Your Weekly Legislative Update

April 22, 2013
Week Seven Session Summary
April 15-19, 2013
Legislative Session 2013


In This Issue...

  1. FCS Budget
  2. Retirement
  3. Other Issues of Significance
  4. Back Issues of Perception

2013 Legislative Session - Week 7  


The Florida Legislature entered “conference” phase last week. Conference refers to the process by which the House and the Senate resolve differences in bills and appropriations.  Conference committees began meeting on Thursday, April 18, and many of them met throughout the weekend.  The two chambers began to hash out the details of a $74 billion-plus state budget during conference subcommittee meetings Friday, but the larger budget and policy issues that do not get resolved at the subcommittee level will likely get “bumped” to the chairs of major conference committees.

Your AFC Legislative Committee monitors the process every step of the way. There are numerous issues the House and the Senate are trying to sort out. They include the size and scope of a plan to expand health care coverage, the amount of raises and bonuses for teachers and state workers, whether to raise college tuition, whether to retain some control over clerks of the court budgets, and how much power to give a new state information technology agency. All of these matters of importance will be decided in budget talks between the House and the Senate during the next two weeks. Here’s a breakdown of the main issues facing the FCS where the House and the Senate are at odds:


FCS Budget

Some differences still remain in the FCS budget conference committee negotiation. In the second House offer back to the Senate over the weekend, the House moved a bit closer to the Senate position regarding the college program fund. If the House position holds, it would mean a 4% increase for the FCS. The House has included the Senate offer of $5M for performance incentives and has moved from 6% to 4% for tuition increase authority. 

SB 1720 and HB 7057 regarding General Education and Developmental Education

These are major higher education reform bills that touch on numerous areas.  Probably the biggest issue covered in these bills is the difference between the House and Senate with regard to Developmental Education. In the Senate version, Developmental Education is redefined. The Senate converts DE from a pre-requisite to a co-requisite approach.  It removes college preparatory instruction and eliminates a college’s ability to charge tuition and fees for those noncredit courses. It changes law so that students who score below the cut on college placement exams can still enroll in credit courses, but requires developmental education services be provided via tutorial or other alternative approaches.  The Senate bill eliminates $36M from the FCS budget used for DE courses, but adds back $18M to support alternative DE delivery modes. The focus of DE in both chambers is shifted from preparing student to successfully enroll in college credit courses, to helping students succeed in college credit courses. The bills are similar but not identical with regard to the approach to counseling and advising in that each college’s Board must establish policies to inform students about their options for improving communication and computation skills that are essential to succeeding in college-level work.

The bills also address the implementation of a series of meta-majors and the academic pathways, that identify the gateway courses associated with each meta-major. A gateway course can be defined as the first college credit earning course in a major program of study.  A meta-major is group of programs of study, e.g., engineering, that share a common foundational skill set.  FCS institutions can use placement test results to determine whether each student demonstrates sufficient communication and computation skills to indicate readiness for a chosen meta-major. The bills also provide for colleges to utilize a variety of assessments and utilize different developmental education strategies.  In the Senate bill, students assessed as not ready for college credit courses are to be referred to an adult education college credit course or into adult education as appropriate to the student’s demonstrated communication and computation performance levels. 

There are numerous other issues in these bills that will need to be reconciled.  These include fee waivers to meet the $10K degree effort, tuition authority, and a reconfiguring of the Higher Education Coordinating council among them.  The AFC Legislative team is working hard to keep the developmental education model and funding intact as we know it, while agreeing to move forward with other reforms. 

SB 1718 and HB 1295 regarding Local Tax Referendum Authority for Colleges

These bills have moved successfully and are cued up for passage in each chamber. This will authorize a county to levy a surtax up to a specified amount for the benefit of a college in the county, if the citizens approve of it by local referendum.  If the surtax is passed in a county, it  must establish an oversight board with specified duties, responsibilities, and procedures relating to the expenditure of surtax proceeds. The new law would also provide that state funding may not be reduced because an institution receives local surtax funds. Over 30 other states have similar local taxing authority.

HB 7011 and SB 1392 regarding the Florida Retirement System

As previously reported, these two bills provide for additional reforms to the FRS.  The House bill closes the Pension Plan to all new hires effective January 1, 2014.  The Senate bill closes only to Senior Managers and Elected Officials. The Senate bill also includes a 2% co-pay (instead of 3%) for new hires who choose the Investment Plan.  These bills are slated for conference committee on Thursday of this week.

College Name Changes

Two colleges have requested approval of name changes from the Legislature. Lake-Sumter Community College will now be referred to as Lake-Sumter State College.  Brevard Community College will now be known as Eastern Florida State College. 

OTHER ISSUES OF STATEWIDE SIGNIFICANCE (Source: Florida Current from Lobbytools) 

Medicaid expansion

Republican leaders in the House and the Senate agree they don’t want to expand eligibility requirements for Medicaid as envisioned by the Affordable Care Act, but the agreement ends there. The Senate wants to use federal money for premium support for private health plans as an alternative to expanding Medicaid, but the House wants to use state money to cover a smaller portion of low-income Floridians. 

Raises for teachers and state workers

Gov. Rick Scott’s top priority of a $2,500 pay raise for teachers is funded by both chambers, but in different ways. The Senate includes $480 million, enough to pay for the raises, but prefers it to be tied to merit pay. The House also encourages school districts to tie the raises to the performance of students, but sets aside $628 million. For state workers, the House includes a $1,000 raise and performance-based bonuses of $400, but the Senate has a 3 percent salary increase. 

Perception is compiled weekly and distributed to AFC members. 

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

Perception - The Back Issues

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