2017 Legislative Session Updated – 4/17/17
This list is neither exclusive nor exhaustive but represents our positions on some of the priority bills that have been filed to date and may see activity this session. Activity listed in bold occurred in the past week.
Notables from the past week HB 5007, the FRS bill, has passed the full House. The Senate bill (SB 7022), which was the clean rate setting bill, was taken up and the House stripped it, replace it with their language and sent it back to the Senate. The Unity Table is increasing activity around this substantially. The Workers Comp bill in the Senate passed its second to last committee on Thursday. It is much better than the House package but still includes no benefit improvements for workers. It does offer more access to the courts with a better attorney fee provision than the House. HB 5105, dubbed “Schools of Hope” bill passed the House after a 2.5 hour debate with all Dems voting in opposition. The bill is a dramatic expansion of school privatization. It allows charter school operators to take over schools dubbed “failing” with a $200 million appropriation. SB 10, the Senate bill dealing with Lake Okeechobee water discharges and other water issues passed the Florida Senate.
Florida’s Budget OPPOSE/WATCH Various Once again, Rick Scott is proposing dramatic tax cuts for corporations that will deplete state revenues desperately needed by woefully underfunded critical social safety net programs. This year, he is looking for $618 million dollars. These cuts include:
The biggest chunk of Scott’s plan is a $454 million cut through a 25 percent reduction in the sales tax on commercial leases. Scott’s plan also proposes 23 sales tax holidays, cutting an additional $98 million from the budget. Scott’s plan also includes a $48 million cut to continue a tax exemption on school textbooks. There’s also a $15 million cut to the state’s business income tax
The Florida House is looking to cut between $1.1 and $2.2 billion from the state’s budget, citing projected shortfalls over the next few years, even though there are more revenues this year than last. Rescinding the recurring revenue cuts pushed by the House over the past few years would close much of this gap. The Senate is taking a far more measured approach and is, in fact, suggesting new funding for programs. The budget promises to be very volatile this year and we will work wherever possible with allies on both sides of the aisle to bring some common back sense back to Florida’s revenue collections.
Weakening the Florida Retirement System OPPOSE HB 5007 by Caldwell This legislation, released late in session, proposes many changes to the Florida Retirement System. One key change represents another attempt to destabilize FRS, thus jeopardizing the retirement security of hundreds of thousands of our teachers, law enforcement officers, firefighters and other public sector workers. It is a cynical scheme designed push workers away from the Defined Benefit (pension) plan to the Defined Contribution (investment, 401k type plan). Specifically, the bill changes the default from the pension plan to the investment plan for members who do not affirmatively choose a plan. This change places new employees into the inferior plan in which the employee assumes all of the risk and employer contributions are not guaranteed. This will also lower the number of individuals in the pension plan which drains the fund of the resources it needs to remain actuarially sound. This is the seventh year in a row that some in the Legislature have pushed to make changes to FRS even though it is one of the best performing pension plans in the nation. Their goal is to destabilize the pension plan, close it and hand over billions of dollars to Wall Street.
HB 5007 Favorable by Appropriations Committee; 18 Yeas, 8 Nays; Passed the House as SB 7022 on 4/13/17. Now goes back to the Senate for the budget conference process.
Decertifying Florida’s Public Sector Unions OPPOSE HB 11 by Plakon / SB 1292 by Baxley Subtle (and not so subtle) attempts to weaken or eliminate our public sector unions are nothing new in the Florida Legislature. Florida’s public sector workers have the constitutional right to collectively bargain under Article 1 Section 6, the same section that also contains the Right to Work (for less). That means that legislators must find sneaky, seemingly innocuous ways, to eliminate the ability for public sector workers to come together to bargain for better work lives and marshal their collective resources for political action. This legislation is one of the perennial favorites for anti-worker legislators. This bill creates burdensome new reporting requirements for public sector unions (groups that already have some of the heaviest reporting requirements in the state) and then uses the information collected to decertify those same unions. This bill would allow for the decertification of any public sector bargaining unit that can’t demonstrate that their membership represents 50% or more of the total number of employees in the unit. Right to Work (for less) provides a disincentive for workers to join their unions because they can get all of the benefits without joining. This legislation then eliminates those same unions for the very phenomena created by Right to Work (for less). Organized Labor is one of the last forces standing against complete corporate domination and oppression. If this legislation passes, all working families will suffer. We will work with all of our affiliates to mount an historic fight against this attack on Florida’s workers. SB 1292 – Referred to Commerce and Tourism; Governmental Oversight and Accountability; Appropriations; Rules HB 11 Passed Florida House: 75 Yeas / 41 Nays; Sent to Senate in Messages; ; Referred to SENATE Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee removed; Reference to Appropriations Committee added; Remaining references: Appropriations Committee, Education Committee
Workers’ Compensation OPPOSE/WATCH SB 1582 by Bradley/HB 7085 by Burgess In 2003, citing rising insurance premiums, the legislature radically altered Florida’s workers’ comp system. They slashed benefits for workers, capped attorney’s fees so injured workers couldn’t access the courts, cut retraining programs and many other negative changes impacting workers. The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that some aspects of the law are unconstitutional (i.e. caps on fees) so the Legislature has to revisit the law. In addition to protecting access to the courts, we will be pushing for: The ability for injured workers to use the doctors of their choice A reinstatement of training benefits An increase in benefits for workers deemed to have a “permanent total disability” and other changes.
The current Senate bill does not address some of our key issues but the process has only just started and we look forward to working with the senate and House to address the needs of Florida’s working Families SB 1582 On Committee agenda - Rules, 04/19/17, 4:00 pm, 110 S HB 7085 Placed on Special Order Calendar, 04/18/17
Relating to Water Resources Watch SB 10 by Bradley / HB 761 by Altman The dredging, draining and ditching of South Florida created homes for millions and agricultural land that helps feed the world but it also created many long-term environmental disasters. One of those has become apparent over the past year as heavy rains and a weakened dike and levy system around Lake Okeechobee forced the dumping of water from the lake directly into the canal systems causing massive and destructive algae blooms in the coastal waters to the East and West of the lake. Problems with Lake O, flooding in parts of Florida, the Everglades and many more are very complex and all interconnected. It took decades and millions of dollars to create the systemic problem and will take years and billions to fix them. This legislation includes a possible fix for the negative water discharges that caused last year’s algae blooms, namely the purchase of 60,000 to 125,000 acres of agricultural land that can be flooded with water from the
lake so natural processes can clean it. There are problems associated with this. A key problem is that several sugar processing facilities may have to be closed, displacing thousands of workers represented by the International Association of Machinists. The loss of this agricultural land would also have a huge impact on the communities just south of the Lake and some environmental groups have pointed out that shifting resources to this project could delay other long term restoration projects across the system. For these reasons, the Florida AFL-CIO opposes these bills. This is a priority of the Senate President and he should be lauded for his efforts. However, studies suggest there are alternatives to this project that could be cheaper with less of an impact on the area’s workforce. We hope to work cooperatively with all involved to help the Senate President and other leaders accomplish their goals while protecting the jobs of these dedicated workers. SB 10 Passed the Senate on 4/12/17 (Vote: 36 Yeas / 3 Nays); Engrossed Text (E1) Filed, In Messages HB 761 Now in Natural Resources & Public Lands Subcommittee
Preemption of Local Pro-Worker Ordinances OPPOSE SB 534 by Perry / HB 599 by Williamson These bills have been filed and defeated repeatedly over the past several years and continue to represent one of the biggest threats to working families. They create sweeping new preemptions on local governments and their ability to enact and enforce local rules or ordinances designed to help workers and local economic development efforts. Many municipalities, school districts, special districts, universities and other public entities have enacted local living wage, prevailing wage and other ordinances designed to boost the economic security of workers and pump needed dollars into local economies. Some areas also enacted ordinances to require the use of registered apprentices (union and non-union) on public projects to boost workforce development. These bills would make those ordinances illegal on public works projects. The definition of public works projects is so broad that thousands of workers, union and non-union alike would be impacted. SB 534 Now in Appropriations HB 599 Placed on Special Order Calendar, 04/18/17
Preemption of All Local Regulation OPPOSE HB 17 by Fine This legislation would make it impossible for local governments to regulate any businesses, professions or occupations, preempting these regulatory powers to the State Legislature. This is the most blanket preemption language we have seen and will wreak havoc across the state on a wide range of government activities and regulatory powers. HB 17 Now in Commerce Committee
Preemption of Local Regulations of Commerce, Trade and Labor OPPOSE SB 1158 by Passidomo This legislation, while more tailored and specific than HB 17 described above, would still preempt many local ordinances dealing with living and prevailing wages, local hiring preferences and others that have proven beneficial to Florida’s working families. This bill preempts all ordinances dealing with commerce, trade and labor to the state legislature and provides a process to ensure compliance. It is likely that this bill and HB 17 will be paired in the future. SB 1158 Referred to Commerce and Tourism; Community Affairs; Appropriations; Rules
Eliminating Protections for our Best Teachers OPPOSE SB 856 by Broxson / HB 373 by Grant The Florida Legislature has eliminated continuing contracts for most our K-12 teachers, making it very difficult to provide a stable learning environment for our students and wiping out any sense of job security for our teachers. Local districts have worked through the bargaining process to develop programs that afford
enhanced protections for our most effective teachers, to keep them on the job and make it easier to recruit and retain excellent new teaching professionals. These bills would preempt the ability of local districts to provide these enhanced protections which are in the best interests of both students and teachers. SB 856 On agenda Governmental Oversight and Accountability, 04/17/17, 4:00 pm, 401 S HB 373 Referred Senate Education; Governmental Oversight and Accountability; Rules
Deregulating Transportation Network Companies OPPOSE SB 340 by Brandes / HB 221 by Sprowls Transportation Network Companies (Uber/Lyft) have transformed the transportation. Their use of technology has made catching a ride more convenient than ever before. However, they have also ushered in a new model for labor in the U.S. where workers assume most of the risk for their employers, receive no benefits or job protections. While these are negative developments for this emerging work force, these companies are here to stay. Unfortunately, they are looking to increase their profitability by skirting the regulations that are placed on more traditional transportation companies, including public transit systems operated by the taxpayers. Local governments are trying to figure out the right regulatory systems to ensure that riders using TNCs are safe and free from discrimination. These bills would preempt all local regulations and set up very loose standards under which TNCs must operate. The state should not preempt local government control but at minimum, the state wide standards should include strong safety regulations and rules that protect people from discrimination. SB 340 Placed on Special Order Calendar, 04/18/17 HB 221 Referred to Senate Banking and Insurance; Judiciary; Rules
Weakening the Florida Retirement System OPPOSE SB 428 by Brandes / HB 353 by Fischer The annual attack on the Florida Retirement System came early this year. Currently, local governments and special districts have the legal ability to opt-in to the Florida Retirement System. These bills would limit the employees of any new public entity entering FRS to the Defined Contribution plan (401k type) and bar them from the Defined Benefit plan (pension). Not only is this limitation bad for the employees, it is also bad for the entire system by limiting new participants, thus weakening the fund. This legislation is tailor-made for a situation in Jacksonville but it represents a threat to the entire Florida Retirement System. SB 428 Now in Governmental Oversight and Accountability HB 353 Now in Oversight, Transparency & Administration Subcommittee
Legal Representation in Public Records Requests SUPPORT SB 80 by Steube /No HOUSE companion filed This bill will amend Florida Statute §119.12 to make the award of attorney’s fees discretionary even when a Judge has made a finding that a public agency has wrongfully withheld public records from inspection. Public records are a constitutional right in Florida, but there is no enforcement mechanism in the law. When public access is denied, the only recourse is civil action in the courts so access to an attorney is critical. The penalty for violations of our rights is the threat of paying legal fees when challenged. This bill would largely nullify that penalty. Without a penalty provision when the government is wrong, there is no incentive to be transparent and provide citizens with access to information about governmental decision making. The result will be fewer challenges brought by citizens, which will certainly result in less government transparency. There are abuses of this provision, with unscrupulous individuals filing frivolous requests that can’t be easily granted leading to law suits and attorney’s fees. This is a problem. This legislation however goes too far and penalizes all Floridians and cuts off their access to the courts when open records are violated. We worked with allies to amend this legislation significantly. Legal fees will remain compulsory for Floridians unless a court can show that the records requests were made to harass the agency or municipality or simply for the purpose of securing legal fees. While we opposed this bill for the reason cited above, we now support this legislation. SB 80
Placed on HOUSE Special Order Calendar, 04/18/17 HB 163 Placed on Special Order Calendar, 04/18/17
“The Secrecy Bill” Exempting University Searches from Florida’s Sunshine Laws OPPOSED SB 478 by Passidomo / HB 351 by Rommel These bills create new exemptions from Florida’s public records and open meeting laws for any personal information of an applicant for state university or Florida College System institution president, provost or dean. These positions are some of the highest paid employees in public service and wield an incredible amount of power. These bills would keep the candidates secret. The taxpayers, university faculty, parents and students deserve to know who is being considered for these positions. It has been argued that the Sunshine Laws keep the best qualified candidates from applying but the recent searches at several of Florida’s universities illustrate that this is absolutely not the case in that extremely high caliber candidates applied for the positions at both institutions. SB 478 Referred to Education; Governmental Oversight and Accountability; Rules HB 351 Placed on Calendar, on 2nd reading
Florida Excellence in Higher Education Act of 2017 OPPOSE SB 2 by Galvano / HB 3 by Avila Senate President Joe Negron has made overhauling and better resourcing Florida’s higher education a top priority this session and these bills do accomplish some positive things. However, there are significant changes to the state’s current performance funding model that could force our colleges and universities to adopt policies that hinder access for lower-income, minority and non-traditional students such as older students with families. The bill would add shorter graduation times to the metrics by which universities are evaluated for funding; making it more likely that lower income or working students who need more than four years to complete their degree would not be admitted. The bill would also place more pressure on colleges, universities and students to skip needed remediation courses so that they can complete their degree requirements quicker. This could be counter-productive in that these courses help ensure students don’t have to re-take courses or abandon their educational goals due to a difficult work load. The bill also will institute a block-tuition program that could force students who can only take 9-hours of courses to pay for 12 or 15 hours of courses, raising costs thus pricing many lower-income and non-traditional students out of an education. The United Faculty of Florida is working to fix some of these negative provisions and the Florida AFL-CIO will be offering support in this important endeavor. SB 2 Read Third Time; Passed (Vote: 35 Yeas / 1 Nay); In Messages to HOUSE HB 3 Reference to Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee removed; Reference to Appropriations Committee added; remaining references: Appropriations Committee, Education Committee; Now in Appropriations Committee
Federal Immigration Enforcement OPPOSE SB 786 Bean / HB 697 Metz This bill is attempting to obstruct the power and authority of local governments to protect the civil rights of their communities; would force local governments and officials to cooperate with federal immigration authorities at a level that is not mandated or funded by the federal government; would authorize the Attorney General to sue local governments and officials who do not comply, and would fine localities up to $5,000 per day for not enforcing the policies. This isn’t just an attack on immigrant communities, this is another attack on local control, what that could have negative impacts on local budgets and public sector workers everywhere. SB 786 Referred to Judiciary; Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice; Appropriations; Criminal Justice HB 697 Now in Judiciary
Florida Competitive Workforce Act SUPPORT SB 666 by Clemens / HB 623 by Diamond The Florida Civil Rights Act has no protections from discrimination for employees or customers based on their sexual orientation. These bills will add vital language to Florida’s civil rights law to ensure that workers and customers from the LGBT community are not discriminated against in our state. SB 666 Referred to Governmental Oversight and Accountability; Commerce and Tourism; Judiciary; Rules HB 623 Now in Careers & Competition Subcommittee
Helen Gordon Davis Fair Pay Protection Act SUPPORT SB 410 by Stewart / HB 319 by Berman Performing the same jobs as men, women still earn 78 cents on the dollar. This problem is worse for many women of color. In Florida, Hispanic women earn only 54 cents on the dollar for the same job. This problem cuts across all occupations and professions. This legislation provides for the Department of Economic Opportunity to take action to end this discrimination. SB 410 Referred to Governmental Oversight and Accountability; Commerce and Tourism; Judiciary; Rules HB 319 Now in Careers & Competition Subcommittee