Legislative Report, Feb. 8-12, 2021
Posted on 02/15/2021

General Information

This report contains pertinent information presented and discussed during the fourth 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

Tuesday, Feb. 9, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education held its meeting where they considered the following two bills:
1) SB 52 Postsecondary Education (Rodrigues) - The bill history, text, and amendments:
a. Clarifies that postsecondary tuition and fee exemptions apply to a student who is currently in the custody of the Department of Children and Families or a specified relative or nonrelative, or who was at the time he or she reached 18 years of age.
b. Establishes the Dual Enrollment Scholarship Program to reimburse eligible postsecondary institutions for tuition and related costs for dual enrollment courses taken by students in private school and homeschool, and specifies reporting deadlines.
c. Authorizes a university board of trustees, subject to approval by the Board of Governors, to target certain employees for bonuses by implementing a bonus scheme based on awards for work performance or employee recruitment and retention.

2) SB 264 Higher Education (Rodrigues) - The bill history, text, and amendments:
a. Requires each FCS institution and state university to annually assess the intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity at that institution using a survey adopted by the State Board of Education (SBE) or the Board of Governors of the State University System (BOG), as applicable. 
b. Specifies that the SBE, the BOG, FCS institutions, and state universities may not shield students from protected free speech.
 c. Includes in the definition of protected expressive activities the recording and publishing of video and audio recorded in classrooms, and clarifies that protected expressive activities include the nonconsensual recording and publication of video and audio recorded in outdoor areas of campus and in classrooms.
Both bills passed this committee 6-3, along party lines.
Wednesday, Feb. 10, the Senate Judiciary Committee held its meeting during which time the bill listed below was considered.
SB 78 Dues and Uniform Assessments (Rodrigues) - This bill was temporarily postponed in the Senate Judiciary last week but it passed the committee this week 6-4. The bill:
a. Would require a public employee wanting to join a union to submit a signed membership authorization form that includes a specific statutory notice.
b. 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.

House Chamber

Tuesday, Feb. 9, the House Education and Employment Committee held its meeting and Mark Baird, Chief Legislative Analyst from OPPAGA gave a presentation on Florida’s Workforce System and Identification of Opportunities for Integrating the Workforce Education System.
Wednesday, Feb. 10, the House Pre-K Appropriations Subcommittee met and the Governor’s recommended budget was presented. In addition, both J. Alex Kelly, Chief of Staff for the Department of Education and Chair Randy Fine gave a presentation on Federal Assistance Related to the COVID-19 Pandemic for PreK-12 Education.
During his presentation, Chair Fine commented that schools had received significant funding from the federal government through the CARES Act and would be receiving another significant amount once additional packages were passed by the U.S. Legislature. He also stated that many districts have not spent their CARES money and still have balances left to be spent. It was noted that the balances being held by school districts includes funding for private and charter schools that may not have collected their disbursements yet.


The fifth and final interim committee week will be held the week of Feb. 15. It’s looking like it will be a busy week with several education bills are being heard, including the following:
1) SB 72 (Brandes) - Civil Liabilities for Damages Relating to COVID-19-Senate Commerce and Tourism on Monday, Feb. 15. 
2) SB 590 (Harrell) - Involuntary Examinations of Minors-Senate Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee on Tuesday, Feb. 16. 
3) SB 280 (Baxley) - Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation Training in Public Schools-Senate Education Committee on Tuesday, Feb. 16.
4) HB 7 (McClure) - Civil Liabilities for Damages Relating to COVID-19-House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, Feb. 16.
5) SB 48 (Diaz) - Educational Scholarship Programs - Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education on Wednesday, Feb. 17.
6) SB 78 (Rodrigues) - Dues and Uniform Assessments-Senate Rules Committee on Thursday, Feb. 18.

Session dates are March 2 - April 30, 2021.