February 29, 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 ian 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.
2016-2017 Budget Conference
The House and Senate began meeting in conference committee over this past weekend. The education conference subcommittee met twice in an effort to resolve differences in their respective bills. The two houses will continue meeting in subcommittees until they reach agreement or pass unresolved issues to the full Appropriations Committee chairpersons. The Appropriations chairs will negotiate until the budget is completed or will pass on the unresolved issues to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House.
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|
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 continues to offer $500 million with half that number coming from new state money and the rest from the universities’ base budgets. Under the last Senate offer, universities would also receive $500 million; with $225 million of that coming from the state and $275 million from universities’ base budgets. At $500 million, the level of performance funding in the state universities is now just over 25% of all the Education and General (E&G) funding which is the principal source of operating expenses for state universities.
Proposed performance funding for the Florida College System remains the same as proposed several weeks ago, The House plan has $60 million; $40 million from the state and $20 million from colleges’ base funding. The Senate proposal would also give Florida Colleges $60 million in performance funding, but with half coming from the state and the rest from the colleges.
SB 524 was once a bill which implemented performance funding in our colleges and universities into state law. On Thursday the Senate Appropriations Committee passed SB 524 that was amended to contain language from a number of K-12 education related bills. When they start piling parts of bills into a single bill, a legislative train is formed, usually with the intent to kick someone in the caboose.
If there is good news, maybe there is a better opportunity to derail the SB 524 train but HB 7043 still remains available for performance funding.
Performance funding will be a prime focus for UFF in the 2017 Session and beyond.
UFF position on performance funding.
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.
Senate Bill 68 is still being held in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Judiciary Committee will not be meeting again so it appears HB 4001 and SB 68 are once again dead this legislative session.
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.
It appears these bills are in need of resuscitation and, unfortunately, probably will not be
heard again this session. We are still working with bill sponsors to see if the content of the
House bill might be added to other legislation that might pass this session. A likely bill could
be the legislation addressing affordability of college and textbooks. However, the bill sponsors
would have to be amenable to adding the language to assist graduate assistants.
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 is now on the house calendar and awaiting placement on the Special Order calendar.
The good news is that SB 1434 has not been heard in committee so it will be difficult for
this bill to pass this session. We will continue to monitor the legislation.
House Passes Retirement Bill
HB 7107 Public Employees Retirement Caldwell
Passed in the full House by a vote of 74 to 40. The Senate does not have a bill and has indicated
they are not interested in passing a retirement bill this session. The problem with this bill
is that it changes the default from the pension plan to the investment plan. We will continue to
monitor this bill.
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.