The main highlight today was a rally of an estimated 5,000 students, teachers, parents, school district personnel, legislators, and other citizens seeking to express their concerns and recommendations for legislative action in the wake of the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last week. Concerns about student safety and school security have also influenced budget negotiations as the effort to respond to these issues and other legislative priorities appear to have stalled progress in crafting the state budget. With less than three weeks remaining in the Legislative Session, some have suggested that legislators may need to extend the Session beyond the scheduled March 9 adjournment date.
In other important business today, legislators considered several education related bills including bills relating to curriculum, child care, and juvenile justice. Please click on the link below to see our summary of these and other bills of interest that were considered today. Tomorrow, legislators will consider several bills, including bills relating to government accountability, taxation, and impact fees. Please click on the link below for our preview of these and other bills that will be considered on Thursday.
In the House Education Committee meeting:
HB 323 – High School Graduation Requirements by Fitzenhagen – AMENDED; PASSED WITH A COMMITTEE SUBSTITUTE (CS)
The bill eliminates financial literacy instruction from the one-half credit economics requirement and establishes a one-half credit financial literacy course as an additional elective. The bill requires students to be provided an opportunity to learn personal financial literacy, which must include topics such as opening and managing a bank account, balancing a checkbook, completing a loan application, computing federal income taxes, simple contracts, types of savings and investments, and state and federal finance laws.
The bill increases fiscal transparency of educational spending by:
- Requiring school boards to provide financial efficiency data and fiscal trend information;
- Requiring the Department of Education to develop a web-based tool that identifies schools and districts with high academic achievement based on per pupil expenditures; and
- Requiring school boards to provide a full explanation of, and approve, any budget amendment at the boards’ next public meeting.
The bill increases fiscal accountability of school districts by:
- Requiring school districts with revenues over $500 million to employ an internal auditor;
- Requiring school districts with low ending fund balances to reduce administrative costs and other expenditures;
- Requiring districts with financial emergency conditions to withhold the salaries of certain superintendents and school board members until the emergency is addressed;
- Requiring an investigation of school districts who are unable to timely pay current debts and liabilities;
- Clarifying that the Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General must investigate allegations and reports of fraud and abuse from certain government officials;
- Requiring school districts with previous operational audit findings to initiate and complete corrective action within a certain period of time;
- Aligning school board member salaries with beginning teacher salaries or the amount calculated by statute; and
- Requiring prior school board approval for reimbursement of certain out-of-district travel expenses.
The bill also:
- Requires instructional and administrative personnel, who extend the Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP) participation beyond the 60-month period, to have a termination date that is the last day of the school year within the DROP extension.
- Contingent upon HB 7055 failing to become law, the bill appropriates $850,000 to the Department of Education to implement the provisions of the bill.
[NOTE: The Committee took up and passed a Proposed Committee Substitute (PCS) that added some or all of the provisions of HB 1279 relating to School District Accountability and HB 977 relating to Retirement of Instructional and Administrative Personnel. The summary above reflects the provisions of the bill as amended.
In the House Health & Human Services Committee meeting:
HB 1129 – Licensure of Child Care Programs by Cortes – PASSED; PLACED ON HOUSE CALENDAR ON 2ND READING
- Redefines “child care” and “child care facilities,” and removes the statutory requirement that DCF distinguish between child care programs for school-age children requiring licensure and after-school programs that do not need to be licensed.
- Specifies what constitutes after-school programs that must be licensed as a child care facility.
- Defines an after-school program as child care for school-age children during out-of-school times, including, but not limited to, before school or after school, school breaks, and in service planning days. An after-school program includes, but is not limited to, a program that does not require a parent to be present while the child is at the facility and satisfies three or more of the following elements:
- Provides transportation.
- Provides meals or snacks.
- Provides more than one type of educational, artistic, athletic, or self-directed activity.
- Provides tutoring or homework assistance, or a specific time for children to complete homework.
- Advertises or holds itself out as providing child care or being an after-school program.
- Takes children on field trips.
- Provides exemptions from the definition of after-school program, which exempt qualifying programs from licensure.
- Amends legislative intent related to the licensure of child care facilities to state that membership organizations affiliated with national organizations which provide child care are considered to be child care facilities and, as such, are subject to licensing requirements or minimum standards for child care facilities.
- Provides exceptions from certain physical plant requirements for such membership organizations that are licensed as child care facilities for after-school programs before July 1, 2020.
[NOTE: This was the last of three committees of reference for this bill. There is no direct Senate companion bill but SB 1520 contains some comparable provisions. However, SB 1520 has not been heard in any of three committees of reference.]
In the House Judiciary Committee meeting:
HB 1197 – Prearrest Diversion Programs by Ahern – AMENDED; PASSED WITH A CS
The bill establishes a model prearrest diversion program that local entities may, but are not mandated to, adopt. In implementing such a program, representatives from local law enforcement agencies, the program services provider, the public defender, the state attorney, and the clerk of the court, in consultation with other interested stakeholders, have wide latitude to develop the program, including defining eligibility criteria, program implementation and operation, and fees, if any. The bill also expands eligibility criteria for juvenile diversion program expunction. The bill makes participants in all types of juvenile diversion programs eligible for expunction. The individual programs no longer have the discretion to specify whether expunction is available, and a minor who completes any diversion program for any misdemeanor is eligible. The bill requires the diversion programs to submit data regarding participants and nonparticipants in diversion programs to the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), which must compile and publish the data on its website. [NOTE: Today’s amendments specify certain misdemeanor crimes that do not qualify for a civil citation or prearrest diversion program and removed a reference to fees for expunction. This was the last of three committees of reference for this bill. The Senate companion bill – SB 1392 – is similar and has passed two of three committees of reference.]
HB 1199 – Public Records/Prearrest Diversion Programs by Ahern — PASSED
The bill creates a public records exemption for the personal identifying information of an adult who participates in diversion program as established in HB 1197 above. Specifically, the exemption protects the personal identifying information held by a law enforcement agency, a program services provider, a clerk of the circuit court, or the entity operating the prearrest diversion program before, on, or after the effective date of this exemption. The exemption does not apply to an adult who fails to complete the prearrest diversion program. [NOTE: This was the last of three committees of reference for this bill. The Senate companion bill – SB 1394 – is similar but has not been heard in any of three committees of reference.]
In the Senate Session:
SB 1048 – Firearms by Baxley – TEMPORARILY POSTPONED ON 3RD READING
The bill enables a church, synagogue, or other religious institution to authorize a person who has a concealed handgun license to carry a concealed handgun in some places where even a licensee normally may not, subject to several restrictions. These places includes elementary or secondary schools and career centers, if they are also established places of worship. Under the bill, a religious institution may authorize the holder of a concealed handgun license to carry a concealed handgun on certain school properties if they are “established physical place[s] of worship at which religious services are regularly conducted.” However, if the institution uses school property not owned by the institution, the institution must have the permission of the owner or administrator of the property to allow the licensed carrying of concealed handguns. Additionally, a person may not possess a handgun on school property during school hours or when any school-sponsored activity is taking place on the property. Finally, the bill expressly states that religious institutions may not authorize a person to carry a handgun on the property of a public or private college or university. [NOTE: The House companion bill — HB 1419 – is similar, has passed all committees of reference, and is on the House Calendar on 2nd Reading.]
In the House Session:
HB 839 – Display of the State Motto by Daniels – READ 3RD TIME; PASSED THE HOUSE
The bill requires each district school board to adopt rules that require all schools and all buildings used by the school board to display in a conspicuous place the state motto, In God We Trust. [NOTE: The Senate companion bill — SB 1158 – is identical but has not been heard in any of three committees of reference.]
HB 243 – Discretionary Sales Surtax by Avila – READ 3RD TIME; PASSED THE HOUSE
The bill primarily addresses authority of counties to levy a sales surtax of up to one percent for specified transportation purposes. Of interest to school districts, the bill also includes provisions to require, for any referendum held on or after the effective date of the bill to adopt or amend a discretionary sales surtax, an independent certified public accountant (CPA) to conduct a performance audit of the county or school district holding the referendum. The CPA must be procured by the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA), which may use carryforward funds to procure and pay for the CPA’s services. The performance audit must be completed and the audit report, including any findings, recommendations, or other accompanying documents must be made available on the official website of the county or school district at least 60 days before the referendum is held. The audit report and accompanying documents must remain on the website for two years from the date it was posted.
- The bill also defines the term “performance audit” to mean an examination of the county or school district conducted according to applicable government auditing standards or auditing and evaluation standards of other appropriate authoritative bodies. At a minimum, a performance audit must include an examination of issues related to the following:
- The economy, efficiency, or effectiveness of the county or school district;
- The structure or design of the county government or school district to accomplish its goals and objectives;
- Alternative methods of providing county or school district services or products;
- Goals, objectives, and performance measures used by the county or school district to monitor and report program accomplishments;
- The accuracy or adequacy of public documents, reports, or requests prepared by the county or school district; and
- Compliance of the county or school district with appropriate policies, rules, or laws.
[NOTE: There is no direct Senate companion bill.]
HB 1279 – School District Accountability by Sullivan — READ 3RD TIME; PASSED THE HOUSE
To increase fiscal transparency of educational spending, the bill:
- Requires school boards to provide financial efficiency data and fiscal trend information;
- Requires the Department of Education to develop a web-based tool that identifies schools and districts with high academic achievement based on per pupil expenditures; and
- Requires school boards to provide a full explanation of, and approve, any budget amendment at the boards’ next public meeting.
To increase fiscal accountability of districts, the bill:
- Requires school districts with revenues over $500 million to employ an internal auditor;
- Requires school districts with low ending fund balances to reduce administrative costs and other expenditures;
- Requires districts with financial emergency conditions to withhold the salaries of certain superintendents and school board members until the emergency is addressed;
- Requires an investigation of school districts who are unable to timely pay current debts and liabilities;
- Clarifies that the Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General must investigate allegations and reports of fraud and abuse from certain government officials; and
- Requires school districts with previous operational audit findings to initiate and complete corrective action within a certain period of time.
The bill also:
- Prohibits appointed, along with elected superintendents, from lobbying school districts for a period of two years after vacating the position;
- Aligns school board member salaries with beginning teacher salaries or the amount calculated by statute;
- Requires prior school board approval for reimbursement of certain out-of-district travel expenses;
- Authorizes the withholding of a portion of an employee’s salary who owes a public financial disclosure fine;
- Repeals s. 1011.64, F.S., relating to school district minimum classroom expenditure requirements; and
- Prohibits superintendents, along with school board members, from employing or appointing a relative to work under their direct supervision.
- Contingent upon HB 7055 or similar legislation failing to become law, appropriates $850,000 to the Department of Education to implement the provisions of the bill.
[NOTE: The Senate companion bill — SB 1804 – is similar and has passed one of three committees of reference.]
HB 731 – Home Education by Sullivan — READ 3RD TIME; PASSED THE HOUSE
- Clarifies the definition of “parent,” the home education registration process and the home education notice requirements;
- Authorizes school districts to provide a home education student access to career and technical courses and programs;
- Authorizes districts to offer industry certifications, national assessments and statewide, standardized assessments to home education students;
- Prohibits school superintendents from requiring evidence of a child’s age if the child meets regular attendance requirements by attending certain educational institutions or programs;
- Authorizes school superintendents to refer student non-enrollment cases to a child study team in order to conduct intervention services;
- Clarifies the court procedures and penalties for enforcement of compulsory school attendance;
- Clarifies that dual enrollment articulation agreements may not limit the number of dual enrollment courses students may take based solely upon a student’s enrollment at an independent postsecondary institution;
- Exempts a home education student from the grade point average requirement for admission to dual enrollment programs if the student meets the minimum score on a college placement test.
- Deletes a requirement for a home education student to provide his or her own instructional materials; and
- Provides, contingent upon HB 7055 or similar legislation failing to become law, an appropriation of $550,000 to the Department of Education to be used by the Division of Florida Colleges to reimburse eligible colleges for the instructional materials for certain students.
[NOTE: The Senate companion bill — SB 732 – is similar and has passed two of three committees of reference.]
The House Government Accountability Committee will meet, 9:00 am – 12:00 pm, to consider the following items and others:
HB 977 – Retirement of Instructional and Administrative Personnel by Fine
The bill provides that effective July 1, 2018, instructional personnel who are authorized to extend DROP participation beyond the 60-month period must have a termination date that is the last day of the last calendar month of the school year within the DROP extension granted by the employer. For those employees who have already extended DROP on or before July 1, 2018, the member’s DROP participation may be extended through the last day of the last calendar month of that school year. The employer must notify the division of the change in termination date and the additional period of DROP participation for the affected instructional personnel. In addition, administrative personnel in grades K-12 who have a DROP termination date on or after July 1, 2018, may be authorized to extend DROP participation beyond the initial 60 calendar month period if the administrative personnel’s termination date is before the end of the school year. Such administrative personnel may have DROP participation extended until the last day of the last calendar month of the school year in which their original DROP termination date occurred.
HB 1019 – Financial Reporting by La Rosa
The bill requires counties, municipalities, special districts, water management districts, and school districts to:
- Post annual budgets to their respective websites for five years;
- Provide an electronic copy of their budgets to the Office of Economic and Demographic Research (EDR), on forms prescribed by the EDR;
- Provide a copy of their budgets and a certification of timely filing to the clerk of the court; and
- File annual financial reports and audit reports within six months of the end of the fiscal year.
In addition, the bill:
- Provides that the recipient of these reports may extend reporting deadlines by up to 90 days in the event the Governor declares a state of emergency.
- Provides that if a local government entity or school district fails to file required reports with the clerk of the court, the clerk must notify the appropriate fiscal officer to withhold salary payments from the head of the local government entity or the superintendent of the school district until the reports are filed.
- Requires all municipalities and special districts to conduct an annual audit.
- Requires the Legislative Auditing Committee to conduct a hearing upon receiving notification from the Auditor General, the Department of Financial Services, the Division of Bond Finance of the State Board of Administration, the Governor, or the Commissioner of Education that a local government entity has failed to file required reports.
HB 7007 – Ethics Reform by Public Integrity & Ethics
The bill mainly focuses on state level government but may have implications at the local level. The bill addresses public officer, employee and third party conduct regarding sexual harassment, solicitation and negotiation of conflicting and potentially conflicting income producing relationships, addresses post-service lobbying restrictions for certain officers, and revises executive branch lobbyist registration requirements in addition to other reforms. Specifically, the bill:
- Removes restrictions on state employees lobbying the legislature;
- Establishes policy to prohibit and prevent sexual harassment in all branches of government;
- Restricts use of campaign funds to defend legal claims arising out of public service and limits use of public service announcements during a campaign;
- Broadens the Code of Ethics to prohibit sexual harassment of or by state employees and third parties, and, relating to sexual harassment, prohibits disclosures of confidential information, retaliation, or false complaints;
- Requires agencies to adopt policies to manage reports and complaints of sexual harassment, including policies to protect and provide certain accommodations to victims of alleged sexual harassment;
- Requires biennial surveys of the climate of sexual harassment in agencies and establishes a task force to review surveys, rules, and policies to make recommendations to improve sexual harassment policies;
- Prohibits public officers and employees from soliciting an employment or contractual relationship from entities with whom they are prohibited from entering into conflicting employment and contractual relationships;
- Requires public officers and employees to report or disclose particular solicitations and offers of employment or contractual relationships;
- Imposes a two-year post-service ban on personal representation before any state executive branch agency for agency directors including department secretaries, except when employed by another state agency;
- Imposes certain restrictions on statewide elected officers and legislators related to employment or investment advice;
- Restricts certain unelected state officers and employees regarding soliciting and negotiating an employment or contractual relationship with certain employers;
- Authorizes the Commission on Ethics to investigate disclosures of certain prohibited solicitations in the same manner as a complaint; and
- Revises executive branch lobbying registration requirements to mandate electronic registration, clarify provisions, adjust the maximum registration fee, and add the Board of Governors of the State University System and the State Board of Education to the list of entities to which the requirements apply.
HB 7073 – Government Integrity by Public Integrity & Ethics
The bill mainly focuses on state level government but may have implications at the local level. The bill includes various provisions designed to promote integrity in government and identify and eliminate fraud, waste, abuse, mismanagement, and misconduct in government. Specifically, the bill:
- Creates the Florida Accountability Office within the Office of Auditor General for the purpose of ensuring accountability and integrity in state and local government and identifying, investigating, and recommending the elimination of waste, fraud, abuse, mismanagement, and related misconduct in government.
- Requires the Chief Inspector General (CIG) and agency inspectors general to determine whether there is reasonable suspicion that fraud, waste, abuse, mismanagement, or misconduct in government has occurred within six months of initiating an investigation of such activity.
- Provides a mechanism for the state to recover funds when the CIG or an agency inspector general determines a public official, independent contractor, or agency has committed fraud, waste, abuse, mismanagement, or misconduct in government.
- Requires the Chief Financial Officer to regularly forward to the Florida Accountability Officer copies of suggestions and information submitted through the state’s “Get Lean” hotline, whose purpose is to receive information or suggestions from residents on how to improve the operation of government, increase governmental efficiency, or eliminate waste in government.
- Provides a financial incentive for agency employees to file Whistle-blower’s Act complaints and participate in investigations that lead to the recovery of funds.
- For agency contracts over $50,000, requires a contractor to include in the contract a good faith estimate of gross profit for each year of the contract, provides a process for the agency to review such estimate, and provides financial penalties for a contractor who misrepresents the estimate.
- Broadens the competitive solicitation exemption for statewide broadcasting of public service announcements so that it does not apply only to public service announcements by statewide nonprofit organizations.
- Prohibits a state employee, other than an agency head, from lobbying for funding for a contract or participating in the award of the contract.
The House Appropriations Committee will meet, 1:00 – 4:00 pm, to consider the following item and others:
HB 7087 – Taxation by Ways & Means
The bill provides for a wide range of tax reductions and modifications designed to directly impact both households and businesses. The bill contains several provisions related to sales tax:
- Tax rate reduction for tax on commercial rentals (business rent tax).
- Includes new, extended, or expanded sales tax exemptions for:
- Sales tax credits for contributions to the Gardiner Scholarship and Florida Tax Credit Scholarship programs;
- Certain generators for nursing homes and assisted living facilities;
- Certain purchases of agriculture related fencing materials and building materials for repair of storm damage from Hurricane Irma;
- Sales tax holidays:
- A ten-day “back-to-school” holiday for clothing, footwear, school supplies, and computers;
- Three seven-day “disaster preparedness” holiday for sales of specified items related to disaster preparedness.
For property tax purposes, the bill provides property tax relief for certain homestead property damaged by Hurricanes Hermine, Matthew or Irma or a named tropical storm; for certain citrus processing equipment idled as a result of citrus greening or Hurricane Irma; for certain unremarried surviving spouses of disabled ex-servicemembers; updates the list of named military operations for which deployed servicemembers may receive property tax relief for their homestead property; and clarifies the tax exempt status of certain entities created under the Florida Interlocal Cooperation Act of 1969.
For corporate income tax purposes, the bill provides an additional $13 million for tax credits for fiscal year 2018-19 for voluntary brownfields clean-up and an additional $6.5 million for community contribution tax credits in fiscal year 2019-20 (also may be taken against sales tax and insurance premiums tax).
Further changes include: an 18 percent reduction in certain traffic fines if the driver attends a driver improvement course; exemptions from documentary stamp taxes for certain transfers of property between spouses and for certain notes and mortgages given for loans made in connection with local housing finance authorities; reduction in the tax rate on certain aviation fuel uses; exemption from fuel taxes certain purchases of fuel for export and certain purchases of fuel for agricultural related uses; several changes adding flexibility to the use of tax credits under the Florida Scholarship Tax Credit Program; a requirement for reporting of certain financial information by certain recipients of sales tax and cigarette tax distributions; and a clarification to the uses for which the local infrastructure sales surtax may be used.
The total impact of the bill in fiscal year 2018-19 is -$331.3 million (-$273.9 million recurring).
The Senate Appropriations Committee will meet, 2:00 – 5:00 pm, to consider the following items and others:
SB 310 – Threats to Kill or do Bodily Injury by Steube
The bill replaces the current statutory requirement that prohibits any person who writes or composes and sends a letter, inscribed communication, or electronic communication with a threat to kill or do bodily injury to a person or any member of the person’s family, with language that prohibits a person from making a threat to kill or do great bodily injury in writing or other record, including an electronic record, and posting or transmitting the threat in a manner that would allow another person to view it. In addition, the offense is decreased from a second degree felony to a third degree felony. The bill also changes the offense from a Level 6 to a Level 4 in the Criminal Punishment Code Offense Severity Ranking Chart, which decreases the offense’s sentencing points from 36 points to 22 points.
SB 324 – Impact Fees by Young
The bill requires that the collection of an impact fee be no earlier than the issuance of the building permit for the property that is subject to the fee and provides that the statutory provisions related to impact fees do not apply to water and sewer connection fees. The bill also codifies the dual rational nexus test. The bill requires impact fees to have a rational nexus with the need for additional capital facilities and the expenditures of the funds collected. The local government must specifically earmark funds collected by the impact fees for use in acquiring capital facilities to benefit the new residents. The bill prohibits the use of impact fee revenues to pay existing debt unless certain conditions are met. In addition, the bill prohibits local governments from requiring developers to pay for land acquisition or construction of public facilities as a condition for approving a development order unless the local government has an ordinance imposing similar requirements on all developers.
SB 856 – High School Graduation Requirements by Montford
The bill authorizes students to use apprenticeship or preapprenticeship program credit to meet specified credit requirements for high school graduation. Specifically, the bill:
- Authorizes a student who earns credit upon completion of an apprenticeship or preapprenticeship program registered with the Department of Education to use such credit to meet the credit requirements for:
- Fine or performing arts, speech and debate, or practical arts; or
- Requires the State Board of Education to approve and identify in the Course Code Directory the apprenticeship and preapprenticeship programs from which a student may use earned credit to meet the specified credit requirements for high school graduation.
SB 1426 – Local Government Fiscal Transparency by Lee
The bill creates the Local Government Fiscal Transparency Act. The act:
- Requires local governments to post on their websites the voting records related to taxes and debt.
- Requires property appraisers to maintain a website that includes certain property tax information.
- Requires local governments to provide additional notice of tax increases and new tax-supported debt.
- Requires local governments to undergo a debt affordability analysis before authorizing debt.
- Requires local government audits submitted to the Auditor General to be accompanied by an affidavit from the chair of the governing board stating that the local government has complied with the Local Government Fiscal Transparency Act.
The bill also:
- Requires the Auditor General, during its review of local government audit reports, to request evidence of corrective action from local governments found not to be in compliance under certain circumstances; and requires local governments to provide evidence of such correction action and evidence of completion of such action within a specified period.
- Revises the local government annual reporting requirements for economic development incentives.