Legislative Report, Feb. 1-5, 2021
Posted on 02/08/2021

General Information

This report contains pertinent information presented and discussed during the third interim committee week of the 2021 legislative session. Both the House and Senate held meetings to discuss issues that may be addressed by the Legislature during the 2021 Legislative Session.

Senate Chamber

Monday, Feb. 1,  the Senate Judiciary Committee held its meeting where they considered SB 78 Dues and Uniform Assessments. This bill would require a public employee wanting to join a union to submit a signed membership authorization form that includes a specific statutory notice. The bill also requires a public employee to submit a signed dues deduction form before an employer may deduct union dues from an employee’s pay. The employer must confirm with the employee that the employee authorized the deduction. Such authorization to deduct ends automatically when the members of the employee organization ratify a new collective bargaining agreement or after three (3) years, whichever occurs earlier. The bill was temporarily postponed but is back on the committee agenda for February 10, 2021.
Tuesday, Feb. 2, the Senate Appropriations Committee held its meeting where an update on the federal assistance related to the COVID-19 pandemic was presented by the Governor’s Office of Policy and Budget. In addition, a presentation on the Governor’s 2021-22 budget recommendations was given. The 90,000 “missing” students in the state were a topic of discussion, and it was explained that the Governor’s budget was built on the “loss” of those students, which is why it shows a decrease of about 48,000 unweighted FTE.  
Wednesday, Feb. 3, the Senate Education Committee held its meeting during which time the bills listed below were considered. The meeting materials can be found here.
SB 48 (Diaz) - The bill consolidates the states’ K-12 voucher/scholarship programs, converts all existing K-12 scholarship/voucher programs to education savings accounts (ESAs), and funds them through a line item in the FEFP.
The bill passed this committee (6-4), along party lines and now moves to the Senate Subcommittee on Education.  
SB 146(Brandes) - The bill establishes a nonpartisan civic literacy practicum, which high schools could choose to incorporate into their US Government courses.  Those schools that successfully implement this practicum could then be eligible for designation as a Freedom School.  

The bill passed this committee unanimously and now moves to its final committee, Senate Appropriations.

SB 200 (Berman) - The bill would allow parents of a child in grades K-8 to have their child retained at the end of this school year only, if requested by June 30, 202.
The bill passed this committee unanimously and now moves to Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education.
SB 282 (Baxley) - The bill would require, rather than allow, a mandatory 1-2 minute moment of silence at the start of each school day.  There were some questions about possible employee discipline if a teacher forgot to include the moment of silence and possible bullying or peer pressure directed to those who did not wish to engage in the moment of silence or perhaps prayed in a different way than most. A companion bill has been filed, HB 529, but not yet referred to any committees.
The bill passed this committee by a 9-1 vote. Please note, this bill made it through both the House and Senate committee process last session but never got called for a final vote in either chamber. It now heads to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Thursday, Feb. 4, the Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability held its meeting (materials here) and heard the following bills:
SB 84 (Rodriguez) - This bill would prohibit new employees from joining the FRS Pension Plan beginning July 1, 2022. Concerns were raised that the pension plan is a key factor in recruiting teachers and others to seek careers in public service. There were also concerns about the health of the pension plan going forward if no new employees could join, but they are awaiting an actuarial study that will look at that issue, among others. 
The bill passed this committee 4-2, along party lines. The bill is now moves to its final committee stop in the Senate Appropriations Committee.
SB 7018 (Committee Bill) - This bill would set the FRS employer contribution rates for 2021-22.  Currently, the projections show an overall increase that is a little less than half of what was seen last year and includes a slight reduction in the retiree health insurance trust fund contribution rate from 1.66 to 1.5%.
The bill passed this committee unanimously.

House Chamber

Wednesday, Feb. 3,  the House Pandemics & Public Emergencies Committee held its meeting. During its meeting the committee considered the following bill:
HB 7 (McClure) - This is the House’s Covid-19 liability protection bill. The bill passed this committee by a 11-6 vote, along party lines. The bill now heads to the House Judiciary Committee, its last committee stop.
The House Civil Justice & Property Rights Subcommittee held its meeting and considered the following bill:
HB 35 (Fine) - The bill allows most government agencies to publish legal notices on a website rather than in the newspaper. Although school districts are mentioned in the bill analysis, at this time the bill does not include a reference to Chapter 120 or section 120.81 specifically, which requires districts to publish their meeting and rule/policy notices in the newspaper.
The bill passed this committee 11-6, along party lines. It now heads to its final committee, the House Judiciary Committee.
Thursday, Feb. 4, the House Early Learning & Elementary Education Subcommittee. A presentation was given by the Office of Early Learning on financial and academic supports provided to families, students and early learning providers under the CARES Act.
The fourth interim committee week will be held the week of Feb. 8.