The House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday approved its version of a $69.2-billion budget bill. The House version of the budget now moves to the floor for full House approval.
Senate President Mike Haridopolos said Wednesday he expects to begin the budget process by distributing budget allocations next week.
Prior to the session, Sen. Haridopolos advocated waiting to write the budget and possibly holding a special session later in the spring to use the latest revenue estimates. House Speaker Dean Cannon, though, argued against that approach.
On Wednesday, Sen. Haridopolos indicated that the Senate is moving forward with the revenue estimates already in hand. He also cited news reports that consumer confidence is up, and he said that economic "pep" may help increase state revenue.
Sen. Haridopolos said he met with college students who were at the Capitol this week to advocate keeping tuition low. Sen. Haridopolos said the state has some of the lowest tuition rates in the country and that many of the students he teaches have Bright Futures scholarships that defray tuition costs.
"It's still a great deal for Florida students," he said. "I would not be surprised if it is roughly the number (tuition increase of 8% base with the possibility of an additional 7% differential increase) the House has talked about."
Employee Health Insurance
The House introduced a bill to alter the state group health insurance program to more closely mirror private sector health plans. The Senate does not have any proposed legislation filed at this time. This bill includes:
January 2014, changes health insurance to be a defined contribution plan:
Establishes the position of independent benefits manager, who is responsible for:
The Senate earlier passed Congressional and state Senate plans but without a map for the state House. The House approved final passage of the Senate’s Congressional and State Senate maps on a straight 80-39 party line vote. The House also approved their state House map. Although these maps are agreed to by both chambers, in order to be in the correct posture to be enrolled and sent to Governor, the Senate must pass them one more time.
Higher Education Issues
Vulnerable Persons on College and University Campuses
Sen. Benacquisto’s bill (SB 1816) passed its first committee unanimously. It still has one more committee stop in Senate Budget before it moves to the full floor for consideration. The house companion (HB 1355) did not move this week, but did pass out of its first committee unanimously and has 2 more committee stops before consideration of full House. These bills fine and remove state funding (2 year period) for a university, college, or school (public or private) if they knowingly and willfully fail to report known or suspected child abuse, abandonment, or neglect committed on the property of the institution or during an event or function sponsored by the institution, who knowingly and willfully prevent another person from doing so, or the institutions law enforcement officials fail to report it to the prosecutorial.
Florida law, currently, provides for a vendor preference in state contracting for service-disabled veteran business enterprises. However, a House bill (HB 221) expands the vendor preference to include wartime veterans and veterans of a period of war. The bill passed its first two committees unanimously and has one more stop before it reaches the floor for consideration by full House.
College Credit for Military Service
The Senate Bill that directs the Board of Governors to adopt regulations and the State Board of Education to adopt rules that enable members of the U.S. Armed Forces to earn academic credit at public postsecondary educational institutions for college-level training and education acquired in the military has passed all assigned committees and now being considered by the full Senate. The House companion of the bill has passed its first two committees and has 2 more stops before consideration by full House.
Rep. Caldwell’s bill (HB 1465) that amends the public records exemption for Florida College System (FCS) institution limited-access personnel records to mirror the public records exemption for State University System institution limited-access personnel records passed its first committee unanimously this week. The bill has two more committee stops before it reaches the floor for consideration by full House. There is no Senate companion for this bill.
Student BOG seat
The House version of the bill that proposes an amendment to the constitution that alters how the student representative to the Board of Governors gets appointed passed its first committee. It now heads to the full education committee. Currently, the student representative is elected by student body presidents from the SUS that belong to the Florida Student Association. The Florida Student Association encompasses all universities except Florida State University, who sites mandatory dues as reason for not being a member. The bill alters the process by empowering the Governor to appoint one student body president to the Boards of Governors without Senate approval for a one year term. The Senate version (SB 1508) of this proposed legislation has not been heard in any assigned Senate Committees.