Capitol Report
“Bringing Tallahassee to your Doorstep”
May 9, 2017

The 2017 Legislative Session is officially done with a late sine die after an extended session until Monday night. Legislators voted on a budget that reduces spending per student, provides no funding for Florida Forever, and ties in many changes to our public schools.  For these reasons, we are calling on Governor Rick Scott to veto the budget.
Read our letter to Governor Scott here.
Read more on the budget passed by the legislature here.

Later this week I’ll be sending out a wrap up of the entire 2017 Legislative Session and provide insight to what we could see for the next session.

As a reminder, the League will always take one of three positions: 1. Support; 2. Oppose; or 3. No Position. No position means we are neutral on the issue and are closely monitoring the bill. A no position can change if a bill is amended and sways the League to either a Support or Oppose position.

EDUCATIONEducation-Money

  • HB 773 is the House companion to SB 926. This bill reduces standardized tests, includes mandatory daily recess. The League is in support. The bill is dead in the House and was not considered in the Senate due to the “train” of amendments placed on the bill. The education train was put into HB 7069.
  • SB 360 requires the Department of Education to conduct a comprehensive study of high-performing middle schools in reading and math. This bill has appropriations attached to it to complete the study. The House companion is HB 293 which is similar in language to the Senate, passed the House mid-April. It now goes to the Governor’s desk.
  • SB 1362/HB 7101 creates and expands  high-performing charter school networks in addition to lowering the threshold for Title I funding. This will have a huge affect on the neediest communities because funds can be disbursed among more schools, including charters. Ultimately, charter schools will be able to move into any community without the approval of a local district or county and finally, it will eliminate achievement data being readily available to parents so they can make an informed decision for their students. The League is in opposition to this bill. It was withdrawn from consideration and parts can be found in HB 7069.
  • HB 549 was briefly considered as a substitute for the omnibus education bill that became a train with various amendments. However, it was withdrawn from consideration in the House after passing the Senate. Parts of this bill can be found in HB 7069.
  • SB 1552 will create the Best and Brightest Teacher and Principal Scholar Award Program that would recognize the academic achievements of teachers and principals and award them with scholarships as determined by either their GPA or scores on standardized tests. The League supports this bill. With the insertion of the school improvement language, it eliminates Schools of Hope funding and maintains district control. If a school receives a grade below C, it will have turnaround support that includes the following:
  • An additional hour of instruction;
  • Wrap around community support services provided by a non-profit entity that includes health services, after school programs, drug prevention, college and career readiness and food & clothing banks;
  • Principal autonomy mostly in the curriculum.

If after three years the public school fails to improve, students will either be reassigned, the school will close and subsequently open as a charter OR contract as a conversion charter school or an with an outside agency to run the school. This bill was withdrawn from consideration by the Senate with parts of it being found in the House companion of the bill.

  • SB 436 concerns religious expression in public schools and allowing freedom of expression in our schools. This bill will allow participation of religious activities during school hours and provides a public forum at school events for students to speak publicly about religion. The League is in opposition. The bill has passed both chambers and moves to the Governor’s desk for his signature.
  • HB 7069 grew into the education train combining a number of bills into one and dubbed “Schools of Hope”. This bill includes the following:
  • Requires local districts to share capital outlay with charter schools;
  • $140 million in funds for charter school takeovers of low-performing public schools;
  • Creates a system of charters outside of the school districts and allows them to receive funding directly with no oversight from the districts;
  • Shifts Title I funding by prioritizing schools serving more than 75% free or reduced lunch students. Leftover funds will be distributed according to federal guidelines;
  • Includes mandatory recess for 100 minutes a week;
  • Provides bonuses for teachers scoring within the 77th percentile of approved exams (for example: SAT, ACT, LSAT, GRE, etc);
  • Cuts per student funding.

The League is in opposition to this bill. It now moves onto the Governor’s desk to either be signed or vetoed. Read more about the “Schools of Hope” bill here: http://bit.ly/2pYUx0E

ELECTIONS & ETHICS

  • The League is in support of SB 862 by Sen. Lee that exempts 16 and 17 year-olds from public records request after they’ve pre-registered to vote. This bill passed the Senate Floor and was moved to be heard in the House. Unfortunately, the bill was withdrawn from consideration and does not move forward.
  • SB 352 defines the year of apportionment and dictates when qualifying dates must occur for congressional and senatorial districts. An amendment added to it specifies that if there is still a challenge to the maps by the 71st day before the primary election, the election must proceed using the districts that are currently in place. The League is neutral. The bill was withdrawn from consideration and does not move forward this session.
  • SB 726/HB 521 specifies that vote-by-mail ballots can be dropped off at an early voting location in your county during operating hours. HB 521 was substituted for SB 726 and subsequently has been adopted by both chambers. The League supports this bill however it was removed from consideration.
  • The League is in support of SB 1160 that will require a candidate to provide a money order or cashier’s check when qualifying. It prohibits elected officials from serving as a poll watcher too. Unfortunately, the bill died for this session in messages. 
GUN SAFETY

  • SB 616 passed out of the Florida Senate on Friday. This bill would allow concealed permit holders to check in their weapons at the security desk in a courthouse. The bill was sent over to the House in messages but there was no companion to the bill. However, this did not stop the bill being put on the schedule in the House. It was subsequently temporarily postponed (TP’d) and is dead the rest of session. The League opposes this bill. Read more here: http://hrld.us/2pW1Jfo 
  • SB 128 shifts the burden of proof in criminal prosecution to the state. The House adopted the language from the Senate in a trade off between SB 128 and SB 436. The League is in opposition to this bill. It has passed both chambers and moves to the Governor’s desk. Read more here: http://bit.ly/2q3pbo0 
  • SB 1052 passed the Senate after being amended in the House. It made technical changes to the “Stand Your Ground” law currently in place. It specifies when a person can use deadly vs. non-deadly force. The League is in opposition to the bill.
HEALTHCARE

  • This week the legislature came to a stalemate because of cuts to hospitals, specifically the distribution of LIP (low-income pool) funding. This funding is provided to hospitals who service individuals without health insurance. Read more here: http://bit.ly/2pbdc6o
NATURAL RESOURCES

  • SB 1238 attempts to enrich investor-owned utilities at the expense of residents. The League is in opposition to this bill. This bill is on the Senate’s special order calendar for today. The House companion is dead and the bill has been withdrawn from consideration in the Senate. Read more here: http://bit.ly/2qnsKbB 

 

  • HB 7119 speaks to the funding of the Florida Forever program. Unfortunately, the Senate accepted the House’s offer to not set aside any money for the Florida Forever in his year’s budget. This means no funding will be provided for land acquisition. The League is disappointed this year’s legislature did not fulfill the will of the voters decided in Amendment 1. Read more here: http://bit.ly/2qOehVQ  
  • President Negron’s SB 10 project concerning the building of the Lake Okeechobee reservoir to prevent a repeat of last summer’s “guacamole water”. The League is in  support of this bill. It has officially passed out of both chambers and moves onto the Governor’s desk. Read more here: http://bit.ly/2qvsK6o 
  • SB 90 was substituted for HB 1351 concerning solar energy and the implementation of Amendment 4. The bill was amended to put in a threshold for residential solar, which means residential wouldn’t be subject to 80/20. The League is in support http://pbpo.st/2pvHZLw
Looking for a specific bill or issue that you think the League should take a position on? LWVF prides itself on being a grassroots organization and receives suggestions on which issues we should make a priority from local leagues each year. From this list we’re able to create a comprehensive list of priorities and lobby for or against these issues in the Capitol.

Questions, comments or concerns? Don’t hesitate to send me an email at LWVFAdvocacy@gmail.com.

Sincerely,

Kelly Quintero

Legislative Advocate

LWV of Florida

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