As further groundwork to support your advocacy efforts during the Legislative Session, earlier today you should have received an email with links to two videos. One of the links connects to the first of several video updates that FSBA will be providing during the Session. Our 2017 Session Kickoff Video features FSBA Executive Director Andrea Messina providing an outline of the key issues and bills that are expected this Session. The other link connects to our Virtual Tour of the Capitol which walks you through both the historic “Old” Capitol and the newer, but less charming, “New” Capitol. Both of these new videos are posted on our Session Spotlight page (just below this issue) and you also will find a link to the Virtual Capitol Tour on our Advocacy Tools page.
We have also updated our FSBA Bill Tracking List with the education related bills that have been filed through March 5, 2016. This list is also posted on our 2017 Legislative Session page – click on the link titled “2017-2018 Education Legislation Materials”. Please note that you can sort this bill list by chamber, bill number, sponsor, or subject to make it easier to find the bills that are of the most interest to you. We are currently tracking more than 300 bills and expect that there will be many more on our list within the next week or so (although tomorrow, Tuesday, is the deadline for legislators to file bills for introduction during this Session, there are hundreds that have already been filed, but have not yet been released by the Bill Drafting office). Already, there are several bills that address a variety of school related issues such as assessments & accountability, personnel, capital and operating funding, Workers’ Compensation, the Florida Retirement System, public records, local authority, ethics, and weapons & firearms. Each week, we will isolate 10 or so bills that are of particular interest – in general and/or for that specific week – and list them separately. Each week’s list of “Bills in the Spotlight” will give you a chance to familiarize yourself with some of the more compelling bills without having to dig through a list of 300+ bills to find them. We have posted our first list of Bills in the Spotlight along with our full FSBA Bill Tracking List on our 2017 Legislative Session page.
In the Senate Education Committee:
SB 436 — Religious Expression in Public Schools by Baxley — PASSED
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 bill stirred quite a bit of testimony, both in support and in opposition. Because the bill addresses a controversial legal/constitutional issue, FSBA recommends that school boards consult with their attorney for advice on how to proceed should this bill pass. The House companion bill – HB 303 by Daniels and Williams – is identical but has not been heard in any committee.
SB 360 — Middle School Study by Stargel – PASSED
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 but has not yet been heard in any committee.
SB 392 — High School Graduation Requirements by Hukill – PASSED AS AMENDED WITH A COMMITTEE SUBSTITUTE (CS)
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 include 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 bill was slightly amended for clarification. The House companion bill – HB 955 by Ahern – is identical but has not been heard in any committee.
In the Senate Community Affairs Committee:
SB 80 – Public Records by Steube – AMENDED AND PASSED WITH A CS
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 but neither has been heard in any committee.
SB 534 – Public Works Projects by Perry – AMENDED AND PASSED WITH A CS
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 but has not been heard in any committee.
In the morning, the Senate will be in Session (9:30-11:00 a.m.; Senate Chamber) and the House will be in Session (10:00 – 11:00 a.m.; House Chamber). In addition to traditional activities for the opening of the 2017 Session, each chamber will vote on the adoption of a Proposed Amendment to Joint Rule 2, detailing procedures for the Legislature’s annual budget conference. As discussed earlier, in an effort to improve transparency and accountability in the budget process, the House had adopted stringent new Rules that dictated the handling of project requests. Meanwhile, the Senate refused to be bound by the House Rules that infringed upon the Senate’s authority to determine its own Rules and procedures. Many veteran observers of the Legislature feared that the differences between the House and Senate Rules might prevent the chambers from coming to agreement in crafting the state budget. This Proposed Amendment to Joint Rule 2 is a compromise worked out between the chambers that may allow legislators to adopt a state budget.
After conducting this work in their respective chambers, the House and Senate will convene in a Joint Session (11:00 a.m.-completion of business) to hear Governor Scott deliver the annual “State of the State” address.
The House PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee will meet (1:00-3:30 p.m.; 306 HOB) to consider the following items:
HB 15 – Educational Options by Sullivan
The bill expands access to the Gardiner Scholarship Program (GSP) and strengthens accountability by expanding student eligibility, expanding the authorized uses of scholarship funds, revising the eligibility requirements of private schools participating in the GSP, and clarifying a student’s eligibility to receive scholarship payments. The bill also expands access to the John M. McKay Scholarship for Students with Disabilities Program by allowing students to be reported in either the October or February Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP) survey, in order to be eligible. The bill also clarifies that the instructional and work experience hours that a transition-to-work student must receive are on a per week basis. In addition, the bill revises the Florida Tax Credit (FTC) Scholarship Program in several ways, including:
- increasing the base annual scholarship amount, differentiated by grade level, for students enrolled in eligible private schools;
- increasing the amount of a transportation scholarship for a student who chooses a public school outside their district from $500 to $750;
- allowing a dependent child of a parent who is a member of the U.S. Armed Forces to apply for a scholarship at any time; and
- providing that a private school that has consecutive years of material exceptions listed in their annual financial reports may be ineligible to participate in the FTC.
The bill appropriates $200 million for Gardiner scholarship funds and $6 million for administrative fees for eligible SFO’s to administer the GSP. The Senate does not have a direct companion to this bill, but there are two comparable Senate bills – SB 902 and SB 1314 – but neither have been heard in any committee.
HB 373 – Education/Teacher Contracts by M. Grant
The bill clarifies that the district must issue contracts on an annual basis and may not award — or alter or limit its authority to award — an annual contract to instructional personnel based on a contingency or condition. The bill provides that the provision prohibiting a school board from awarding, or altering its authority to award, an annual contract only applies to collective bargaining agreements entered into or renewed by a district school board on or after this law is enacted. The Senate companion – SB 856 – is identical but has not been heard in any committee.
HB 833 – Student Eligibility for K-12 Virtual Instruction by Sullivan
The bill revises eligibility provision by removing the requirement that students in grades 2-5 must have been enrolled in public school in the prior year in order to be eligible are not eligible for part-time virtual instruction and provides that all K-12 students, including home education and private school students, are eligible for both full-time and part-time virtual instruction options. The bill also removes passage of a specified online content assessment as an option to fulfill the online course requirement. The Senate companion bill – SB 692 – is identical but has not been heard in any committee.
The House PreK-12 Quality Subcommittee will meet (4:00-6:30 p.m., 102 HOB) to consider the following items:
Presentation on High School Graduation Requirements and Pathways to Graduation
Proposed Committee Bill (PCB) PKQ1 – Civic Literacy by PreK-12 Quality
The bill designates the month of September as “American Founders‘ Month” and provides that it is a priority of the K-20 public education system to prepare students to become civically engaged and knowledgeable adults who make positive contributions to their community. The bill authorizes the Governor to issue a proclamation urging public and private organizations within the state to celebrate the month and encourages all public schools to coordinate instruction on the founding fathers with American Founders’ Month. The bill requires the Just Read, Florida! Office to develop sequenced, content-rich programming to help elementary schools incorporate social studies, science, and fine arts content into literacy skills Instruction. In addition, the bill requires students entering a Florida College System or State University System institution in 2018-2019 or thereafter to demonstrate competence in civic literacy either through a general education civics course or by passing an assessment adopted by the State Board of Education (SBE) or the Board of Governors (BOG). The bill also requires the chairs of the SBE and BOG to jointly appoint a faculty committee to develop a new course in civic literacy or revise an existing general education core course and establish competencies and identify outcomes for the course. There is no Senate companion bill currently identified.
The Senate Ethics & Elections Committee will meet (4:00-6:00 p.m., 412 KOB) to consider the following item and others:
SB 914 – Public Meetings by Baxley
The bill codifies judicial interpretation and application of the terms: “de facto meeting,” “discussion,” “meeting,” “official act,” and “public business” and specifies that members of a board may participate in “fact-finding” exercises or excursion to research public business, and may participate in meetings with a member of the Legislature if:
- The board provides reasonable notice;
- A vote, official act, or an agreement regarding a future action does not occur;
- There is no discussion of “public business” that occurs; and
- There are appropriate records, minutes, audio recordings, or video recordings made and retained as a public record.
In addition, the bill provides that, if there is a gathering of two or more board members where no official acts are taken and no public business is discussed, then no public notice or access is required. The House companion – HB 919 – is identical but has not been heard in any committee.