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Issue 9   |  March  9, 2018

Top News: The End in Sight
House Speaker Richard Corcoran (left) and Senate President Joe Negron meet with the press.

Florida's Constitution requires a 72 hour "cooling down period", from when the final state budget is printed and handed to legislators and when they can vote it out.  Because the final proposed 2018-2019 budget was not completed until Thursday the Florida House and Senate voted by concurrent resolution to extend the session until this Sunday at 11:59 PM. In fact, the conference report "hit the desks" of legislative members at 1:40 PM on Thursday and since Daylight Savings Time begins this weekend the 72-hour wait period ends at 2:40 PM Sunday. No other bills will be heard on Saturday.
The delay in getting the budget done on time for an on-schedule ending raised stress levels for advocates across the board as many funding issues were decided behind closed doors. Two key issues for United Ways and our partners were maintaining full funding for Healthy Families Florida and for Healthy Start, which was facing a potentially devastating $19 million cut. Fortunately, both programs maintained their current funding in the final budget.
Supermajority Vote Required
Speaker Richard Corcoran (left) and Speaker-Designate Jose Oliva consult on the House Floor.

On Monday, the Florida Senate passed and sent to the Governor Scott HJR 7001 , a proposed constitutional amendment that would require two-thirds votes in both the House and Senate to raise future state taxes or fees, a significant increase from the usual majority votes. The House passed the measure in January.
A top priority for projected US Senate candidate Rick Scott and gubernatorial candidate Richard Corcoran, three Democrats crossed party lines to give them their victory, stating that "the people should decide" if the measure is needed.
All other Democrats opposed the bill, claiming that if passed it would continue to shift tax burdens to local governments; allow a minority of legislators to control the ability of the Legislature to fund needed expenditures; and pigeon-hole legislators in their efforts to address critical issues. Opponents also pointed out that the proposal locks in billions of dollars in sales tax exemptions - mostly favoring specific industries or services - since it provides that if any of the breaks are repealed, the legislature must cut other revenues by that exact amount.
There are currently 23 other proposed constitutional amendments (including four already certified for the ballot) plus a number of other proposals under consideration by the Constitution Revision Commission.
School Safety
Marjory Stoneman Douglas (MSD) High School students arrive at the Capitol to demand gun safety legislation.

The "Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act" (CS/SB 7026) passed House and Senate this week, despite strong opposition from both sides of the aisle, and was sent to the Governor's desk. A response to the school shooting in Parkland, and spurred by the activism of students, parents and concerned Floridians across the state, the bill's intent is to "comprehensively address the crisis of gun violence."
Among its key provisions, CS/SB 7026 raises the age to buy a long rifle from 18 to 21; requires a three-day wait to buy a firearm, with exceptions; includes $400 million in new funding for mental health and school safety programs; adds protocols and requirements for a voluntary statewide "Guardian Program" to train and arm school personnel; requires FDLE to procure a mobile app that allows students and the community to relay information anonymously concerning dangerous threats; and allows law enforcement to confiscate firearms for up to 12 months from people who make violent threats against themselves or others. It is the first such legislation passed by the Florida Legislature in over 20 years and met with opposition from both gun rights and gun control advocates.
Governor Scott has said he will carefully consider the bill, "line by line" and consult with Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students and parents before deciding whether to sign the bill into law. 
Education "Train" Heads to Governor's Desk
PreK-12 Budget Chair Manny Diaz (R-Hialeah Gardens), one of the architects of CS/HB 7055.

A sweeping education bill, CS/HB 7055 was sent to the Governor's desk this week after it passed the Senate in a close 20-17 vote, and then the House in a 74-39 party-line vote. The bill had been a top priority of Speaker Richard Corcoran and House Education leadership, including PreK-12 Appropriations Chair Manny Diaz (R-Hialeah Gardens) and Education Committee Chair Michael Bileca (R-Miami). The bill became an "Education train", as portions of many other education-related bills were added to it. Among its key features the bill promotes expansion of charter schools and school choice, and funds three new voucher programs for certain public school students to attend private schools or to receive private reading instruction. One of the most contentious provisions in the bill bars teachers' unions from representing their members in collective bargaining negotiations if their paid membership falls below 50 percent of all eligible employees. Former Senate President Tom Lee (R-Thonotosassa) called this a "slap in the face" for Florida teachers.   Read more.
Session Wrap-Up: Coming Soon

Legislative Link will be back in a few weeks with a full wrap-up of the 2018 Legislative Session, including a budget summary, overviews of the omnibus public education bill (CS/HB 7055 ) and game-changing early learning bill ( CS/CS/HB 1091 ), and summaries of other bills that passed or died.  Stay tuned!

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Questions or Comments?
Contact Ted Granger, United Way of Florida, or Jess Scher, United Way of Miami-Dade.