We'll do our best to keep you apprised of the latest developments on the bills we're watching closely. We don't send out action alerts about all of these, in order to help keep things focused. But UFF considers all of these a priority for our attempts to strengthen higher education across the state.
HB 1073 / SB 1276 (Fee Relief)
This is a complex bill affecting many aspects of funding for higher education. The key elements of concern for GAU are the provisions freezing University fees across Florida and proposing a 25% reduction in student fees for all graduate assistants. This is the culmination of several years of hard work lobbying the Legislature to provide fee relief. You can read the full text here.
Update 4/3/17: SB 1276 passed its first committee hearing unanimously. HB 1073 was not scheduled to be heard. Pursuing other options of getting it into law.
HB 11 / SB 1292 (Recertification)
This is a bill that edits the process unions use to certify themselves with the state. It requires unions to report the number of employees eligible for membership (the bargaining unit), as well as the number of dues-paying members. Any union whose membership is less than 50% of its bargaining unit will have 1 month to petition for recertification, a process that requires gathering physical signatures from at least 30% of the bargaining unit. You can read the full text here.
Update 3/8/17: HB 11 passed its first subcommittee hearing 10-4.
Update 3/22/17: HB 11 passed its first committee hearing 14-8.
Update 3/30/17: HB 11 passed in the full House 75-41.
HB 6005 / SB 622 (Guns on Campus)
This bill amends existing concealed carry regulations to allow for concealed carry on college and university campuses, except during athletic events. It is unclear why athletic events have been exempted, but the danger posed to all members of FSU's campus have positioned GAU firmly against this bill. Although the 2 bills are not currently linked on the FL Senate website, they have the same effect. You can read the full text of the Senate Bill here.
SB 80 (Public Records Restrictions)
This bill strips the automatic guarantee that attorneys' fees shall be paid when suing for public records if it is found that a government agency unlawfully withheld those records. Without this guarantee, groups who are unable to afford to pay the sometimes-extreme costs on their own will be unable to secure legal assistance, thus jeopardizing their ability to pursue public records requests successfully. You can read the full text here.
Note: There is another bill, HB 163, that contains similar language, but it retains the important word "shall," instead of SB 80's "may," meaning that attorneys would still be guaranteed payment if the government agencies they sue are found to have acted unlawfully.
Update 3/14/17: SB 80 passed its first committee hearing 8-0.
Update 3/29/17: SB 80 passed its second committee hearing 38-0.
While these bills are of concern to all those in higher education, GAU will not track them as closely, or send out action alerts about them, barring substantial changes. We encourage you to inform yourselves about them, however. Knowledge is power.
HB 489 / SB 2 (Higher Education Reforms)
This is a complicated bill with both positive and negative features. It modifies the state university and Florida College System institution performance accountability metrics and standards to promote on-time student graduation; it uses a 4-year timeline instead of the current 6-year timeline. It also establishes more performance-based incentives for the state College system, and increases access to financial aid through a number of measures. UFF's position is to stand opposed to the change in metrics, and to avoid one-size-fits-all performance incentives, which have historically hurt more than they have helped. You can read the full text here.
HB 5 / SB 4 (Recruit & Retain Faculty)
This bill contains a number of provisions meant to increase the prominence of Florida Universities by establishing recruitment programs and creating specific guidelines to improve faculty programs. It also strengthens retirement benefits and recognition efforts. You can read the full text here.
HB 7007 / SB 900 (State Group Insurance Program)
This bill alters the structure of the health insurance offered to state employees, including University staff and faculty. It offers younger, healthier employees cheaper alternatives, which will have the ultimate effect of shifting the burden of costs onto older and sicker employees, while also leading to a rise in the price of medical services and prescription drugs. You can read the full text here.
HB 351 / SB 478 (Executive Search Secrecy)
Records related to the search for presidents, provosts, and deans would become exempt from public records laws, effectively guaranteeing secrecy surrounding these important jobs searches. UFF is opposed to any such secrecy laws, and holds that these searches should not be exempt from Florida's sunshine laws. You can read the full text here.
SB 374 (College Competitiveness)
This bill introduces a number of changes to the state community college system. Perhaps the most notable are its efforts to push two-year completion of degrees at colleges, despite the circumstances of many community college students that force them to take longer. UFF is concerned that these provisions will encourage colleges to exclude those they feel will be unable to complete their degrees in two years, disenfranchising a large number of students seeking an education. You can read the full text here.