As we enter the last week of the Session, a great deal of work remains if legislators hope to adjourn by Friday. Work on the budget is not complete and major policy issues remain unresolved. However, as always, things can happen very quickly. The House has no meetings or floor sessions scheduled for tomorrow but the Senate Appropriations Committee will meet in the morning and will convene for a floor session in the afternoon. Please click on the link below for the schedule and bills that will be under consideration tomorrow. In addition, please remember that you may follow committee and floor activities via live webcast on the Florida Channel and, for real-time updates, please click HERE to access our Twitter feed.
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The Senate Appropriations Committee will meet (8:00 – 11:00 am; 412 KOB) to consider the following items and others:
SB 772 – Assistive Technology Devices by Rouson
The bill revises provisions related to the use of assistive technology devices by students with disabilities. Specifically, the bill:
- Recognizes that access to and use of the assistive technology device is essential for a student moving from school to home and community;
- Allows an Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE) to be one of the plans that may serve as the basis for a student to retain an assistive technology device through a transition; and
- Adds the Office of Independent Education and Parental Choice within the Florida Department of Education to the group of educational entities required to enter into interagency agreements with specified agencies, as appropriate, for the transaction of assistive technology devices to ensure that an assistive technology device issued to a student remains with the student through the continuum from home to school and beyond.
[NOTE: This is the last committee of reference for this bill. The House companion bill – HB 371 – is similar, has passed the House, and is available for consideration in the Senate.]
SB 902 – Gardiner Scholarship Program by Simmons
The bill modifies the Gardiner Scholarship Program (GSP) to:
- Expand the definition of disability, for purposes of the GSP, to include a child:
- Diagnosed with a rare disease or condition, which affects patient populations of fewer than 200,000 individuals in the United States;
- Diagnosed as Anaphylaxis; or
- Identified as deaf, visually impaired, hospital or homebound, dual sensory impaired, traumatic brain injured, as defined by rules of the State Board of Education and evidenced by reports from local school districts. The bill describes hospital or homebound to mean a student who has a medically diagnosed physical or psychiatric condition or illness, as defined by the State Board in rule, and who is confined to the home or hospital for more than 6 months.
- Specify that a student’s individual education pan (IEP) is not required to be reviewed or revised within the last 12 months in order for the student to be eligible for the GSP.
- Allow a student with an IEP from another state or physician licensed in another state to qualify for the GSP, if the student meets the other eligibility requirements.
- Authorize the use of GSP funds to procure services provided by a hospital in Florida which is selected by a parent, a certified music therapist, art therapist, or services provided at a center that is a member of the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International.
- Specify that a parent, student, or provider of any services may not bill an insurance company, Medicaid, or any other agency for the same services paid through Gardiner Scholarship funds.
- Provide that if a private school is unable to meet the requirements in law or has consecutive years of material exceptions listed in its agreed-upon procedures reports, the Commissioner of the Department of Education (DOE) may determine that the schools is ineligible to participate in the GSP.
- Require a student’s scholarship account to be closed and remaining funds reverted to the state if an account has been inactive for three consecutive fiscal years. The bill defines inactive to mean that eligible expenditures have not been made from a student’s scholarship account.
- Specify that if a parent does not procure the necessary educational services for the student and the student’s account has been inactive for 2 consecutive fiscal years, the student is ineligible for additional scholarship payments until the scholarship-funding organization verifies that expenditures have occurred from the account.
[NOTE: This is the last committee of reference for this bill. The House companion bill – HB 15 – is comparable, has passed the House, and is available for consideration in the Senate.]
SB 1302 – Private School Student Participation in Extracurricular Activities by Gibson
The bill requires the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA), in cooperation with each district school board, to allow a student attending a private school that is not a member of the FHSAA to participate in interscholastic or intrascholastic sports at a public school that a student could choose to attend pursuant to controlled open enrollment. [NOTE: This is the third of four committees of reference for this bill. The House companion bill – HB 1109 – is comparable, has passed the House, and is available for consideration in the Senate.]
SB 1314 – Educational Options by Grimsley
The bill revises the Florida Tax Credit (FTC) Scholarship Program to:
- Require the Florida Department of Revenue (DOR) to provide a copy to the Scholarship-Funding Organization (SFO) of its letter denying an application for a tax credit and approving or denying any of the following transactions:
- An application for a carryforward tax credit.
- The conveyance, transfer, or assignment of a tax credit.
- The rescindment of a tax credits.
- Acknowledgement of tax credits.
- Allow a dependent child of a parent or guardian who is a member of the U.S. Armed Forces to apply for the FTC at any time.
- Specify that a parent must approve any payment made by funds transfer.
- Change the deadline from September 15 to August 15 for a private school participating in the FTC to submit its report to the SFO on the results of its agreed-upon procedures.
- Provide that the Commissioner has the discretion to determine that a private school that is unable to meet the program requirements or has consecutive years of material exceptions listed in its agreed-upon procedures report is ineligible to participate in the FTC program.
- Authorize the Learning System Institute at the Florida State University to be compensated for additional research through the project grant award issued by the DOE.
- Increase the FTC scholarship award amount to a percentage of the unweighted FTE funding amount for that state fiscal year and thereafter as follows:
- 88% for a student in kindergarten through grade 5.
- 92% for a student enrolled in grades 7-8.
- 96% for a student enrolled in grades 9-12.
- Raise the transportation scholarship award for a student who chooses a public school outside of his or her district from $500 to $750.
- Provide that an SFO can make payments by fund transfer and specifies that a student’s scholarship award may not be reduced for debit card or electronic payment fees.
- Authorize an SFO to develop a professional development system that includes a master plan for in-service activities under the School Community Professional Development Act that must be submitted to the Commissioner of Education for approval pursuant to the State Board of Education rules.
[NOTE: This is the second of three committees of reference for this bill. The House companion bill – HB 15 – is comparable, has passed the House, and is available for consideration in the Senate.]
SB 1362 – K-12 Education by Broxson
The bill establishes a High-Impact Charter Network (HICN) designation for certain entities that serve students in critical needs areas. Specifically, the bill:
- Defines critical need area as an area that is served by one or more non-alternative, traditional public schools that received a school grade of “D” or “F” in 4 of the last 5 years or whose school district is required to implement a turnaround option;
- Defines an HICN entity as a nonprofit organization with tax exempt status under the federal Internal Revenue Code, which is authorized to operate a public charter school by Florida law;
- Provides that, in order to apply for HICN status, an entity must successfully operate a system of charter schools that serves primarily economically disadvantaged students who are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches under the National School Lunch Act;
- Authorizes the SBE to adopt rules prescribing an application and review process for the HICN and specifies that the review:
- Must include student demographic information and a review of all schools currently and previously operated by the entity, including school-level financial performances and school wide and subgroup performance on all statewide assessments for the most recent 3 years as compared to all students in other schools at the same grade level and as compared to other schools serving similar student demographics.
- May include student performance on nationally norm-referenced tests, attendance and retention rates, graduation rates, college attendance rates, college persistence rates, and other outcome measures as determined by the state board.
- Specifies that the HICN designation is valid for up to 4 years and, if an entity seeks to renew its status, the SBE must review the academic and financial performance of the charter schools established in critical need areas.
- Grants the following incentives to HICN entities:
- Authorizes an HICN to apply to a district school board to establish and operate charter schools in critical need areas or as turnaround options for schools that have earned a grade of “F” in the school district.
- Provides that a charter school operated by an HICN in a critical need area is eligible to receive charter school capital outlay immediately, rather than after 2 years of operation.
- Requires DOE to give priority to new charter schools operated by HICNs in a critical need area in the Florida Public Charter School Grant Program competitions.
- Specifies that the governing board of a HICN must be designated as a local educational agency for the purposes of receiving federal funds if the governing board has adopted and filed a resolution with its sponsoring district school board and the DOE. This resolution must contain provisions indicating that the governing board accepts the full responsibility for all local educational agency requirements and that the charter schools for which the governing board will perform local educational responsibilities are all located in the same county.
In addition, the bill:
- Deletes the requirement for the DOE to compare the student performance data of each charter school to traditional district-managed public schools within the district and other charter schools across the state and eliminates the requirement to post such information on the Internet website of each charter school;
- Allows a collocated school to receive a school improvement rating if all the schools at the site are eligible for a school improvement rating and do not elect to be graded.
- Replaces statutory reference to the ACT Aspire test with the PreACT.
[NOTE: This is the last committee of reference for this bill. The House companion bill – HB 7101 – is comparable, has passed the House, and is available for consideration in the Senate.]
SB 1598 – Education/Schools of Excellence/Certification/ by Brandes
The bill establishes the Schools of Excellence Program to provide administrative flexibility to the state’s top schools and requires the State Board of Education to designate a school as a School of Excellence if the school’s percentage of possible points earned in its school grades calculation is in the 80th percentile or higher for schools within the same grade group (elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, or combination schools) for 2 of the last 3 school years. In order to qualify, the school must have data for each applicable school grade component. A school retains its designation as a School of Excellence for up to 3 years so long as it does not receive a school grade lower than a “B” during that span. The school may renew its designation for another 3 years if it remains in the 80th percentile or higher for 2 of the 3 years and does not receive a grade lower than a “B” in any of the years. A School of Excellence that receives a grade lower than “B” may not continue to be designated as a School of Excellence and loses its administrative flexibility during the remainder of the 3-year period. The bill provides the following administrative flexibilities to a School of Excellence:
- Exemption from any provision in law or rule that expressly requires a minimum period of daily or weekly instruction in a specified subject area.
- Principal autonomy under the Principal Autonomy Pilot Project Initiative (PAPPI).
- For instructional personnel, the substitution of 1 school year of employment at a School of Excellence for 20 inservice points toward the renewal of a professional certificate, up to 60 inservice points in a 5-year cycle.
- Exemption from district-set starting and stopping times for the school day.
In addition, the bill grants to a principal newly assigned to a school with a school grade of “D” or “F” additional authority and responsibilities similar to those granted to principals at Schools of Excellence and at schools participating in the PAPPI. This section authorizes a school district to revoke the principal’s additional authority after the school year following the first school year the school achieves a school grade of “C” or higher.
The bill also addresses certification. The bill:
- Changes the name of the professional development certification and education competency program to the comprehensive teacher mentorship certification program;
- Requires DOE to issue a professional certificate to a temporary certificate holder who meets the requirements for a professional certificate, who completes a comprehensive teacher mentorship certification, and is rated highly effective under the district’s teacher evaluation system.
- Requires a comprehensive teacher mentorship certification program to include a mentorship and induction component, which must include, at minimum, weekly opportunities for mentoring and induction activities;
- Requires a teacher selected to serve as a peer mentor to complete specialized training in clinical supervision and participate in ongoing mentor training and requires this training be provided under the School Community Professional Development Act;
- Requires DOE to adopt standards for the approval of district developed comprehensive teacher mentorship certification programs by December 31, 2017 and specifies components of the program.
- Revises the list of acceptable means of demonstrating mastery of professional preparation and education competence certification requirements by adding enrollment in a state-approved teacher preparation program or a comprehensive teacher mentorship certification program within 90 days after the issuance of a temporary certificate.
In addition, the bill:
- Authorizes the Department of Corrections (DOC) to enter into a contract with a charter school, authorized to operate as part of the state’s program of public education, to provide education services for the Correctional Education Program.
- Removes a provision prohibiting state funds for the operation of postsecondary workforce programs from being used for the education of state or federal inmates;
- Specifies that a county in which a public or private postsecondary institution is located may authorize a public high school educational facility, including a charter school educational facility, which meets statutory requirements related to educational facilities, to be located on the postsecondary institution’s campus. In effect, this allows a county to authorize a public high school, unaffiliated with a postsecondary institution, to operate on a postsecondary institution’s campus.
[NOTE: This was the last committee of reference for this bill. The House companion – HB 1331 – is comparable, has passed the House, and is available for consideration in the Senate.]
SB 1710 – Education / Civic Literacy by Stargel
The bill designates the month of September as “American Founders’ Month” and authorizes the Governor to issue a proclamation urging all civic, fraternal, and religious organizations and public and private educational institutions to recognize, observe, and celebrate the month. Specifically, the bill:
- Encourages all public schools to observe “American Founders’ Month” with appropriate instruction and activities.
- Establishes civic literacy as a priority of Florida’s K-20 education system.
- Requires the Just Read, Florida! Office to develop and provide access to sequenced, content-rich programming, instructional practices, and resources to increase students’ core knowledge and literacy skills including student attainment of state standards for social studies, science, and the arts.
- Requires students initially entering a Florida College System institution or state university in 2018-2019 and thereafter, to demonstrate civic literacy through successful completion of a civic literacy course or by achieving a passing score on an assessment adopted in rule by the State Board of Education or in regulation by the Board of Governors, as applicable.
[NOTE: This was the third of four committees of reference for this bill. The House companion – HB 7057 – is similar, has passed the House, and is available for consideration in the Senate.]
SB 7030 – Retirement by Governmental Oversight and Accountability
The bill revises and adds to provisions of the Florida Retirement System. The bill:
- Changes the default retirement plan election from the pension plan to the investment plan for employees hired on or after January 1, 2018 who do not affirmatively select a retirement plan prior to the last business day of the fifth month following the member’s month of hire. This change does not impact the ability of a new employee to choose between the pension plan and the investment plan.
- Authorizes renewed membership in FRS for certain retirees of the investment plan, Senior Management Optional Annuity Program (SMSOAP), State University System Optional Retirement Plan (SUSORP) or the State Community College System Optional Retirement Plan (SCCSORP) and requires that certain retirees who are employed on or after July 1, 2017 become renewed members in the investment plan, SUSORP or the SCCSORP, as applicable, to the renewed member. Such renewed member will be a member of the appropriate membership class in the investment plan, unless employed in a position eligible for participation in the SUSORP or the SCCSORP, in which case the retiree will become a renewed member of the applicable optional retirement program.
- Effective July 1, 2017, closes the SMSOAP to new participants.
- Effective July 1, 2017, provides survivor benefits for the spouse or child(ren) of an investment plan member whose death was in the line of duty since July 1, 2002. It provides the same survivor benefits to the spouse and children of such member as those currently provided for pension plan members who are killed in the line of duty. The investment plan survivor benefits program is funded by additional employer-paid contributions to the survivor benefits account of the FRS Trust Fund.
- Does not provide renewed FRS membership for any pension plan retirees and:
- Prohibits employees and employers from paying funds into a renewed member’s investment plan or optional retirement program account for the period July 1, 2010 through June 30, 2017 when the FRS was closed to renewed membership;
- Requires employers and renewed members to make applicable membership class contributions to the renewed member’s FRS Investment Plan account;
- Provides that creditable service does not accrue for a renewed member’s employment in a regularly established position with a covered FRS employer from July 1, 2010 through June 30, 2017 and prohibits the payment of past service in the investment plan;
- Allows renewed investment plan members who have not accrued the maximum health insurance subsidy to earn additional credit towards the health insurance subsidy benefit;
- Provides that renewed members must meet the vesting requirements of the plan in which they become renewed members;
- Provides that renewed members are ineligible to receive disability benefits; and,
- Provides that renewed member is not eligible to switch to the pension plan once renewed membership in the investment plan or optional retirement program is effectuated.
- Provides that any condition or impairment of the health of a firefighter employed full-time by a state or local government which is caused by multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, prostate cancer or testicular cancer and results in total or partial disability or death is presumed to have been accidental and to have been suffered in the line of duty unless the contrary is shown by competent evidence.
- Provides the allocations from the Florida Retirement System Contributions Clearing Trust Fund to provide in-line-of-duty death benefits and the required employer contribution rate to fund the benefit changes provided in the bill.
[NOTE: This is the last committee of reference for this bill. The House companion bill — HB 5007 — is comparable, has passed the House, and is available for consideration in the Senate as part of the budget conference package.]
The Senate will be in Session (1:00-6:00 pm; Senate Chamber) to consider the following items and others:
Bills on 3rd Reading
HB 493 – Enhanced Safety for School Crossings by Toledo
The bill requires DOT to evaluate the viability and cost of establishing a uniform system for the designation of safe school crossing locations on arterial or collector roads within a one-mile radius of all schools. The bill requires DOT to report its findings to the Governor and Legislature before January 1, 2018. [NOTE: This bill was substituted in the Senate for the Senate companion bill – SB 1416.]
HB 1239 – School Bus Safety by Eagle
The bill creates the “Cameron Mayhew Act” to require a driver who illegally passes a stopped school bus resulting in death or serious bodily injury of another person to:
- Serve 120 community service hours in a trauma center or hospital.
- Participate in a victim’s impact panel or attend a Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) approved driver improvement course that relates to the rights of vulnerable road users relative to vehicles on the roadway.
- The bill also imposes a $1,500 fine, a 1-year driver license suspension, and two additional points, for a total of 6 points added to a person’s driver license.
[NOTE: This bill was substituted in the Senate for the Senate companion bill – SB 1622.]
Bills on 2nd Reading
SB 360 – Middle School Study by Stargel
The bill requires DOE to issue a competitive bid for a private vendor to conduct a comprehensive study of states with high-performing students in grades 6 through 8 in reading and mathematics, based on the states’ performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The DOE must submit a report on the findings of the study and make recommendations to improve middle school student performance to the Governor, the State Board of Education, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives by December 2017. Specifically, 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.
- Parental and community involvement.
[NOTE: The House companion bill – HB 293 – is comparable, has passed the House, and is available for consideration in the Senate.]
SB 1008 – Public Records/Injured or Deceased Employee by Perry
The bill creates a public records exemption for personal identifying information of an injured or deceased worker contained in reports, notices, records, or supporting documentation held by the Department of Financial Services (DFS). “Personal identifying information,” means the injured or deceased employee’s name, date of birth, home, mailing, or e-mail address, or telephone number. The bill authorizes the DFS to disclose personal identifying information made confidential and exempt only:
- To the injured employee, to the spouse or a dependent of the deceased employee, to the spouse or a dependent of the injured employee if authorized by the injured employee, or to the legal representative of the deceased employee’s estate;
- To a party litigant, or his or her authorized representative, in matters pending before the Office of the Judges of Compensation Claims;
- To a carrier or an employer for the purpose of investigating the compensability of a claim or for the purpose of administering its anti-fraud investigative unit;
- In an aggregate reporting format that does not reveal the personal identifying information of any employee;
- Pursuant to a court order or subpoena;
- To an agency for administering its anti-fraud investigative function or in furtherance of the agency’s official duties and responsibilities;
- To a federal governmental entity in the furtherance of the entity’s official duties and responsibilities.
The bill provides that a person who willfully and knowingly discloses personal identifying information made confidential and exempt by this bill to an unauthorized person or entity commits a misdemeanor of the first degree. [NOTE: The House companion bill – HB 1107 – is similar, has passed the House, and is available for consideration in the Senate.]
SB 1582 – Workers’ Compensation Insurance by Bradley
The bill amends several provisions relating to Florida’s workers’ compensation and the Insurance Code. The bill:
- Codifies Westphal v. City of St. Petersburg, by increasing temporary total disability benefits and temporary partial disability benefits from 104 weeks to 260 weeks.
- Amends the attorney fee provision to require the Judge of Compensation Claims (JCC) to consider certain factors in determining if the attorney fees should be increased or decreased, based on a maximum hourly rate of $250. The bill removes the criminal penalty for claimant attorneys receiving fees that are not approved by the JCCs, thereby allowing claimants to enter into retainer agreements. The bill eliminates the attorney fee cap of $1,500 on medical-only claims.
- Requires greater specificity in the information that must be provided in petitions for benefits filed with the Office of Judges of Compensation Claims (OJCC), such as the specific date of maximum medical improvement and the specific date that such permanent benefits are claimed to begin.
- Clarifies that deadlines within multiple provisions relating to medical care are based on business days, not calendar days. For example, the bill requires carriers to authorize or deny medical authorization requests within three business days.
- Revises the workers’ compensation rating law. Currently, Florida law requires carriers, or rating organization filing on their behalf, to file an administered rate or full rate. The bill implements loss costs rating, which requires each insurer to seek approval for rates based on aggregate claim information filed by a rating organization with individual company data (loss costs multipliers), being used for the final rate, subject to approval by the Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR).
- Limits defense and cost containment expenses of insurers to 15 percent of incurred losses, and provides that excessive defense and cost containment fees must be returned to policyholders.
- Creates a presumption that firefighters who have multiple myeloma or non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma are presumed to have contracted one of these occupational diseases in the course and scope of employment. This provision will extend workers’ compensation benefits to firefighters who have either of these conditions.
- Provides an appropriation of $823,118 to the OIR and $24,720 to the Office of Judges of Compensation Claims to cover the costs associated with these changes.
[NOTE: The House companion bill – HB 7085 – is comparable, has passed the House, and is available for consideration in the Senate.]