DAY 46 OF THE LEGISLATIVE SESSION; 14 DAYS TO GO
Well there are 14 days to go in the 60-day session but overtime may be looming. The good news about the 14 days left is that we do count weekends and normally the Legislature is not in session on weekends. The bad news is that the House and Senate are over $4 BILLION dollars apart in their respective budgets.
Most legislative reporters, lobbyists, and legislators are suggesting that either a special session or an extended session is likely. While that is the scuttlebutt each year at this time, 2015 may be the year when the rumors and guesstimates may be real.
There are more signs daily. On April 16th, Governor Scott issued a press release which states, “Today, Governor Rick Scott announced that he will take legal action against President Obama’s federal healthcare agency for stopping Low Income Pool (LIP) healthcare funds to Florida in order to force the state to take Legislative action to expand Medicaid under Obamacare.”
Senate Appropriations Chairman Tom Lee, R-Brandon, is saying that House and Senate money managers can’t start negotiating their differences without allocations to the various budget entities, including higher education. He cites the state-federal standoff as the cause for the delay. Note: The Senate has LIP funds and some Medicaid expansion within their budget which exceeds the House budget by over $4 billion.
Finally, Senator Lee has said that a special session would be limited to fiscal items leaving unresolved legislation, like the guns on campus bill, dead for this year.
GUNS ON CAMPUS
HB 4005 by Rep. Greg Steube/SB 176 by Senator Greg Evers would allow carrying of concealed weapons on college and university campuses.
HB 4005 has cleared its three committee assignments and is on the Second Reading Calendar. UFF is watching the status of the bill and will notify you should the bill be placed on the House Special Order Calendar.
SB 176 is scheduled next for the Senate Judiciary Committee. The committee is unlikely to meet again this session. It will require a two-thirds vote of the Senate to withdraw the bill from the committee for further action. Senator Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee has been quoted as saying, “I’ve polled the members of the Senate, and there doesn’t seem to be too much support for that bill.” UFF continues to work to make sure that we can defeat this poorly conceived NRA initiative.
These bills are opposed by UFF, the UF Faculty Senate, the Florida Board of Governors, University Presidents, University Police Chiefs, the League of Women Voters and at least 14 Florida newspapers!
SECRET JOB SEARCHES
SB 182 by Senator Alan Hays and HB 223 by Representative Combee are bills that would provide exemptions to Florida’s Sunshine Law as it pertains to president and provost searches. Applicants for a president or provost position would remain secret unless they were chosen as a finalist for the position.
HB 223 has passed all its committee assignments and is on the Second Reading Calendar. We will let you know if it is placed on the House Special Order Calendar in the next 14 days. The good news is that SB 182 has stalled in the Senate Rules Committee.
To become law, these bills must pass both houses by two-thirds vote and then be signed by the Governor, or the Governor may choose to let the bill become law without his signature.
TEXTBOOK AND POSTSECONDARY EDUCATION AFFORDABILITY
The textbook and postsecondary affordability language, contained in SB 938, has been combined into SB 948 which has become a bill containing what was previously several standalone K-12 and postsecondary bills. HB 7125 remains a standalone bill addressing the Governor’s affordability package.
UFF concerns about having textbooks available for at least three years has been removed from both bills. In a meeting this week, UFF President-Elect Jennifer Proffitt and UFF Interim Executive Director Marshall Ogletree met with House Higher Education Chairperson Elizabeth Porter, her staff, and the Governor’s Legislative Director and education policy staff. They reached agreement on language in HB 7125 that the timeline for instructors posting textbook information online would be 45 days prior to the first day of class for each term. UFF was also able to get agreement from all parties that tuition and fees paid by graduate assistants employed by universities shall be one of the items the Board of Governors must evaluate in determining strategies to promote college affordability.