The Legislature will return to work tomorrow — Monday — for the last day of the extended 2017 Legislative Session. The only items that are scheduled to be considered are a bill outlining the state tax cut package (HB 7109) and the Conference Reports on the budget, budget implementing bill, and the related conforming bills. For those who are not familiar with the process, a Conference Report – or CR — is the result of the negotiations by each of the various Conference Committees and each CR is presented as an amendment to the underlying budget or related bill. It is important to note that, although each CR may be debated on the floor tomorrow, it may not be amended at this stage. Instead each CR must be voted, up or down, in its entirety. The CRs of particular interest to school districts are those that apply to:
SB 2500 – General Appropriations Act
SB 2502 – Implementing the General Appropriations Act
SB 7022 – State Administered Retirement Systems
HB 7069 – Omnibus PreK-12 Education Appropriations Conforming Bill
SB 374 – Higher Education Appropriations Conforming Bill
Last Thursday, we sent you a Call To Action and linked materials that outlined our profound concerns about the insufficient level of funding that the budget provides to public schools – the same concerns that have been voiced by education leaders, parents, and others throughout the state. On Friday, budget negotiators compounded the state’s failure to provide adequate funding when they agreed on an amendment to one of the conforming bills. As briefly outlined in our Legislative Alert sent that evening, during Friday’s last round of budget negotiations, the House proposed a 277-page amendment to HB 7069 that vastly expanded the topics covered in the bill (which originally had addressed only the Best and Brightest Scholar Awards). The Senate accepted the House Offer on this bill. As the revised, this bill now contains, in addition to Best and Brightest provisions, some or all of the provisions relating to school improvement/”Schools of Hope” (similar to those proposed in HB 5105), charter school capital outlay funding (similar to those proposed in HB 5103), and charter schools (similar to those proposed in HB 7101, including, among others, provisions relating to the distribution of federal Title I funding). As a strategy to encourage passage of these very controversial issues, the bill also includes some or all of the provisions of several other bills that did not pass during the Session but are important to certain legislators and are popular in some school districts. Among these are provisions relating assessments (similar to those proposed in SB 926), recess (similar to those proposed in SB 78), schools of excellence (similar to those proposed in HB 1331), and civic literacy (similar to those proposed in HB 7057).
Legislators are scheduled to convene tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. so there’s still time to Contact Your Legislators to let them know of the destructive impacts that the education budget and HB 7069 may have on your school district. For more information, please visit our 2017 Legislative Session page and click on the link titled 2017-2018 Education Budget Materials where you will find our Call to Action, Legislative Alert, Talking Points, Quick Notes, and more. Also, please remember that you may follow the House and Senate floor activities via live webcast on the Florida Channel and, for real-time updates, please click HERE to access our Twitter feed. We also will provide a report on the outcome of these floor sessions shortly after the Legislative Session adjourns, sine die.