Legislators took up several bills of interest today including bills relating to retirement, curriculum and graduation requirements, and government accountability and ethics. Please click on the link below for our report on the outcome of consideration of these and other bills today. There are no committee meetings or bills of interest scheduled on Friday. However, a single proposal or separate proposals from Governor Scott, the Senate, and the House recommending legislation on student safety and school security are expected to be released tomorrow. It is expected that these proposals will address a variety of policy and funding issues relating to school resource officers and related security personnel, mental health services, capital improvements, and/or restrictions or new authority on the use of firearms. We will prepare a report on the provisions of these proposals and distribute it as soon as possible.
In the House Government Accountability Committee meeting:
HB 977 – Retirement of Instructional and Administrative Personnel by Fine – PASSED; PLACED ON HOUSE CALENDAR ON 2ND READING
The bill provides that effective July 1, 2018, instructional personnel who are authorized to extend DROP participation beyond the 60-month period must have a termination date that is the last day of the last calendar month of the school year within the DROP extension granted by the employer. For those employees who have already extended DROP on or before July 1, 2018, the member’s DROP participation may be extended through the last day of the last calendar month of that school year. The employer must notify the division of the change in termination date and the additional period of DROP participation for the affected instructional personnel. In addition, administrative personnel in grades K-12 who have a DROP termination date on or after July 1, 2018, may be authorized to extend DROP participation beyond the initial 60 calendar month period if the administrative personnel’s termination date is before the end of the school year. Such administrative personnel may have DROP participation extended until the last day of the last calendar month of the school year in which their original DROP termination date occurred. [NOTE: This was the third of three committees of reference for this bill. The Senate companion bill – SB 1240 – is similar and has passed one of three committees of reference.]
HB 1019 – Financial Reporting by La Rosa – AMENDED; PASSED WITH A COMMITTEE SUBSTITUTE (CS)
The bill requires counties, municipalities, special districts, water management districts, and school districts to:
- Post annual budgets to their respective websites for five years;
- Provide an electronic copy of their budgets to the Office of Economic and Demographic Research (EDR) in a specified time frame and on forms prescribed by the EDR;
- Requires EDR, by December 1, 2018, to submit a report to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House that:
- Identifies a structure to create unique area profiles 562 for the counties, municipalities, special districts, water management districts, and school districts which would assist the public in making simple direct comparisons between the distinct entities;
- Provides recommendations for metrics for ranking the reporting entities based on the final budget information submitted to the office. The metrics must allow the public to make direct comparisons between the different local governments;
- Provides recommendations for mechanisms to submit the information to the public in a cost-effective manner.
- Provide a copy of their budgets and a certification of timely filing to the clerk of the court; and
- File annual financial reports and audit reports within six months of the end of the fiscal year.
In addition, the bill:
- Provides that the recipient of these reports may extend reporting deadlines by up to 90 days in the event the Governor declares a state of emergency.
- Provides that if a local government entity or school district fails to file required reports with the clerk of the court, the clerk must notify the appropriate fiscal officer to withhold salary payments from the head of the local government entity or the superintendent of the school district until the reports are filed.
- Requires all municipalities and special districts to conduct an annual audit.
- Requires the Legislative Auditing Committee to conduct a hearing upon receiving notification from the Auditor General, the Department of Financial Services, the Division of Bond Finance of the State Board of Administration, the Governor, or the Commissioner of Education that a local government entity has failed to file required reports.
[NOTE: The Committee took up and passed a strike-all amendment to align this bill with HB 11, which has already passed the House so is no longer available for further amendment in the House, and also to clarify provisions relating to reporting requirements to EDR and to correct dates. The short summary reflects the provisions of the bill as amended. This was the third of three committees of reference for this bill. There is no direct Senate companion bill but, as amended, it is comparable to SB 354 which has passed one of three committees of reference.]
HB 7007 – Ethics Reform by Public Integrity & Ethics – AMENDED; PASSED WITH A CS; PLACED ON HOUSE SPECIAL ORDER CALENDAR FOR 2/28/18
The bill addresses public officer, employee and third party conduct regarding sexual harassment, solicitation and negotiation of conflicting and potentially conflicting income producing relationships, addresses post-service lobbying restrictions for certain officers, and revises executive branch lobbyist registration requirements in addition to other reforms. Specifically, the bill:
- Removes restrictions on state employees lobbying the legislature;
- Establishes policy to prohibit and prevent sexual harassment in all branches of government;
- Restricts use of campaign funds to defend legal claims arising out of public service and limits use of public service announcements during a campaign;
- Broadens the Code of Ethics to prohibit sexual harassment of or by state employees and third parties, and, relating to sexual harassment, prohibits disclosures of confidential information, retaliation, or false complaints;
- Requires agencies to adopt policies to manage reports and complaints of sexual harassment, including policies to protect and provide certain accommodations to victims of alleged sexual harassment;
- Requires biennial surveys of the climate of sexual harassment in agencies and establishes a task force to review surveys, rules, and policies to make recommendations to improve sexual harassment policies;
- Prohibits public officers and employees from soliciting an employment or contractual relationship from entities with whom they are prohibited from entering into conflicting employment and contractual relationships;
- Requires public officers and employees to report or disclose particular solicitations and offers of employment or contractual relationships;
- Imposes a two-year post-service ban on personal representation before any state executive branch agency for agency directors including department secretaries, except when employed by another state agency;
- Imposes certain restrictions on statewide elected officers and legislators related to employment or investment advice;
- Restricts certain unelected state officers and employees regarding soliciting and negotiating an employment or contractual relationship with certain employers;
- Authorizes the Commission on Ethics to investigate disclosures of certain prohibited solicitations in the same manner as a complaint; and
- Revises executive branch lobbying registration requirements to mandate electronic registration, clarify provisions, adjust the maximum registration fee, and add the Board of Governors of the State University System and the State Board of Education to the list of entities to which the requirements apply.
[NOTE: Today’s amendments made the false reporting of sexual harassment a second degree misdemeanor and removed language relating to the confidentiality of certain records. The short summary reflects the provisions of the bill as amended. This was the third of three committees of reference for this bill. There is no direct Senate companion bill but SB 1534 and SB 1628 contain some comparable provisions.]
HB 7073 – Government Integrity by Public Integrity & Ethics – AMENDED; PASSED WITH A CS; PLACED ON HOUSE SPECIAL ORDER CALENDAR FOR 2/28/18
The bill includes various provisions designed to promote integrity in government and identify and eliminate fraud, waste, abuse, mismanagement, and misconduct in government. Specifically, the bill:
- Creates the Florida Accountability Office under the Auditor General for the purpose of ensuring accountability and integrity in state and local government and facilitating the elimination of fraud, waste, abuse, mismanagement, and misconduct in government.
- Requires the Chief Inspector General (CIG) and agency inspectors general to determine whether there is reasonable probability that fraud, waste, abuse, mismanagement, or misconduct in government has occurred within six months of initiating an investigation of such activity.
- Provides a mechanism for the state to recover funds when the CIG or an agency inspector general determines a public official, independent contractor, or agency has committed fraud, waste, abuse, mismanagement, or misconduct in government.
- Requires the Chief Financial Officer to regularly forward to the Florida Accountability Officer copies of suggestions and information submitted through the state’s “Get Lean” hotline,.
- Provides a financial incentive for agency employees to file Whistle-blower’s Act complaints and participate in investigations that lead to the recovery of funds.
- Requires a claim for legal fees to be paid in whole or in part by any state or local agency to be documented by a description with reasonable particularity of the services provided;
- For agency contracts over $50,000, requires a contractor to include in the contract a good faith estimate of gross profit for each year of the contract, provides a process for the agency to review such estimate, and provides financial penalties for a contractor who misrepresents the estimate.
- Prohibits state or local tax incentive funds from being used to award or pay a state contractor for services provided or expenditures incurred pursuant to a state contract.
- Requires school districts that receive annual federal, state, and local funds in excess of $500 million to employ an internal auditor and provided duties for such auditor.
- Broadens the competitive solicitation exemption for statewide broadcasting of public service announcements.
- Prohibits a state employee, other than an agency head, from lobbying for funding for a contract or participating in the award of the contract.
[NOTE: Today’s amendments clarified provisions relating to audits, the authority of the Chief Financial Officer, and added a provision requiring school districts to employ an internal auditor in certain circumstances. The short summary reflects the provisions of the bill as amended. This was the third of three committees of reference for this bill. There is no direct Senate companion bill but SB 1534 and HB 1279 contain some comparable provisions.]
In the House Appropriations Committee meeting:
HB 7087 – Taxation by Ways & Means – AMENDED; PASSED WITH A CS
The bill provides for a wide range of tax reductions and modifications designed to directly impact both households and businesses.
The bill contains several provisions related to sales tax:
- Tax rate reduction for tax on commercial rentals (business rent tax).
- Includes new, extended, or expanded sales tax exemptions for:
- Sales tax credits for contributions to the Gardiner Scholarship and Florida Tax Credit Scholarship programs;
- Certain generators for nursing homes and assisted living facilities;
- Certain purchases of agriculture related fencing materials and building materials for repair of storm damage from Hurricane Irma;
- Sales tax holidays:
- A ten-day “back-to-school” holiday for clothing, footwear, school supplies, and computers;
- Three seven-day “disaster preparedness” holiday for sales of specified items related to disaster preparedness.
For property tax purposes, the bill provides property tax relief for certain homestead property damaged by Hurricanes Hermine, Matthew or Irma or a named tropical storm; for certain citrus processing equipment idled as a result of citrus greening or Hurricane Irma; for certain unremarried surviving spouses of disabled ex-servicemembers; updates the list of named military operations for which deployed servicemembers may receive property tax relief for their homestead property; and clarifies the tax exempt status of certain entities created under the Florida Interlocal Cooperation Act of 1969.
For corporate income tax purposes, the bill provides an additional $13 million for tax credits for fiscal year 2018-19 for voluntary brownfields clean-up and an additional $6.5 million for community contribution tax credits in fiscal year 2019-20 (also may be taken against sales tax and insurance premiums tax).
Further changes include: an 18 percent reduction in certain traffic fines if the driver attends a driver improvement course; exemptions from documentary stamp taxes for certain transfers of property between spouses and for certain notes and mortgages given for loans made in connection with local housing finance authorities; reduction in the tax rate on certain aviation fuel uses; exemption from fuel taxes certain purchases of fuel for export and certain purchases of fuel for agricultural related uses; several changes adding flexibility to the use of tax credits under the Florida Scholarship Tax Credit Program; a requirement for reporting of certain financial information by certain recipients of sales tax and cigarette tax distributions; and a clarification to the uses for which the local infrastructure sales surtax may be used.
[NOTE: The committee took up and passed a Proposed Committee Substitute (PCS) that was further amended. The short summary above reflects the provisions of the bill as amended. The total impact of the bill in fiscal year 2018-19 is -$331.3 million (-$273.9 million recurring). This was the only committee of reference for this bill. There is no direct Senate companion bill but there are several bills that contain some comparable provisions.]
In the Senate Appropriations Committee meeting:
SB 856 – High School Graduation Requirements by Montford – PASSED; PLACED ON HOUSE CALENDAR ON 2ND READING
The bill authorizes students to use apprenticeship or preapprenticeship program credit to meet specified credit requirements for high school graduation. Specifically, the bill:
- Authorizes a student who earns credit upon completion of an apprenticeship or preapprenticeship program registered with the Department of Education to use such credit to meet the credit requirements for:
- Fine or performing arts, speech and debate, or practical arts; or
- Requires the State Board of Education to approve and identify in the Course Code Directory the apprenticeship and preapprenticeship programs from which a student may use earned credit to meet the specified credit requirements for high school graduation.
[NOTE: This was the last committee of reference for this bill. The House companion bill – HB 577 – is identical, has passed the House, and has been received in the Senate in Messages from the House.]
SB 1426 – Local Government Fiscal Transparency by Lee – PASSED
The bill creates the Local Government Fiscal Transparency Act. The act:
- Requires local governments to post on their websites the voting records related to taxes and debt.
- Requires property appraisers to maintain a website that includes certain property tax information.
- Requires local governments to provide additional notice of tax increases and new tax-supported debt.
- Requires local governments to undergo a debt affordability analysis before authorizing debt.
- Requires local government audits submitted to the Auditor General to be accompanied by an affidavit from the chair of the governing board stating that the local government has complied with the Local Government Fiscal Transparency Act.
The bill also:
- Requires the Auditor General, during its review of local government audit reports, to request evidence of corrective action from local governments found not to be in compliance under certain circumstances; and requires local governments to provide evidence of such correction action and evidence of completion of such action within a specified period.
- Revises the local government annual reporting requirements for economic development incentives.
[NOTE: This was the second of three committees of reference for this bill. The House companion bill – HB 7 – is similar, has passed the House, and has been received in the Senate in Messages from the House.]