed to the various
conference committees to meet in the coming weeks with hopes of an
agreement to be reached by May 2nd. This allows for the 72-hour waiting
period where the full legislature, public, and media have an opportunity
to scrutinize the budget agreement prior to its vote on May 5th, the
last day of regular session. UFF and FEA will be monitoring and lobbying
for the best budget possible for public education from this point

The budget proposals on a macro scale have not changed from the previous
report. Here is a quick snapshot.

HOUSE The House proposal funds Florida Colleges at $1.153 billion, a
reduction of $88 million from the current year. $72.6 million of that
reduction was made due to carryover reserves held by the colleges and
the committee’s attack on college funds being shifted to foundations.
Funding for colleges are exclusive of tuition and fees. Performance
funding was maintained at $60 million with $30 million from college base

Universities are funded at $4.56 billion which includes $1.96 billion in
tuition and fees. The universities have been cut $172 million from the
current year with $159.4 million due to carryover reserves and
university funds being transferred to foundations. Performance funding
was unchanged from the current year.

SENATE The Senate proposal for Florida Colleges is about $7 million less
at $1.146 billion, a reduction of $95 million from the current year. The
Senate reduction is primarily from the suspension of performance funding
and cuts to Developmental Education Programs. Funding is exclusive of
tuition and fees.

Universities are funded at $3.117 billion in state funds, exclusive of
tuition and fees. While normally tuition and fees are included, the
block tuition proposal being considered in several Senate bills resulted
in this funding being removed from the total. The actual tuition and
fees amount should be very close to the House proposal of $1.96 billion.
The Senate plan for state support exceeds House University spending by
over $500 million. Much of that difference, $130 million, is a result of
funding new programs being proposed in Senate legislation. University
Performance Funding was increased by a total of $25 million to $525
million. State funding grows to $250 million and base funding of $275
million is continued.

SB 374 – “College Competitiveness Act”

SB 374 by Senate Education and Dorothy Hukill (R – Port Orange) passed
from the Senate on a 36-2 vote with only Senator Gary Farmer (D – Ft.
Lauderdale) and Senator Tom Lee (R – Brandon) voting No. Senator Bobby
Powell (D – West Palm Beach) voted No after roll call. Senator Hukill
was absent as she has been recovering from a serious illness.

The bill was amended to include the entire content of SB 2 which is the
Senate Higher Education package. 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 limit 4-year
baccalaureate degree programs at our colleges. The amendment would do
the following:

  • Enacts new performance metrics in both the college
    and university systems.
  • Establishes a 4-year graduation metric for
  • 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.
  • Revises 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. A report to
    the Legislature is required by December 1, 2017 of the adopted policies,
    the Board of Governor’s review and approval process and the BOG
    recommendations for improvement of the block tuition policies.
  • 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 funding pools for hiring and
    retaining top-level faculty and rewarding outstanding graduate programs.

UFF opposes the bill as there is no need for a new college governance
structure and no need for a limit to colleges providing baccalaureate
programs for needed workforce in their communities. We also oppose the
rush to 4-year graduation rates as a performance funding metric, the
lack of need-based scholarships, and the block tuition requirement
without an analysis of its impact on university funding. The House
passed SB 374 but struck all language in the Senate version and replaced
it with their HB 5601 which removes provisions authorizing state
university or Florida College System institution direct-support
organization to use personal services of the state university or Florida
College System institution. This is the House maneuver to place SB 374
as the subject of the conference committee.

Florida Retirement System

SB 7022 passed the Florida House by a 77-41 margin mostly on a
party-line basis with only two Republicans voting No. SB 7022 as amended
by the House is no longer a pure rate bill. The lengthy 60+ page Senate
bill is actually the House version, HB 5007, covering a multitude of FRS
issues including 2017-18 contribution rates but the real serious change
was reversing the default choice for future employees from the defined
benefit plan to the defined investment plan. The new Senate bill lacks
transparency as it was rushed through the House process in a matter of
two weeks and was part of a rate-setting bill that is normally
standalone legislation. An amendment by Representative Loranne Ausley (D
– Tallahassee) to remove the policy changes in the legislation and
create a true rate bill was defeated. This bill could have serious
consequences on the FRS plan for the future and all the changes together
increased the cost to the system. The default change was not submitted
to a long-term actuarial impact but only for associated costs during the
next two years. House Democrats were highly critical of this legislation
and questioned that the real motive was to reduce participation in the
defined benefit plan which would limit the state’s future liability for
the defined benefit plan. In the opinion of the editor of this update,
House leaders would eliminate a defined benefit pan altogether if they
could. Fortunately, they cannot.

Key Higher Education Legislation

Union Decertification

HB 11 by Rep. Scott Plakon (R-Longwood) has passed in the House of
Representatives. This openly anti-union measure would add an additional
requirement to an employee union’s annual renewal with the Public
Employees Relations Commission. HB 11 requires that each certified
bargaining unit of a registered employee organization must provide the
number of eligible employees for union membership and the number of dues
paying members. 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.
Then an election would be held through PERC for recertification of the
bargaining unit.

HB 11 and its companion SB 1292 by Senator Dennis Baxley (R – Lady Lake)
are both referred to four Senate committees. UFF and FEA will make every
effort to keep these bills bottled up until the Legislature adjourns.
But these bills point to the opposition UFF and FEA faces in the
Legislature and the

need to both grow membership and political and legislative activity in
the years ahead leading to the 2018 Elections.

Secret Executive Searches

HB 351 sponsored by Representative Bob Rommel (R – Naples), will create
an exemption from public record and meeting requirements for information
associated with the applicant recruitment process and discussions
associated with the applicant search for president, vice president,
provost, or dean at any state university, college, or community college.
UFF opposes this legislation that permits a cloak of secrecy around the
process of selecting university and college leadership.

The bill passed the Education Committee by a 15-1 on April 6th where
they added vice president to the exempt category. The bill has been
placed on the House Calendar with all bills on Second Reading and is
available for Special Order at any time. On a positive note, the
companion SB 478 by Senator Kathleen Passidomo (R – Naples) has not been
hard in any of its three committees of reference.

Fee Waivers for Graduate Assistants

SB 1276 by Senator Stargel (R-Lakeland) passed unanimously from the
Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education on April 3rd. The
bill waives 25% of fees for graduate teaching assistants and graduate
research assistants. These fees consume up to 25% of a graduate
assistant’s pay. HB 1073 by Representative Chuck Clemons (R –
Jonesville) has not been heard in the House. UFF is looking for ways to
use Senator Stargel’s bill as an amendment to must-pass legislation.

Guns on Campus

Neither SB 622 by Senator Greg Steube (R – Sarasota) nor HB 6005 by Rep.
Scott Plakon (R – Longwood) have been heard in any legislative
committee. That is great news for now but we cannot stop watching until
the hanky drops at Sine Die of the 2017 Session.

State Employee Health Insurance

HB 7007 by Health & Human Services Committee and Brodeur (R – Sanford)
has passed the House of Representatives. Brodeur Care, as described by
Rep. Lori Berman (D – Boynton Beach), establishes four health plan
choices for state employees and university faculty which will lead to
cost shifting to older and more medically-needy state employees when
these plans are rolled out in 2020.

The bill does not address reduction of medical costs or pharmaceutical
drugs. It does not establish a policy for premiums and who pays what
amount. If the claims continue to increase at the medical inflation
rate, the question is who is stuck with the medical bill should HB 7007
become law?

The companion bill, SB 900, by Senator Tom Lee (R – Brandon) has not
been heard in a Senate committee.


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