The Legislature held a third round of Interim Committee Meetings last week and will hold a fourth round this week. Please click on the links below to access this week’s schedule and our report on last week’s education-related meetings, bills, and presentations that were considered. In addition, we have provided a link to our latest update on the Constitution Revision Commission.
During this week of Interim Committee Meetings, there will be a continued focus on hurricane preparedness and response. Senate Education Committee will meet on Monday to consider, among other things, the emergency response by K-20 education entities. In addition, the House Select Committee on Hurricane Response & Preparedness will be meeting twice this week – on Monday afternoon and Thursday afternoon. So far, the Select Committee has been receiving presentations on various components of the state’s preparedness and response, including presentations from the education community. This week, the Select Committee will be discussing policy recommendations with final recommendations expected during the last round of Interim Committee meetings in December.
In other meetings of interest, the House PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee will hold a panel discussion on industry certifications and Florida’s workforce; the House PreK-12 Quality Subcommittee will hold a panel discussion on developing and retaining Florida’s future agricultural leaders; and the Senate PreK-12 Education Appropriations Subcommittee will have testimony and discussion of local funding requests for FY 2018-2019.
You may access the our full schedule of education related meetings, bills, and presentations HERE. Please remember that you may view the live webcast of any of these meetings at www.thefloridachannel.org.
The next round of Interim Committee meetings will be held December 6-10, 2017.
Last week, several committees considered bills and Proposed Committee Bills (PCBs) relating to state and local government accountability and ethics. Other bills of interest addressed high school graduation requirements, state taxing authority, local tax referenda, and the creation of the Hope Scholarship Program. The summary and status of these bills are outlined below.
In the Senate Community Affairs Committee:
SB 354 – Government Accountability by Stargel – AMENDED AND PASSED WITH A COMMITTEE SUBSTITUTE (CS)
The bill amends statutes to enhance government accountability and auditing, based on recommendations noted in recent reports by the Auditor General. Similar legislation was proposed last year. Of interest to school boards, the bill:
- Specifies that the Governor or Commissioner of Education, or designee, may notify the Legislative Auditing Committee of an entity’s failure to comply with certain auditing and financial reporting requirements;
- Provides definitions for the terms “abuse,” “fraud,” and “waste;”
- Requires each agency, the judicial branch, the Justice Administrative Commission, state attorneys, public defenders, criminal conflict and civil regional counsel, capital collateral regional counsel, the Guardian Ad Litem program, local governmental entities, charter schools, school districts, Florida College System institutions, and state universities to establish and maintain internal controls designed to prevent and detect fraud, waste, and abuse;
- Limits the amount that may be reimbursed per day for state agency and judicial branch employee lodging expenses for travel under certain circumstances to $150;
- Requires all governmental entities to use the statewide travel management system;
- Provides that the Department of Financial Services may request additional information from local government entities when preparing its annual verified report;
- Requires a local governmental entity, district school board, charter school, or charter technical career center, Florida College System board of trustees, or university board of trustees to respond to audit recommendations under certain circumstances;
- Requires an independent certified public accountant conducting an audit of a local governmental entity to determine, as part of the audit, whether the entity’s annual financial report is in agreement with the entity’s audited financial statements;
- Revises the composition of auditor selection committees;
- Requires completion of an annual financial audit of the Florida Virtual School; and
- Prohibits a board or commission from requiring a member of the public to provide an advance written copy of his or her testimony or comments as a precondition of being given the opportunity to be heard.
[NOTE: This was the first of three committees of reference for this bill. The approved amendment was a technical correction. The House companion bill – HB 11 – is similar and was considered last week in the House Government Accountability Committee where it was similarly amended and has now been placed on the House Calendar.]
In the House Public Integrity & Ethics Committee, two Proposed Committee Bills (PCBs) were considered and filed with a bill number:
PCB PIE-2 – Local Government Ethics Reform – SUBMITTED AS A COMMITTEE BILL AND FILED AS HB 7003
The bill makes numerous changes to Florida’s Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees (Code) as it relates to local government officers, employees, and lobbyists. Of interest to school boards, the bill:
- Requires local officers that must abstain from voting on a measure due to a conflict of interest to disclose the conflict prior to participating in the measure;
- Adds school districts to the list of governmental entities that must withhold salary-related payments from employees for failure to timely file a disclosure of financial interests;
- Requires a person who wishes to lobby certain local governmental entities to register as a lobbyist with the Commission on Ethics (Commission); and
- Provides that local government ordinances that require registration are preempted by the Local Government Lobbyist Registration System established by the Commission.
[NOTE: The bill is likely to be referred to other committees for review. As yet, there is no Senate companion bill.]
PCB PIE-3 – Local Government Lobbyist Registration System Trust Fund – SUBMITTED AS A COMMITTEE BILL AND FILED AS HB 7005
The bill creates the Local Government Lobbyist Registration System Trust Fund within the Commission on Ethics. The trust fund’s purpose is to administer the local government lobbyist registration system created by HB 7003 (above), including the payment of salaries and expenses. The bill requires annual lobbyist registration fees collected pursuant to the local government lobbyist registration program to be deposited into the trust fund. [NOTE: This bill is linked to HB 7003 and is likely to be referred to other committees for review. As yet, there is no Senate companion bill. Any bill creating or re-creating a trust fund must pass with a three-fifths vote of the membership of each house of the Legislature.]
In the House Local, Federal & Veterans Affairs Subcommittee:
HB 317 – Local Tax Referenda by Ingoglia – AMENDED AND PASSED WITH A CS
The bill requires that local government discretionary sales surtax referenda, , including referenda for the School Capital Outlay Surtax, a to be held on the date of a primary or general election. Such a referendum must be held:
- At a primary election and requires the approval of 60% of the qualified electors voting on the ballot question for passage; or
- At a general election and requires the approval of a majority of the qualified electors voting on the ballot question for passage.
[NOTE: As amended, the bill would not allow for a referendum for a local government discretionary sales surtax from being held ONLY at a primary or general election, thus eliminating the use of a special election for such purpose. The short summary above reflects the amended language. This was the first of three committees of reference for this bill. The Senate companion bill – SB 272 – is similar, but would permit a special election. SB 272 has passed one of four committees of reference.]
In the Senate PreK-12 Education Appropriations Subcommittee:
SB 88 – High School Graduation Requirements by Hukill — PASSED
The bill specifies financial literacy standards and instruction for students entering grade 9 in the 2018-2019 school year and thereafter. Specifically, the bill revises:
- The Next Generation Sunshine 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; and
- The requirements for a student to earn a standard high school diploma to:
- Establish a separate one-half credit requirement in personal financial literacy and specifying related instruction.
- Reduce the number of required elective credits from eight to seven and one-half.
[NOTE: This was the second of three committees of reference for this bill. The House companion bill – HB 323 – is identical, but has not been heard in either of the two committees of reference.]
In the House PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee:
HB 1 – The Hope Scholarship Program by Donalds — PASSED
The bill establishes the Hope Scholarship Program (HSP), which provides the parent of a public school student subjected to an incident at school the opportunity to transfer the student to a public school within the school district, receive a scholarship to transport the student to a public school in another school district, or receive a scholarship for the student to attend a private school. For purposes of the program an incident includes battery, harassment, hazing, bullying, kidnapping, physical attack, robbery, sexual offense, harassment, assault, battery, threat, intimidation or fighting at school. School means any educational program or activity conducted by a public K-12 educational institution, any school-related or school-sponsored program or activity, and riding on a school bus, including waiting at a school bus stop. Beginning with the 2018-2019 school year, contingent on funds, scholarships are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.
A student is ineligible for the HSP if the student is:
- enrolled in a public school, including, but not limited to, the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind, the College-Preparatory Boarding Academy, a developmental research school or a charter school;
- enrolled in a Department of Juvenile Justice commitment program;
- enrolled in a virtual school, correspondence school or distance learning program that receives state funding pursuant to the student’s participation unless the participation is limited to two courses per school year; or
- receiving any other state sponsored K-12 educational scholarship.
Once an incident is reported to the school principal, the school principal must provide a copy of the incident report to the parent and investigate the incident to determine if the incident must be reported to the DOE. Upon conclusion of the investigation or within 15 days after receipt of the report of the incident, whichever occurs first, the school district must notify the parent of the HSP and offer that parent an opportunity to enroll their student in another public school or to receive a Hope Scholarship to attend an eligible private school. If the student enrolls in a public school outside the district, the student is eligible for a transportation scholarship limited to $750.
The DOE must contract with an independent entity to conduct an annual evaluation of the program. The entity must:
- review the school climate and code of student conduct at each public school at which 10 or more reported incidents occurred to determine areas for improvement. The review must include:
- an assessment of the investigation of incidents;
- analysis of school incident and discipline data;
- the effectiveness of communication with students, parents, and personnel; and
- challenges and obstacles to implementing recommendations.
- identify best practices from the schools to which students transferred.
- review the performance of participating students enrolled in private schools at which at least 51 percent of total enrolled students are program participants.
The bill requires school districts to notify scholarship students in private schools who wish to participate in the statewide student assessment program or the Florida Alternate Assessment of the locations and times to take all statewide assessments. Private schools that participate in the HSP must meet the same requirements for participation established by Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program. Likewise, the commissioner has the same duties and responsibilities over private schools established in the Florida Tax Credit Program.
A participating SFO will be governed by the same statutory requirements as outlined in the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program. The bill specifically requires the SFO to receive applications and determine student eligibility; notify parents of their receipt of a scholarship on a first-come, first-served basis, based upon the funds provided; and notify the DOE of any violations regarding the program. In addition, the bill requires the Auditor General (AG) to conduct an annual operational audit of accounts of each participating SFO, which must include a verification of students served and transmission of that information to the DOE. The AG also must notify the DOE of any SFO that fails to comply with a request for information.
The scholarship amount is calculated as a percentage of the unweighted FTE as follows:
- Eighty-eight percent for students in grades K-5.
- Ninety-two percent for students in grades 6-8.
- Ninety-six percent for students enrolled in grades 9-12.
The HSP is funded by taxpayers who make an eligible contribution to a scholarship funding organization. The eligible contribution provides the taxpayer with a credit against any tax due as a result of the purchase or acquisition of a motor vehicle. The credit may not exceed the amount of taxes owed. Each eligible contribution is limited to a single payment of $20 at the time of purchase of a motor vehicle or at the time of registration of a motor vehicle that was not purchased from a dealer. The purchaser elects whether or not to contribute at the time of the purchase or registration of the vehicle. Contributions must be made to a dealer at the time of purchase or to an agent of the Department of Revenue (DOR) at the time of registration, if the vehicle was not purchased from a dealer. The bill provides that a tax collector or any person or firm authorized to sell or issue a motor vehicle license who is designated as an agent of the DOR or who is a dealer must:
- provide the purchaser a contribution election form, as prescribed by the DOR, at the time of purchase or at the time of registration if the vehicle is not purchased from a dealer;
- collect eligible contributions;
- remit to the SFO on or before the 20th day of each month the total amount of contributions made to the SFO and collected during the preceding calendar month; and
- report on each return filed with the DOR the total amount of credits allowed under during the preceding calendar month.
The SFO must report to the DOR, on or before the 20th day of each month, the total amount of contributions received in the preceding calendar month. The report must include the federal employer identification number of each tax collector, authorized agent of the DOR or dealer who remitted contributions to the SFO during that reporting period.
A person who, with intent to unlawfully deprive or defraud the program of money, fails to remit HSP contributions is guilty of theft of charitable funds. The bill provides for escalating charges for offenders depending upon the amount stolen and provides that the sentencing judge must order an offender to make restitution to the SFO in the amount stolen.
[NOTE: This was the first of three committees of reference for this bill. As yet, there is no Senate companion bill.]
Although the deadline for submission of proposals by Commissioners was October 31, proposals continue to be posted on the CRC Proposal Website. To date, 103 proposals have been posted. We are in the process of compiling a chart of the CRC proposals that are of interest to school board members. Our chart includes a short summary of each of these proposals along with links to the full text of the proposal and to the sponsor of the proposal (note that the links to the sponsors include links to contact the sponsor).
The next round of CRC meetings are scheduled for the week of November 27 – December 1, 2017 (note that this is the same week as our Annual Joint Conference in Tampa) and the week of December 11-15, 2017. The CRC Education Committee is scheduled to meet during both of these upcoming weeks. Although no specific agenda has been posted, it is expected that the Committee will begin reviewing and debating specific proposals.
For more information about the CRC, please visit the Education Legal News page in our Resource Room.