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Florida Gulf Coast University

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Office of Government Relations

Office of Government Relations
Office of Government Relations
Florida Gulf Coast University
10501 FGCU Blvd S.
Fort Myers, FL. 33965
Phone: (239) 590-7410
Fax: (239) 590-7411


Jennifer Goen
Director, Government Relations

Brad Davidson
Legislative Coordinator, Government Relations

Sharon Rogers
Executive Secretary, Government Relations

State Legislature Weekly Update


2014 Session Week 6

Budget Action

The House has yet to release its budget conferees for this Session, so budget conference meetings were not scheduled last week.  It is my understanding several major issues have made it difficult for the two chambers to begin negotiations.  Leadership and staff will be working this week to prepare for a rapid and condensed budget process due to the approaching 72 hour rule for the members review of the budget (April 29th for a May 2nd on time finish) and Passover and Easter Holidays.  As soon as House conferees are named, we will provide that information.   Note: Both our Student Success request ($5.7 M recurring) and Emergent Technologies Institute (7.6 M non-recurring) are part of the conference process.  

Committee and Floor Action

With the 2014 Session winding down, regular committees will stop meeting to conduct business.  Rules can be waived to schedule meetings if necessary, but generally bills that have not been heard or still have committee references are done for this Session.  With that said, below are bills that were heard last week in Committee or on chamber floors.

CS/SB 1114- State Retirement (Senate Community Affairs Committee) HB 7173 (House State Affairs Committee)

Click here to review bill SB 1114
Click here to review bill HB 7173

Currently, the bills are extremely similar, so an agreement may have been reached.

CS/SB 1114 makes the following changes to the Florida Retirement System (FRS), for members initially enrolled in the FRS on or after July 1, 2015:

  • Mandates that Elected Officers’ Class and Senior Management Service Class members may only join the investment plan;
  • Changes the default for members who do not affirmatively choose a plan from the pension plan to the investment plan;
  • Closes the Senior Management Service Optional Annuity Program to new members; and
  • Changes the vesting period in the pension plan from 8 to 10 years;
  • Changes the out of service disability retirement vesting period from 8 to 10 years.

The bill also lowers the employee’s contribution rate from 3% to 2% for all members of the investment plan. However, the overall amount transferred into the investment plan member’s account remains the same – with an increase in the employer contribution being substituted for the decrease in employee contribution.

CS/SB 1114 creates a limited exception to the prohibition on renewed membership in the Florida Retirement System. A retiree of the investment plan, the Senior Management Service Optional Annuity Program (SMSOAP), the State University System Optional Retirement Program (SUSORP) or the State Community College System Optional Retirement Program (SCCSOAP) who retired before July 1, 2010, has earned less than 10 years of creditable service, and is employed in a regularly established position with a covered employer on or after January 1, 2015, will be a renewed member in the FRS as follows:

  • Investment Plan (all classes) → Investment Plan (Regular Class)
  • SMSOAP → Investment Plan (Regular Class)
  • Pension Plan (all classes) → Ineligible

Renewed members will have to meet the vesting requirements of the plans in which they become renewed members. Creditable service does not accrue for a retiree’s employment in a regularly established position with a covered employer from July 1, 2010, through December 31, 2014, nor may employer or employee contributions be paid into a renewed member’s investment plan account for employment with a covered employer during this time period.

HB 7157-State Group Health Insurance Program (House Health and Human Services)

Click here to review bill HB 7157

Currently, no Senate bill has been introduced, but due to the fiscal nature of the bill it is likely this will become a part of the conference negotiations. 

Premium Alternative Options

The bill directs the department to recommend premium alternatives for the 2016 plan year that reflect the cost to the program for the medical and prescription drug benefits, along with associated administrative costs and fees. The department is to report the results to the Governor, Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate by December 1, 2014 for consideration in establishing premiums for the 2016 plan year during the 2015 Legislative Session.

The bill allows DMS to contract for additional products to be included in the state program, and directs DMS to contract with at least one entity that provides comprehensive pricing and inclusive services for surgery and other medical procedures. These bundled services will be another option for state employees. The selected entity must provide an educational campaign for employees to learn about the offered services.

By January 15 of each year, DMS must report to the Governor, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives on the participation level and cost-savings to both the enrollee and the state resulting from the contract.

Transparency Pilot Program

The bill directs DMS to implement, beginning in 2015, a 3-year price transparency pilot project. The purpose of the pilot is to reward value-based pricing by publishing the prices of certain diagnostic and surgical procedures and sharing any savings generated by the enrollee’s choice of providers. Participation in the project will be voluntary for state employees.

  • DMS must select between one and three areas of the state for the project. DMS will designate between 20 and 50 diagnostic procedures and elective surgical procedures that are commonly utilized by enrollees. The health plans will provide to DMS the contracted prices by provider for these procedures.
  • DMS shall designate a benchmark price for each procedure.
  • If an employee participating in the project selects a provider who offers the procedure at a price below the benchmark, the state shall pay the employee fifty percent of the difference between the benchmark and the price paid. The payment will be taxable income to the employee.

By January 1 of 2016, 2017, and 2018, the department shall report to the Governor, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives on the participation level, the amount paid to enrollees, and cost-savings to both the enrollees and the state resulting from the price transparency pilot project.

Additional Benefit Choices

Beginning in the 2017 plan year, the bill provides that state employees will have health plan choices at four different benefit levels. These levels are:

  • Platinum Level (at least 90% AV)
  • Gold Level (at least 80% AV)
  • Silver Level (at least 70% AV)
  • Bronze Level (at least 60% AV)

The state will make a defined contribution for each employee toward the cost of purchasing a health plan. Employees will have the following options:

  • Use the entire employer contribution to pay for health insurance and pay any additional premium if the cost of the plan exceeds the employer contribution.
  • Use part of the employer contribution to pay for health insurance and have the balance credited to a flexible spending arrangement.
  • Use part of the employer contribution to pay for health insurance and have the balance credited to a health savings account.
  • Use part of the employer contribution to pay for health insurance and use the balance to purchase additional benefits offered through the state group insurance program.
  • Use part of the employer contribution to pay for health insurance and have the balance used to increase the employees pay.

Prescription Drug Program

The bill amends s. 110.12315, F.S., to allow an enrollee in either the PPO or HMO plan option to fill a prescription for a 90-day supply of a maintenance drug by mail order or at a retail pharmacy. The reimbursement rate for the retail pharmacy shall be the same as the reimbursement rate for mail order.  Also, the copayment will be the same for the enrollee whether the prescription is filled by mail order or at a retail pharmacy.

Independent Benefits Consultant

The bill also directs DMS to competitively procure an independent benefits consultant (IBC). The IBC must not be, or have a financial relationship, in an HMO or insurer. Additionally, the IBC must have substantial experience in designing and administering benefit plans for large employers and public employers.

The IBC will assist DMS in developing a plan for the implementation of the new benefit levels in the state program. The plan shall be submitted to the Governor, the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives no later than January 1, 2016, and include recommendations for:

  • Employer and employee contribution policies.
  • Steps necessary for maintaining or improving total employee compensation levels when the transition is initiated.
  • An education strategy to inform employees on the additional choices available in the state group insurance program.

The IBC will assist DMS in preparing recommendations for any modifications to the state group insurance program no later than January 1 of each year which shall be submitted to the Governor, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

CS/HB 541 – Public Private Partnerships (Representative Greg Steube) CS/CS/SB 900 (Senator Latvala)

Click here to review bill HB 541
Click here to review bill SB 900

The bills authorize state universities or certain direct-support organizations (DSOs) to utilize public-private partnerships (P3s) as an alternative procurement process to build, upgrade, operate, own, or finance qualifying projects.  CS/CS/SB 900 passed Senate Education Appropriations Committee.  The Senate bill is now in Senate Appropriations Committee and the House bill is in House Appropriations Committee; their final committee references.

CS/CS/SB 1400(Senator Latvala)

Click here to review bill SB 1400

It is my understanding below are the companion bills related to in-state tuition and undocumented students.  The bills are similar, but will need to either go through an amendatory process or be worked out during the conference process, which would result in a strike-all version of the bill for final passage.  I have highlighted what I consider the major differences in the bills. 

The House version of the bill has passed the House and is over in the Senate for consideration, but with the differences in the two versions it is still not clear whether the legislation will prevail.

  • Requires an undocumented immigrant and other students be eligible for a waiver of out-of-state fees at a public postsecondary education institution if he or she spends three consecutive years in this state before graduating from high school.
  • Requires public postsecondary education institutions to report the number and value of all fee waivers granted annually.
  • Provides that undocumented immigrants are not eligible for state financial aid.
  • The bill clarifies that U.S. citizens who are dependents of undocumented immigrants may not be denied in-state tuition solely based on the undocumented status of their parents.
  • The bill also grants tuition waivers to combat-decorated veterans who attend career centers.
  • Eliminates the automatic annual tuition increases at public postsecondary institutions and prohibits state university boards of trustees from establishing and increasing the tuition differential fee for undergraduate courses, unless the institution is designated as a preeminent state research university by the BOG.
  • Reduces the costs of prepaid contracts from the Florida Prepaid Program by reducing the amounts the program will pay to public postsecondary institutions.
  • Clarifies the cap on increases to the aggregate sum of activity and service, health, and athletic fees that state universities may charge.
  • Expands the mandatory tuition waiver benefit for recipients of a Purple Heart and other combat decorations who are enrolled at a state university or a FCS institution to also apply at career center operated by a school district or charter technical career center.

CS/CS/CS/HB 851(Representative Nunez)

Click here to review bill HB 851

  • The bill revises provisions relating to the determination of resident status for tuition purposes.
    • Allows a dependent child living with an adult relative who is a Florida resident and who is not the child’s parent
    • Reduces the amount of time the child must live with the relative in order to use the relative’s documentation to establish residency for tuition purposes from five years to three years.
    • The bill provides that a United States citizen who is a dependent child may not be denied classification as a resident for tuition purposes based solely upon the immigration status of his or her parent.
    • The bill also clarifies that postsecondary institutions may satisfy the verification requirement of documents by accepting an affidavit that requires the person claiming residence to submit specific information. Furthermore, once any institution of higher education in the state classifies a student as a resident for tuition purposes or verifies that a student meets specific criteria established in law, an institution of higher education would not be required to reevaluate the classification status of a student so long as there is no inconsistent information suggesting an erroneous classification and there is no break in the student’s enrollment of 12 months or longer.
    • The bill clarifies that a student who resides in Florida may be classified as a resident for tuition purposes if he or she marries a person who qualifies as a resident for tuition purposes. It also allows a student who has been classified as a nonresident to reclassify as a resident upon subsequently marrying a person who already qualifies as a resident for tuition purposes.
    • The bill clarifies that students who are eligible for specific tuition exemptions or waivers are classified as residents for tuition purposes.
    • The bill exempts the following types of students from the payment of out-of-state fees:
      • Veterans of the United States Armed Forces, including reserve components, who physically reside in Florida while enrolled in a Florida postsecondary institution; and
      • Students, who attend a Florida high school for 3 consecutive years and enroll in a postsecondary institution within 24 months after graduation, provided they submit their high school transcript as documentary evidence of attendance and graduation.
      • Students who are not required to pay out-of-state fees under the new provisions may be reported for purposes of state funding.
      • The bill eliminates the automatic annual rate of inflation increases currently authorized for state universities, Florida colleges, and workforce education programs. The bill also reduces the rate at which an institution may request to increase their tuition differential to the Board of Governors from 15 percent to 6 percent.

CS/CS/HB 1059- Relating to Nursing Education Programs (Representative Pigman) CS/CS/SB 1036 (Senator Grimsley)

Click here to review bill HB 1059

The bills establish a schedule for all registered nurse pre-licensure programs approved by the Board of Nursing (BON) to become accredited by a specialized nursing accrediting agency that is recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education.  The House bill was heard in its last committee of reference and is available for the House floor calendar.  The Senate bill passed the full Senate and should be in House messages for consideration next week. 

SB 1292-Post Secondary Education, Library Automation (Senator Legg)

Click here to review bill SB 1292

CS/SB 1292 restructures governance and functionality of online public postsecondary student support services related to libraries, online courses, and online student advising systems.

Specifically, the bill creates the Complete Florida Plus Program (Program) within the Innovation Institute at the University of West Florida and transfers the requirements and responsibilities associated with student support services that are currently administered through the Florida Virtual Campus (FLVC) to the new Program. The bill also establishes the Florida Center for Library Automation (Center) and reassigns the duties and resources regarding online library support services that are currently administered by the FLVC to the new Center. Additionally, the bill renames the Complete Florida Degree Program as the Complete Florida Degree Initiative (Initiative) and restructures the related functions under the new Program.

SB 1710- Post Secondary Education (Senate Education Committee)

Click here to review bill SB 1710

Now in Senate Appropriations Committee

  • Modifies state student financial aid opportunities available to Florida’s students by expanding the Rosewood Family Scholarship Program and creating a new Florida National Merit Scholar Incentive Program. This award will be equal to the institutional cost of attendance minus the sum of the student’s Florida Bright Futures Scholarship and National Merit or National Achievement Scholarship.
  • The bill repeals the requirement that New College of Florida function solely as an undergraduate institution. Allows New College of Florida to offer a Master’s degree in Data Science and Analytics.


We will continue to monitor these issues and other important legislative proposals.