Your Weekly Legislative Update

April 29, 2013
Week Eight Session Summary
April 22 - 26, 2013
Legislative Session 2013


In This Issue...

  1. Developmental Education Saved
  2. FRS Reforms
  3. Turn It Up!
  4. Nuclear Power
  5. Final Weekly Update

2013 Legislative Session - Week 8

As we enter the final week of the 2013 Legislative Session, several items that have been unresolved have finally been worked out.

Lawmakers have agreed on a $74 billion budget late Sunday for the fiscal year that begins July 1.  The budget includes $480 million in teacher pay raises, a new formula for paying hospitals under the Medicaid program and a few projects for key lawmakers' districts. The agreement comes just ahead of the Tuesday deadline for each chamber to lay the budget “on the table” for 72 hours before final passage. It was also the first time in years that state revenues kept lawmakers from considering deep cuts into programs like education and health care. "Even though our budget picture is brighter than it has been before, we didn't go on a spending spree," Negron said.

Under the deal on teacher pay raises, one of Gov. Rick Scott's top two priorities, teachers rated as "effective" would receive a raise of at least $2,500, while those rated "highly effective" would get $3,500. The raises wouldn't be paid out, though, until June 2014. Scott, who had pushed for a $2,500 across-the-board raise, still hailed the agreement in a statement late Sunday. His office said the proposal could pave the way for every teacher to get a raise of at least $2,000.

Also included is a new formula for hospital reimbursements for services provided to Medicaid patients. The details of that formula -- known as diagnosis related groups, or DRGs -- were closely watched, though safety-net hospitals had already secured enough funding in earlier talks to be comfortable with the change.

During the conference meeting, Negron also laced into the "turkey list" released annually by TaxWatch, a nonprofit organization whose annual report logs so-called budget turkeys. Negron called out the group's tendency to zero in on projects that were added in the conference process or weren't recommended by agencies. "If you check the Florida Constitution, it's the responsibility of the Legislature to write the state budget," Negron said.

Florida's conservation land-buying program is a top legislative priority each year for environmental groups. But they have faced opposition from skeptical legislators who suggest the state already owns too much land.


After a tough week of negotiating, the AFC lobbying team, under the guidance of Council of Presidents Chair and former legislator Joe Pickens (SJRSC), has worked out a plan with the Senate to reform aspects of developmental education at our colleges, but retain the level of funding. As previously reported, the House and the Senate had drastically different approaches to developmental education reform, the latter literally ending academic support courses as we know them.

The final context of the reforms, which stemmed from the much more palatable HB 7057, contains several reforms we supported and requested. These changes are designed to allow us  more freedom and flexibility in testing and advising our students who are not college ready. These include:

  • Flexibility to use multiple measures for determining student placement including testing and /or GPA.
  • Use of  co-requisite courses or services for students who enroll directly in credit gateway courses including supplemental tutoring. 
  • The ability to offer noncredit courses to those students who need the most intensive DE options.
  • The ability to charge tuition and fees for noncredit DE courses remains intact.

The bill also includes an “opt-in” provision for students.  Students can no longer be required to take the college placement test since it is assumed that students with a recent high school diploma have been tested in the 11th grade, and should have received developmental education in the 12th grade.  The definition of a “recent” high school graduate is still being negotiated but we are asking for 2012, the year high school students began to take the PERT and then receive developmental education in 12th grade. The testing opt-in for those students may be extended to all students with regard to noncredit developmental education course placement.  In either case, we will not be able to require students to test or take noncredit courses but we can strongly advise students to choose the option we believe is best for their academic needs and success.

Students may also be required to pay the full cost of a repeated noncredit developmental education course.  Early Senate language required this penalty on any course – including college credit.  The effective date of these changes is still being worked out.
The AFC Legislative Committee (College Lobbyists), along with COP Governmental Affairs Director Stacey Webb, has also been in the trenches with Presidents Pickens and Grosskopf every step of the way on this matter. 


With one week left to go, the public employee pension reform bills remain in limbo. Speaker of the House Will Weatherford continues to hold out hope that the Florida Senate will vote on his bill, HB 7011, and he is gently twisting arms on the issue. The rumor mill in Tallahassee indicates the Speaker is five votes away to a hearing – but AFC would prefer the Senate bill, SB 1392. The Senate sponsor, Wilton Simpson (R, Trilby) is holding strong for his position but has not been happy with the teacher union’s grassroots lobbying of the issue, and it may be influencing his position. Our best projection at this point is a draw, where both bills die, or the Speaker accepts a lighter FRS reform plan touted by the Senate in SB 1392 which impacts only new hires in the senior management and elected officials classes.  It also includes an incentive for new hires to opt for the investment plan by reducing their co-pay to 2%.  This bill provides:

  • A member initially enrolled in the Florida Retirement System after a certain date is vested in the pension plan after 10 years of creditable service;
  • Prohibiting members of the Elected Officers’ Class from joining the Senior Management Service Class after a specified date; 
  • Requiring certain employees initially enrolled in the Florida Retirement System on or after a specified date to be compulsory members of the investment plan; 
  • Authorizing certain employees to elect to participate in the pension plan, rather than the default investment plan, within a specified time, etc. Effective Date: January 1, 2014

On the other hand, HB 7011 makes changes to the FRS, including, but not limited to:

  • Closing the pension plan (defined benefit) to new enrollees, and requiring all new enrollees to participate in the investment plan (defined contribution), effective January 1, 2014;
  • Eliminating the option for new enrollees to apply for disability benefits, effective January 1, 2014;
  • Expanding the investment options available to investment plan members
  • Closing the Senior Management Service Optional Annuity Program to new participants and prohibits elected officials from joining the Senior Management Services Class, effective January 1, 2014.

This bill does not impact the ability of any current FRS enrollee to select participation in the pension plan or the investment plan. Changes included in the bill only pertain to new enrollees initially enrolled in the system on or after January 1, 2014.

House Speaker Will Weatherford, (R, Wesley Chapel) said Friday that he remains confident that the Senate will make major cost-saving changes this year. Weatherford said he's not giving up but, "if we're not able to get there this year, then we'll talk about it next year. But I still think there's a lot of time left on the clock." He claims his plan would save taxpayers $60 billion over 30 years "while still protecting people who are currently in the FRS." Weatherford also noted that most private employers who have pension plans use the investment system, rather than the monthly benefit guarantee. The veracity of the savings claim remains under scrutiny.  "It's never too early to save the state of Florida billions of dollars -- or never too late, either. We're confident, we believe in the policy," Weatherford said.


HB 655
preempts the regulation of family and medical leave benefits to the state as it pertains to political subdivisions.  Political subdivisions can be defined as  local governments or entities that fulfill a state’s mission.  These may include counties, cities, towns, villages, and special districts such as school districts, water districts, park districts, airports, and colleges and universities. Exceptions are provided for leave related to and arising directly from domestic violence and for federal laws or regulations governing family or medical leave benefits. The bill also creates an Employer-Sponsored Benefits Task Force to analyze employer-sponsored family and medical leave benefits and the impact of the state preemption. The bill does not limit the authority of a political subdivision to establish family or medical leave benefits for its own employees. Federally authorized and recognized tribal governments are not prohibited from requiring family or medical leave benefits for a person employed within tribe jurisdiction. The bill has passed.





The House and Senate have finally agreed to an education budget of about $20 billion for the fiscal year beginning July 1. The Senate has dropped a plan to add $30.5 million into a compression fund, which is used to compensate school districts for local economic factors affecting a district’s ability to raise money due to a diminished tax base or other factors. The Senate has agreed to allow more money for the Bright Futures and the Florid Resident Assistance Grant (FRAG) scholarship programs.  And the House agreed to the Senate’s request to trim a demand for a 6% tuition increase to 3%  for college, university and workforce training students.  


The Senate decided Friday that driving with stereos blasting is annoying but shouldn't be illegal. SB 634 by Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, would have let police stop drivers if they hear their stereo systems 25 feet away. Opponents tried to amend that to 100 feet, but the amendment by Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, died in a 20-17 vote. That was a sign the bill was in trouble. When a floor vote was taken, the roll call was 19-19 -- and tie votes are "nay" votes. A companion bill, HB 1019, by Rep. Kevin Rader, D-Boca Raton, is still alive on the House calendar for a second reading. It's been there since April 12, though, without getting on the special order agenda. So there is little chance that the chamber would take up a bill that prompts long debate in the final week of the legislative session -- especially not on a subject that's already failed in the other chamber.

Senate opposition seemed to focus on two arguments. Liberal Democrats were concerned that making loud cars a "primary offense" would give police a convenient handle to pull over young drivers and search their cars -- maybe leading to a more serious arrest. Conservative Republicans objected to government intrusion into a private, if annoying, lifestyle. "We're getting to the point that we're intolerant of everything," said Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice. "We're going to make our annoyance a law." She said "I don't like it either" when she stops at a red light next to a car with rap or rock blasting from its dashboard, "so we look at them and say, 'What a jerk,' then we drive on."

The Florida Supreme Court last year struck down a law against loud stereos because it exempted political and commercial speech -- like a candidate's motorcade with loudspeakers inviting passers-by to a rally, or a business advertising a grand opening or sale. In an appeal by two Pinellas County men who got $73 fines for loud car stereos, the high court ruled that the law amounted to content-based censorship. Simpson's bill would have eliminated the exemptions and allowed police to stop any driver whose stereo system can be heard 25 feet away.


In 2006, the Legislature passed a law (366.92 Florida Statutes) that allows utilities to charge customers for nuclear power projects regardless of whether they are ever built. As a result, Florida Power & Light Co. has collected $662 million for two planned nuclear units at Turkey Point in Miami-Dade County and for upgrades at its St. Lucie power plant. FPL says the St. Lucie plant upgrades are saving customers $7.5 million a month. Progress Energy Florida has collected $819 million for upgrades at Crystal River and a planned new plant in Levy County, yet neither utility has committed to building new nuclear units.

But the Tampa Bay Times reports that Progress Energy customers are on the hook for nearly $2 billion for the two projects. The utility's botched repairs at Crystal River and its decision to close the plant have fueled criticism of the 2006 law. House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, has said he supports a review of the 2006 law but said he doesn't want a total repeal. SB 1472 by Sen. John Legg, R-Port Richey, originally would have repealed the law in 2016. The amended bill would deny cost recovery 20 years after a federal nuclear plant license was obtained. The bill also would deny a rate of return on recovery costs for utilities that decide not to build projects. Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami and subcommittee chairman, said HB 7167 goes further than the Senate bill by placing a moratorium on new requests for nuclear cost recovery.


If all goes according to schedule the Florida Legislature will “Sine Die” on Friday, May 3. The act is symbolized by the Sargent at Arms of both the House and Senate each dropping a handkerchief on the fourth floor of the Capitol Building, the location of both chambers. The term Sine Die (from the Latin "without day") as defined in Wikipedia refers to the adjournment "without assigning a day for a further meeting or hearing". To adjourn an assembly sine die is to adjourn it for an indefinite period. A legislative body adjourns sine die when it adjourns without appointing a day on which to appear or assemble again.


This is your final weekly Perception Legislative Update for the 2013 Legislative Session.  In about three weeks, you will receive a comprehensive Legislative Summary that comprises information about the FCS budget and all substantive legislation that will impact our colleges. Including the Perception embedded in the AFC Current Pre-Legislative Issue distributed in February, you have received nine legislative updates from your AFC state office.  Each week, over 8300 members have received and share the information we have provided.

Perception is compiled weekly during the Florida Legislative Session and distributed to AFC members. 

Special thanks go to the members of the AFC legislative committee for their contributions to this issue of Perception.

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