Today’s agenda includes House and Senate committee meetings and a House floor session. Of particular interest, the Senate will consider its school safety bill — SB 7030 – and the House will consider a PCB relating to taxation and tax relief. The House floor session provides 3rd Reading on several bills of interest that had been on 2nd Reading on Wednesday. Among these are bills relating to local tax referenda, students with disabilities, early learning and government accountability. Today’s schedule is posted below and will be updated to show the outcome on these bills after each meeting concludes.
Please note that there are no committee/subcommittee meetings or floor sessions scheduled for Friday, April 12, so the next issue of the Session Spotlight will be posted next week.
Please note that all of the meetings listed below may be viewed in real time via live webcast on the Florida Channel or may be viewed later in the Florida Channel Video Library. Also note that clicking on the Committee/Subcommittee names linked below provides access to membership, meeting packets, and other committee information; clicking on the bill numbers linked below provides access the bill summary, analysis, related bills, and other information.
In the House Ways & Means Committee:
PCB WMC 19-02 – Taxation by WMC – PASSED
The bill provides for several tax reductions and other tax-related policy modifications designed to provide tax relief totaling $102 – $114 million. The main tax relief provisions include:
- A reduction in the tax rate for commercial property rentals from 5.7% to 5.35%;
- A three-day “back-to-school” holiday for certain clothing, school supplies, and personal computers; and
- A seven-day “disaster preparedness” holiday for specified disaster preparedness items.
In addition, of interest to school districts, the bill:
- Provides that funds from the school district’s current operating discretionary millage levies authorized pursuant to s. 1011.71, F.S., are to be shared proportionately with charter schools in the levying district in the same manner as charter schools are funded under current law. In effect, this adds the revenue derived from school district voted discretionary operating property tax levies under s. 1011.71(9), F.S., to those that must be shared with charter schools.
- Allows the Department of Revenue (DOR) more flexibility in estimating a county’s level of assessment in one or more assessment years following a natural disaster in counties in which a state of emergency has been declared and to take all practicable steps to maximize the representativeness and reliability of its statistical and analytical reviews and use the best information available to estimate levels of assessment.
- Revises timing provisions for applications for and contributions to the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program by taxpayers seeking a credit against insurance premium tax, and to provide that such credits may be applied retroactively when determining penalty amounts.
As amended, the bill implements many of the legislative recommendations of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission and makes other adjustments and clarifications to the provisions of SB 7026 passed during the 2018 legislative session. The bill:
- Provides that, if a local school board has voted to implement a Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program (guardian program), the sheriff in that county must establish a program, or contract with another sheriff’s office that has established a program, to provide training to school district or charter school employees.
- Provides that a sheriff who has established a guardian program may contract to provide training to a school district or charter school employee employed in a county whose sheriff has not established a guardian program.
- Provides that the sheriff conducting the training will be reimbursed for screening-related and training-related costs and for providing a one-time stipend of $500 to each school guardian who participates in the school guardian program.
- Deletes the prohibition against classroom teachers serving as school guardians.
- Prohibits individuals from serving as school guardians unless they are appointed by a superintendent or charter school principal, as applicable.
- Adds school guardians and security officers to the list of officials the false personation of whom is prohibited and subject to criminal penalties.
- Requires the Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to consult with sheriffs who establish a guardian program on programmatic guiding principles, practices, and resources relating to the development and implementation of the program.
- Revises provisions relating to safe school officers to require a charter school governing board to partner with law enforcement agencies to establish or assign a safe-school officer.
- Expands the categories of individuals who may serve as a school guardian upon satisfactory completion of the requirements and certification by a sheriff to provide that a guardian may be:
- o A school district employee or personnel or a charter school employee who volunteers to serve as a school guardian in addition to his or her official job duties;
- o An employee of a school district or a charter school who is hired for the specific purpose of serving as a school guardian; or
- o A contract employee licensed under s. 493.6301 who works in the school district or for a charter school through a contract with a security agency. Such contract employees may receive school guardian training through a participating sheriff’s office contingent upon defined financial or service obligations by the security agency enumerated in the contract between the school district or the charter school governing board, as appropriate, and the security agency.
- Revises the duties of the commissioner to include oversight of compliance with the safety and security requirements of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act (SB 7026) by school districts, district superintendents, and public schools, including charter schools, and requires the commissioner to facilitate compliance to the maximum extent provided under law, to identify incidents of noncompliance, and to impose or recommend to the State Board of Education, the Governor, or the Legislature enforcement and sanctioning actions.
- Requires the Office of Safe Schools (office) to annually provide training to school district and charter school personnel on site security and completion of the school security risk assessment tool.
- Adds data collected via FortifyFL and school environmental safety incident reports (SESIR) to information to be included in the centralized integrated data repository established by the office in coordination with FDLE.
- Provides that data that is exempt or confidential and exempt from public records requirements retains its exempt or confidential and exempt status when incorporated into the data repository, and provides other safeguards to protect confidentiality.
- Requires the office to provide data to support the evaluation of mental health services.
- Requires a district school board to withhold a superintendent’s salary in response to the superintendent’s noncompliance.
- Requires the office to convene a School Hardening and Harm Mitigation Workgroup to review school hardening and harm mitigation policies and to submit a report and recommendations to the executive director of the office and the commissioner.
- Requires the Commissioner of Education (commissioner) to review recommendations from the School Hardening and Harm Mitigation Workgroup and submit a summary to the Governor and the Legislature by 9/1/19.
- Requires the office to develop a behavioral threat assessment instrument for use by all public schools, including charter schools, which addresses early identification, evaluation, early intervention, and student support.
- Requires the office to establish the Statewide Threat Assessment Database Workgroup to make recommendations relating to a statewide threat assessment database.
- Requires the office to monitor school district and public school, including charter schools, compliance with requirements relating to school safety and to report incidents of noncompliance to the commissioner and the state board.
- Revises the list of statutes that charter schools must comply with to include statutes relating to school safety including, among others, statutes relating to safe-school officers, threat assessment teams, SESIR, FSSAT, and active assailant response plan.
- Provides requirements for the swift and complete transfer of student records and provides that the records must include verified reports of serious or recurrent behavior patterns and psychological evaluations.
- Requires that a school safety specialist be a school administrator employed by the school district or a law enforcement officer employed by the sheriff’s office located in the school district.
- Authorizes the sheriff and school superintendent to determine by agreement the reimbursement or sharing of costs associated with employment of the law enforcement officer as a school safety specialist.
- Adds to the duties of the school safety specialist to include compliance with the submission of SESIR reports to the FDOE, collaboration with appropriate agencies to conduct a school security risk assessment using the FSSAT.
- Requires district school boards and charter school governing boards to adopt an active assailant response plan.
- Requires school districts to promote a mobile suspicious activity reporting tool through specified platforms and mediums.
- Requires each district school superintendent and charter school principal to certify by a specified date, and annually thereafter, that all school personnel have received annual training under the plan.
- Requires that certain school district policies include procedures for behavioral threat assessments and requires threat assessment teams to utilize the behavioral threat assessment instrument and the threat assessment database developed by the office when they become available.
- Requires threat assessment teams to verify that, upon a student’s transfer to a different school, any intervention services provided to the student remain in place until the team at the receiving school determines the need for services.
- Requires district school boards to adopt policies for accurate and timely school environmental safety incident reporting (SESIR) and provides penalties for noncompliance with such policies. Requires the State Board of Education to adopt rules establishing requirements for SESIR.
- Requires the Florida Safe Schools Assessment Tool (FSSAT) to be the primary site security assessment tool for school districts and requires the office to provide FSSAT training
- Requires the superintendent to annually submit FSSAT assessments to the department and provides penalties for failure to comply with requirements.
- Modifies the required use of funds in the safe schools allocation to provide that the funds are to be used for compliance with ss. 1006.07 – 1006.12, F.S., with priority given to safe-school officers with the modifications to be applied retroactively to July 1, 2018.
- Revises the calculation of future safe schools allocation to provide that, after distribution of a minimum safe schools allocation, the remaining balance of the safe schools allocation shall be distributed with one-third (rather than two-thirds) based on the most recent official Florida Crime Index and two-thirds (rather than one-third) based on each school district’s proportionate share of the state’s total unweighted FTE student enrollment.
- Expands the list of categorical fund that may be accessed to improve classroom instruction or improve school safety.
- Expands the purpose of the mental health assistance allocation, requires school district to submit a plan for use of the funds, and specifies elements of the plan.
- Specifies that charter schools that submit a plan separate from the school district are entitled to a proportionate share of district funding.
- Deletes requirement that 90% of the funds be spent on specified elements.
- Reenacts statutes relating to the offense severity ranking chart of the Criminal Punishment Code.
In the House Session:
SB 248 – Public Records/Personnel Employed by a Law Enforcement by Hooper –READ 3RD TIME; PASSED THE HOUSE
The bill revises public records exemptions for home addresses and various other information identifying specified agency personnel and their families to create a new public records exemption for:
- Home addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, and photographs of active or former civilian personnel employed by a law enforcement agency;
- Names, home addresses, telephone numbers, photographs, dates of birth, and places of employment of the spouses and children of such personnel; and
- Names and locations of schools and day care facilities attended by the children of such personnel.
The bill provides that those persons whose information is protected by the public records exemption may, in writing, request that information be released.
HB 407 – Pubic Records by R. Rodrigues – READ 3RD TIME; PASSED THE HOUSE
The bill prohibits an agency that receives a public record request to inspect or copy a record from responding to such request by filing a civil action against the individual or entity making the request.
HB 547 – Stanley G. Tate Florida Prepaid College Program by Clemons — READ 3RD TIME; PASSED THE HOUSE
- Authorizes a state university to transfer Stanley G. Tate Florida Prepaid College Program related Dormitory Residence Plan funds to a qualified nonprofit organization.
- Requires that the amount transferred may not exceed the average fees charged for state university or FCS institution dormitory fees.
- Revises the membership of the board of directors for Florida Prepaid College Board’s direct-support organization.
HB 741 – Anti-Semitism by Fine — READ 3RD TIME; PASSED THE HOUSE
The Florida Educational Equality Act (FEEA) requires equal access to, and prohibits discrimination against, any student or employee of the state’s K-20 public education system on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, disability, or marital status. The bill:
- Amends the FEEA to add religion as a protected class with regard to discrimination against students and employees in Florida’s K-20 public education system.
- Requires a public K-20 educational institution to treat discrimination by students or employees or resulting from institutional policies motivated by anti-Semitism in an identical manner to discrimination motivated by race.
- Provides a definition of anti-Semitism similar to the definition adopted by the U.S. Department of State’s Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism.
- Provides the legislative intent that the new law defining anti-Semitism may not diminish or infringe upon any right protected under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, or the Florida Constitution, and prohibits construction of the law in conflict with federal or state discrimination laws.
- Adds religion as a protected class in all K-12 education programs, activities, and opportunities, in accordance with the provisions of the FEEA.
HB 349 – Students with Disabilities in Public Schools by DuBose — READ 3RD TIME; PASSED THE HOUSE
- Defines terms related to seclusion, physical restraint, and mechanical restraint, and instructs when such techniques may be used.
- Prohibits placing a student in seclusion.
- Provides that physical restraint may be used only to protect students or school personnel, but not for disciplining a student and provides that a student may only be physically restrained for the time necessary to protect the student and others.
- Prohibits straightjackets and restraint techniques such as obstructing or restricting breathing or blood flow or inflicting pain to induce compliance.
- Requires school districts to adopt policies and procedures related to positive behavior interventions and supports and identify all school personnel authorized to use the restraint.
- Requires each school district to report to the FDOE approved procedures for training.
- Requires the Commissioner of Education to develop recommendations to incorporate instruction regarding autism spectrum disorder, Down syndrome, other developmental disabilities, and emotional or behavioral disabilities into continuing education or inservice training requirements for instructional personnel and requires that these recommendations must address the use of restraint techniques, positive behavior interventions and supports, and effective classroom behavior management strategies.
HB 1027 – Office of Early Learning by Aloupis — READ 3RD TIME; PASSED THE HOUSE
- Codifies early learning professional development standards and career pathways in law.
- Requires the Office of Early Learning to develop early learning professional development training and course standards for school readiness program providers and identify both formal and informal early learning career pathways with stackable credentials and certifications, which allow early childhood teachers to access specialized professional development.
- Requires the established credentials and certifications to align with the training for K-12 teachers, reading coaches, and school principals to the greatest extent possible.
SB 7014 – Government Accountability by GOA – READ 3RD TIME; PASSED THE HOUSE
The bill amends various statutes to enhance government accountability and auditing processes based on recommendations noted in recent reports by the Auditor General. Of particular interest to school districts, the bill:
- Authorizes the Governor or Commissioner of Education, or designee, to notify the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee if an entity fails 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;
- Provides that the Department of Financial Services may request additional information from local government entities when preparing its annual verified report;
- Revises the membership, and restrictions thereof, for an auditor selection committee of a county, municipality, special district, district school board, charter school, or charter technical career center;
- Specifies that the definition of fraud, waste and abuse apply to s. 1001.42, F.S., relating to the powers and duties of the district school board;
- Requires completion of an annual financial audit of the Florida Virtual School; and
- Requires the Florida College System and Florida State University System to comply with statutory provisions relating to employee background screenings.
HB 15 – Local Government Fiscal Transparency by Burton — READ 3RD TIME; PASSED THE HOUSE
The bill creates the Local Government Fiscal Transparency Act (Act), providing for increased fiscal transparency for local governments, including school boards. The bill requires:
- Easy public access to voting records of local governing body members as related to tax increases or the issuance of tax-supported debt;
- Easy online access to truth-in-millage notices and a four-year history of property tax rates and total revenue generated by each local government;
- Additional public meetings and expanded public notice requirements for local option tax increases and the issuance of new long-term, tax-supported debt;
- Local governments to conduct a debt affordability analysis prior to issuance of new long-term, tax-supported debt;
- The chair of the local governing body to sign an affidavit of compliance with the Act; and
- The Auditor General to request evidence of corrective action from local governments found not to be in compliance with the Act and reporting those who fail to do so to the Legislative Auditing Committee.
HB 5 – Local Tax Referenda by DiCeglie — READ 3RD TIME; PASSED THE HOUSE
- Requires any referendum to levy a discretionary sales surtax be held at a general election and requires approval by two-thirds of the electors voting on the ballot measure.
- Provides that, upon adoption of an ordinance or resolution by a county or school district to hold a discretionary sales surtax referendum on or after January 1, 2020, the county or school district holding a referendum must notify the OPPAGA of the proposed referendum and provide a copy of the final ordinance or resolution calling for the referendum at least 180 days before the referendum is held.
- Declares void any discretionary sales surtax referendum if the county or school district fails to provide notice to OPPAGA or fails to publish the results of the performance audit.
- Provides similar requirements for a proposal to adopt a discretionary sales surtax is by initiative and provides that the failure of an initiative sponsor to comply with these requirements renders any referendum held void.