Below you will find a summary of legislation that moved during week five of Session. Each issue discussed has the potential to impact your municipality and organization. In the weeks ahead, we will continue to monitor these bills and others while advocating on your behalf.
Ready to Sign: This week, Governor Ron DeSantis received four bills from the legislature for review and signature. SB 594, 596, 598, and 600 by Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto are bills to adopt the Florida Statutes 2020 by amending, creating, or repealing certain sections of the Florida Statutes. The bills also revise the Statutes by deleting expired or obsolete language, correct-cross references, and remove inconsistencies within the Statutes. Governor DeSantis has until February 17, 2020 to act on these bills.
Remembering Parkland: The Governor ordered flags to fly half-staff Friday, February 14, in respect of the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland in 2018. A moment of silence was held in both Chambers to acknowledge the victims’ families, survivors, and others in the community that continue to mourn this devastating loss.
Appropriations: This week, the House and Senate passed their budgets with unanimous votes, sending the legislature to debate over key disparities in their $91 billion-plus spending plans. There is a difference of $1.4 billion with the House and Senate budget with some of those key differences being: the Senate is fully funding the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund with $387 million and $52.5 million for VISIT FLORIDA the House diverges on these two positions, offering $144 million and zero dollars respectively.
In addition, teacher pay, is also discussion that both the House and Senate need to have in order to meet Gov. Ron DeSantis’ ask of raising starting teacher pay to $47,500. Both Chambers agree to raise teacher salary but their formulas for reaching that $47,500 do not coincide.
School Board Term Limits: This week, SB 1216 by Senator Joe Gruters passed favorably in the Education Committee in a 5-3 vote. There is a companion bill in the House, HB 157 by Representative Anthony Sabatini and Representative Matt Willhite, that also passed favorably in its final committee before heading to the floor in an 11-4 vote. This joint resolution proposes that Florida district school board members be subject to an eight-year consecutive service term limitation. The language mirrors the current “eight is enough” term limit that applies to Cabinet members and legislators. The joint resolution, if passed by a 3/5ths vote of each House of the Legislature, will be voted on at the general election in November 2020, unless the legislature authorizes an earlier special election for that specific purpose. The likely earliest date that any currently serving school board member could be “termed out” would be in November 2028.
E-Verify: Governor Ron DeSantis has indicated that E-Verify is one of his top priorities for the 2020 Legislative Session. Various pieces of legislation have been presented on both the House and Senate however, they have been slow to move. SB 664 by Senator Tom Lee would mandate all public and private employers use E-Verify, a federal program that checks the legal eligibility of new workers. Senator Simmons, Chair of the Senate Judiciary, proposed an amendment that would exclude farmers and agricultural employers. House Speaker Jose Olivia has expressed his concerns regarding the legislation in how it would treat individual companies differently from others. Both Chambers understand the importance of this legislation as it is the Governor’s priority and they are working to come to some common ground for passage.
Safety at Pedestrian Crosswalks: This week, the House passed unanimously in the Transportation & Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee HB 1371 Traffic and Pedestrian Safety by Representative Randy Fine and Representative Mike Caruso in a 11-0 vote. This legislation would require pedestrian crosswalks on public highways, streets, or roads that are located at any point other than an intersection to be controlled by traffic signal devices. It also states that these pedestrian control signals must meet specified requirements. Crosswalks will swap out the flashing yellow lights with red lights to help signal that vehicles should come to a complete stop. The Senate companion, SB 1000 by Senator Keith Perry is scheduled to be heard in its second committee on February 18th.
Common Core Eradicated: This week, Governor Ron DeSantis announced that the Common Core curriculum would be officially removed from Florida classrooms as the State Board of Education formally adopted new standards known as the Benchmarks to Excellent Student Thinking, or BEST. Under the new standards, Florida will become the first state to require civics education in all grades and short standardized tests. BEST will offer every high school junior an opportunity to take the SAT or ACT paid for by the state until at least 2022. The standards for BEST were created by Florida teachers for Florida Students.