February 15, 2016
The Legislature convened last month with the Governor’s State of the State address. And the primary message was to provide more corporate tax relief in the form of a $1 BILLION tax cut and creation of a new $250 million Florida Enterprise Fund. These proposals are all purported to be for the purpose of creating higher paying jobs in Florida. Higher education was not mentioned once in the Governor’s address as if higher education has no role in providing higher paying jobs for its citizens.
UFF certainly cannot support any such programs unless public education get its fair share, and that cannot happen when the Governor is willing to diminish Florida’s tax base even further. We must stand against these proposals and let the Legislature know that funding for K-12 and higher education will go further to meet our state’s long term goals.
This session report will update you on the more significant legislation impacting our colleges, universities and YOU, the UFF membership! Watch for UFF Action Alerts regarding pending legislation during the weeks ahead.
Next Step in the Budget Process
The House and Senate both passed their budget bills last week. Now they must work out differences and pass one final bill. To that end, the House asked the Senate to either pass the House versions or agree to hammer out the differences in conference committees. The Senate took up the House bills, passed strike-all amendments which removed the House budget bills’ language and replaced it with the Senate language – in simpler terms: the Senate passed their own bills under the House bill numbers. This is customary as they alternate a Senate bill number (even) or a House bill number (odd) every other year.
The next step is for the differences to be worked out through the Budget Conference Committee process. Conferees have not yet been named, but we expect that process to begin soon. Once they reach agreement, the final version of the budget will be printed and “hit the desk” starting the clock on the required 72 hour cooling off period before the final vote by both chambers. After that, the bill goes to the governor, who has line item veto power, but he must sign the bill within 7 days of receiving it.
The House and Senate Appropriations subcommittees completed the first step of the 2016-17 budget process when they introduced their respective Chair’s recommended budgets on January 28. The highlights of the budgets as it pertains to higher education are as follows. Note: Tuition for Florida colleges is not included in the state appropriations below but estimates are at approximately $1.2 billion or an increase of $37 million.
|Senate 2015-16||Senate 16-17|
|In millions of dollars|
Guns on Campus
HB 4001 by Rep. Greg Steube/SB 68 by Senator Greg Evers UFF opposes this legislation to allow carrying of concealed weapons on college and university campuses. UFF concurs with the vast majority of faculty, students and law enforcement that prohibiting firearms on college and university campuses, except by trained law enforcement and security officers, is an essential element of an overall campus safety plan.
HB 4001 passed the full House of Representatives on February 3rd on almost a party line vote. This was not a surprise but there were a few stalwarts in the debate against the bill. Representatives Williams (Tallahassee), Fulwood (Jacksonville), Rouson (St. Petersburg), Stark (Weston), Rader (Boca Raton), and Richardson (Miami Beach) were some of the legislators who spoke eloquently against the bill. While Representative Workman (Melbourne) in great bombast questioned why the House of Representatives would support the views of those liberal university presidents. I guess he was meaning John Thrasher and John Delaney being part of that group. Other proponents ignored the vast majority of faculty, students and police chiefs who oppose the bill.
Senate Bill 68 is still being held in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Judiciary Committee was
the dead end of this legislation last year. We are working on that possibility again as well as
trying to secure a minimum of twenty votes to defeat the bill should it go to the Senate Floor.
Fee Waiver For Graduate Assistants
HB 1311 by Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasalinda/SB 1230 by Senator Maria Sachs Graduate assistants provide meaningful teaching and research functions at most of our state universities. UFF supports these bills which provide graduate assistants with fee waivers. The bills are not identical. HB 1311 waives financial aid fees, technology fees, fees for security, access or identification cards and fees relating to the use of facilities. SB 1230 would waive all fees. The fee waivers will assist thousands of graduate assistants with added financial support to supplement their stipends for teaching and/or research.
HB 1311 is now referenced to the House Education Appropriations Subcommittee.
SB 1230 passed unanimously from the Senate Higher Education Committee. Over 100 members of
the FSU-GAU chapter were in attendance at the meeting. Thanks for the excellent testimony
from GAU members Tara Baldrick-Morrone, Rachel McCleery, Chris Segal and Kerr Ballenger.
University Employees' Health Insurance
PCB HHSC 16-01 by the House Health and Human Services Committee/SB 1434 by Senator Jeff Brandes These bills impact the State Group Health Insurance Program, which serve our faculties at the state universities. The House had proposed this legislation last session, but now a Senate sponsor has been found. The bill modifies parts of the current plan and establishes different level health insurance plans in the future. UFF is working with a coalition of state employee unions to address the bill so it is favorable to our members should it pass.
HB 7089 passed the House Appropriations Committee without amendments which UFF and the coalition
feel are needed.
House Rolls Out Retirement Bill
The House State Affairs Committee rolled out and passed Proposed Committee bill SAC 16-03 which deals with the Florida Retirement System (FRS) this week by a vote of 10 to 8. It is precisely what we thought was coming. We do not, at this time, think there is an appetite for this in the Senate -- but we are only halfway through session.
The primary element of the bill we find objectionable is changing the default from the pension
plan to the investment plan for new hires. Anyone defaulted into the investment plan would have
eight months to switch back. Regular class employees are the target of this switch.
HB 7043 by Rep. Erik Fresen/CSSB 524 by Senator Don Gaetz Performance funding to state universities in 2015-16 was a total of $400 million with $150 coming from new state funds and $250 million from the base budgets of the institutions. For 2016-17, the House would give $500 million with half that number coming from new state money and the rest from the universities’ base budgets. Under the Senate plan, universities would receive $475 million; $225 million of that coming from the state. The level of performance funding in the state universities is now almost 25% of all the Education and General (E&G) funding which is the principal source of operating expenses.
Performance funding for the Florida College System under the House plan would be $60 million; $40 million from the state and $20 million from colleges’ base funding. The Senate would also give Florida Colleges $60 million in performance funding, but with half coming from the state and the rest from the colleges.
UFF position on performance funding.
HB 7019 by Rep. Elizabeth Porter/SB 984 by Senator John Legg UFF has worked on these bills as they have passed through their higher education committee references. Both bills have the compromise 45-days before the first day of class provision for posting textbooks or instructional materials on the college or university website.
Both bills passed their respective committee this week. Jennifer Proffitt spoke to a concern in the bill during the House committee meeting. Marshall Ogletree addressed our concern with the Senate committee.
UFF position paper on textboook affordability.