DAY 56 OF THE LEGISLATIVE SESSION, 4 DAYS TO GO
There are 4 days to go in the 60-day session but no one knows when and how the budget logjam will end. The fight over using federal money for people without healthcare and to support hospitals that provide services for those in the Low Income Pool has stalled the budget process. May 1, the last day of regular session, will come and go without completion of the 2015-16 state budget, which is the only bill which requires passage.
As reported in the Miami Herald, “The government of the nation’s third-largest state is controlled by one party, yet the standoff is Republican against Republican, in some cases involving members of the same family. House Republicans have been distracted by a leadership coup while Gov. Rick Scott is personally threatening to veto Republican senators’ bills and spending items unless they approve his tax cuts of $673 million.”
The last five days of session will see much floor action with the passage of legislation. More controversial legislation will probably not see the light of day and that is a good result.
BILLS ON GUNS ON CAMPUS AND SECRET JOB SEARCHES
UFF has opposed these bills throughout the Session and it appears both issues are close to death in the Senate. HB 4005 by Rep. Greg Steube regarding guns on campus and HB 223 by Rep. Combee regarding secret job searches for college and university presidents and provosts both could still be heard on the House Floor but their companion measures in the Senate still remain in committees. The decision to extend or call a Special Session could have a bearing on the bills’ futures but we are hopeful they are dead for 2015.
TEXTBOOK AND POSTSECONDARY EDUCATION AFFORDABILITY
CS/HB 7125 by Rep. Porter and the House Higher Education Committee passed the House on April 24th by a unanimous vote. UFF concerns about the bill were addressed in the final version. The requirement that textbooks be available for at least three years was removed from the bill. Compromise agreements, supported by UFF, were also passed establishing the timeline for instructors posting textbook information online would be 45 days prior to the first day of class for each term and providing 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.
UFF is still working on similar provisions within SB 948 by Senator Gaetz to try and reach consensus on language that was agreed upon in the House relating to the affordability issues. SB 948 is what is called a “train” in legislative jargon combining all or part of a number of K-12 and higher education bills into one large education train. Note: Bills with identical language must pass the House and Senate before going to the Governor.
The next Legislative Update will recap bills watched by UFF this session and provide an outlook on the budget deliberations during a special or extended session.