The 2017 Legislative Session will officially begin on Tuesday, March 7. It is clear that a variety of issues of concern to school board members will be addressed during the Session, including the priority issues identified in the FSBA 2017 Legislative Platform. The FSBA Legislative Committee and Advocacy Subcommittee are committed to taking an active role in pursuing these priorities and related issues and are working on filling a schedule that will bring one or more school board members to Tallahassee each week to meet with legislators, attend committee meetings, and advocate for the interests of Florida’s students and school boards. These Committee/Subcommittee members also have agreed to meet online each Friday at noon to review the events of the week and discuss any issues and concerns. Please be sure to communicate regularly with your district’s representative on the FSBA Legislative Committee and/or Advocacy Subcommittee to share any comments or concerns you may have.
In addition, your FSBA Staff will be enhancing several of our current services in our ongoing effort to provide timely and accurate information about what is happening each day. Starting next week:
- We will publish daily (rather than weekly) issues of the FSBA Session Spotlight each evening. Each issue will highlight the major events of the day, describe all bill or budget actions, provide the schedule and agenda for meetings that will be coming up the following day, and encourage your advocacy on major issues.
- We will be providing up-to-the minute information on legislative activities throughout the day through Twitter – to access our Twitter feed, we have added a link at the top of this page for your convenience.
- In addition to our full list of education related bills that we are following, we will provide a short list of the bills of particular interest during the week. This short list of “Bills in the Spotlight” will include links to the bill summary and key points for discussion to assist you with your advocacy efforts.
- We have added a link at the top of this page so that you may quickly and easily contact us at any time during the day if you have any questions or wish to offer comments or suggestions on the activities of the day.
We hope that these expanded services will make it easier for you to stay informed during the Session. Also, we have continued to update and add to the items available on our Advocacy Tools page where you will find background information on the legislative and budget development process, website and email links, education fast facts, and other information to support your advocacy. Please let us know if you have any suggestions for additions to this page that would be helpful to you.
The Legislature will have to contend with a list of complex and sometimes contentious issues during this Session. Many veterans of the legislative process have already predicted that one or more Special Sessions may be on the horizon as the two chambers grapple with differing priorities and policies among the two chambers and the governor’s office. Several of these issues will have a direct or indirect impact on education, including:
BUDGET: In the wake of rather depressing projections that indicated state revenue shortfalls, particularly in the years after the 2017-2018 fiscal year, Governor Scott recommended a $1.2 billion increase in the state budget as well as more than $600 million in tax cuts. Meanwhile, in an effort to bring more accountability and transparency to the budget process, the House has adopted a stringent new process for handling appropriations projects that the Senate has not embraced. Some progress was made this front when the legislative leaders announced that they had come to agreement on a Joint Budget Rule that they will ask their respective chambers to adopt on the opening day of the Session. However, even if the Joint Rule provides a budget process that both chambers agree is workable, substantial differences remain between the chambers in how and where the budget should grow and/or shrink. Of particular interest to school boards, House Speaker Corcoran has expressed a desire to apply the roll-back rate to the Required Local Effort millage that will freeze revenue at the current year level while the Senate has indicated a willingness to allow at least some increase in RLE revenue.
WORKERS’ COMPENSATION INSURANCE: The Florida Supreme Court recently ruled that two parts of the workers’ compensation insurance system were unconstitutional – limitations on the length of time that benefits would be provided and limitations on fees for attorneys representing workers. In response, insurance regulators approved a 14.5 percent rate increase that went into effect last year. Bills have been filed to address these issues as well as issues relating to insurance fraud. Workers’ Compensation costs have a significant impact on school districts as the school board is often the largest employer in each district.
GAMING: The House and Senate have expressed significantly different positions on the future of gambling in Florida. While the Senate supports expansion of gaming – including allowing gaming in eight counties where voters have approved referendums to allow it – that would generate more state revenue, the House prefers to essentially maintain the status quo. Of interest to school boards, the House plan would redirect about $400 million in revenue to support charter schools, teacher bonuses, recruitment and training, and to fund some of the higher education reforms championed by Senate President Negron.
GUNS: Several bills have been filed to allow concealed weapons permit holders to carry guns in places that are currently forbidden including to college and university campuses, public schools and school events, and to public meetings.
IMMIGRATION: Driven in part by events on the federal level, the Legislature is considering several measures relating to immigration and immigrants that cover a range of topics, including a proposals for Florida to withdraw from the federal refugee resettlement program and to require checks on citizenship – including penalties for entities that fail to do so. Also in question is whether in-state tuition rates for certain undocumented students would continue to be available.
Other significant statewide issues that the Legislature will need to address include water pollution, medical marijuana, health care reforms, election reforms, and economic development.
Although the Session doesn’t officially begin until Tuesday, a few meetings will be held on Monday. Please note that meetings may be viewed via live webcast or archived videos on the Florida Channel.
The Office of Economic and Demographic Research (EDR) will meet (9:00 a.m.- completion; 117 KOB) to hold an Ad Valorem Revenue Estimating Conference. Among other things, the results of this Estimating Conference will update earlier estimates and will help guide the Legislature in setting the millage rate for district Required Local Effort and the revenue that may be garnered from local capital outlay millage. EDR typically issues a report on their Conference findings within a day or two.
The Senate Education Committee will meet (1:30-3:30 p.m.; 412 KOB) to consider the following items and others:
SB 360 — Middle School Study by Stargel
The bill requires the DOE to conduct a comprehensive study of states with high-performing students in grades 6-8 in reading and mathematics – as indicated by the states’ performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) — and to report findings of the study by December 2017. The study must review, at a minimum academic expectations and instructional strategies, attendance policies and student mobility issues, teacher quality, middle school administrator leadership and performance, and parental and community involvement. The House companion bill – HB 293 by Burton – is identical.
SB 392 — High School Graduation Requirements by Hukill
The bill creates the “Personal Financial Literacy Education Act” to specify financial literacy standards and instruction for students entering grade 9 in the 2017-2018 school year and thereafter. The bill revises State Standards to establish requirements for financial literacy distinct from the existing financial literacy requirements specified under the economics curricular content within the standards for social studies. The bill also revises the requirements for a student to earn a standard high school diploma by establishing a separate one-half credit requirement in personal financial literacy, deleting the existing requirement for financial literacy from the required three credits in social studies, and reducing the number of required elective credits from eight to seven and one-half. The House companion bill – HB 955 by Ahern – is identical.
SB 436 — Religious Expression in Public Schools by Baxley
The bill creates the “Florida Student and School Personnel Religious Liberties Act,” and specifies that a school district may not discriminate against a student, parent, or school personnel on the basis of a religious viewpoint or religious expression. The bill authorizes a student to express his or her religious beliefs in written and oral assignments, wear clothing, accessories, and jewelry that display a religious message or symbol, and to pray or engage in and organize religious activities before, during, and after the school day to the same extent that student engagement in secular activity or expression and the organization of secular activities and groups are permitted. The bill requires a school district to comply with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and specifies that a school district may not prevent school personnel from participating in religious activities on school grounds that are student-initiated at reasonable times before or after the school day. The school district must also give a religious group access to the same school facilities for assembling as given to a secular group and authorizes such a religious or secular group to advertise or announce its meetings. In addition, the school district must adopt a policy that establishes a limited public forum for student speakers at any school event at which a student is to speak publicly. The DOE is directed to develop and publish on its website a model policy regarding a limited public forum and the voluntary expression of religious viewpoints by students and school personnel in public schools. The model policy must be adopted and implemented by each district school board. The House companion bill – HB 303 by Daniels and Williams – is identical.
The Senate Community Affairs Committee will meet (4:00-6:00 p.m.; 301 SOB) to consider the following items and others:
SB 80 – Public Records by Steube
The bill makes granting enforcement costs (including attorney fees) discretionary when the court determines that the plaintiff has provided written notice of the public records request to the agency’s custodian of public records at least 5 business days before filing the enforcement action and a public entity has unlawfully refused to grant access to public records. There is no direct House companion bill, but there is another pair of bills – HB 163 by Burgess and SB 246 by Garcia – that are similar to each other.
SB 534 – Public Works Projects by Perry
The bill prohibits the state and its political subdivisions that contract for public works projects from imposing restrictive conditions on certain contractors, subcontractors, or material suppliers or carriers, except as otherwise required by federal or state law. The bill provides that the state or political subdivision that contracts for a public works project may not require that a contractor, subcontractor, or material supplier or carrier engaged in the project pay employees a predetermined wage or set any wage rate, provide employees a specified type, amount, or rate of employee benefits, control, limit, or expand staffing, or recruit, train, or hire employees from a designated, restricted, or single source. The bill also prohibits the state or a political subdivision from restricting a qualified contractor, subcontractor, or material supplier or carrier from submitting a bid on any public works project or being awarded any contract, subcontract, material order, or carrying order. The House companion bill – HB 599 by Williamson – is identical.