Conventional wisdom is that during odd-numbered years - when the next election is a year and a half away - the inner desires of legislators surface and we find out what they really want. If that is true, then this is a season of settling scores and burning bridges. Florida is not unique in this, for despite relatively steady state spending (in no small part because of federal money), state governments have gone after public institutions in several ways, from successfully pressuring Boise State University to suspend diversity classes to legislation to abolish tenure in Iowa. And in Florida...
What do you think about going back to campus in fall? Speaking of the pandemic, USF has announced that, the virus willing, USF will reopen in fall. UFF would like to know what you think about that. Here is a link to an online anonymous survey, and we ask all faculty to fill it out. Thank you.
Last call for ballots. The ballots for the 2021 chapter election is due - in our hands - by 11:59 pm tomorrow, March 26. Ballots can be turned in directly to the USF Post office (on USF Holly Drive) to the campus mail slot. Here is the web-page of candidates. Again, all UFF members are encouraged to vote.
Counting the ballots. At the chapter meeting tomorrow, the Chapter shall choose a time for counting the ballots; later tomorrow a Biweekly Extra will announce the time. The counting will be conducted over Zoom, and all UFF members are invited: for the Zoom invite, contact the Chapter Secretary.
The USF Chapter of the United Faculty of Florida will meet tomorrow Friday at 12 noon on Zoom. On the agenda: counting the ballots for the chapter election, contacting state legislators about pending legislation (that pending legislation is described below), salary equity across the campuses, and more. And here are the minutes for the previous meeting.
Any employee in the Bargaining Unit may attend, but you must have an invitation: contact the Chapter Secretary to get one. We are meeting on alternate Fridays at noon over Zoom. Meetings and events are posted on the Events Calendar of the UFF USF Website. Come and check us out.
Benefits of membership include the right to run and vote in UFF chapter and statewide elections; representation in grievances (UFF cannot represent a non-member in a grievance or litigation); special deals in insurance, travel, legal advice, and other packages provided by our affiliates; free insurance coverage for job-related liability; and the knowledge you are supporting education in Florida. Here is the membership form. Come and join the movement.
If you have been the victim of a violation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement or the recent Memorandum of Understanding, you have thirty days from the time you knew or should have known of the violation to file a grievance. If you are, and at the time of the violation were, a dues-paying member of the United Faculty of Florida, you have the right to union representation. To contact the UFF USF Grievance Committee, go to the Grievances Page.
Many of our students are struggling during this crisis, and the USF Foundation is supporting the USF Food Pantries to help out. They are accepting non-perishable donations, but one can also make monetary donations for the pantries at St. Petersburg, Sarasota / Manatee, and Tampa.
Yes, we are on social media.
Despite the libertarian rhetoric pouring out of Tallahassee, the great theme of this legislative session appears to be pushing down uppity Floridians. Schools and unions are not the only targets: witness proposals to multiply hurdles for voters and limiting what local governments can do for public health. This effort is not really partisan: local officials of both parties are alarmed by Tallahassee's aggressive agenda.
Here is some legislation that will affect us if passed. Notice that the Biweekly has already described some of them before.
Local officials, union representatives, corporate lobbyists and ordinary citizens can follow legislation using the Florida Senate and Florida House websites. (They can also get an idea of the governor's priorities - or at least, his publicists' priorities - by visiting the governor's website).
Let's start with the Florida House. All representatives are listed on the Representatives page, and there is a button to a Find Your Elected Officials in Florida page which will produce names and contact information for your Florida house representative and senator, your Congressperson, and both U. S. senators. But contra Hollywood and Frank Capra, the heavy legislative work is done in committees, which are listed on the site. A typical bill is vetted by several committees before making it to the floor. Of particular interest to us are the Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee and the Post-Secondary Education & Lifelong Learning Subcommittee. Notice the links to videos of the meetings, and the links to representatives on the committees.
Along the top is a ribbon for searching for bills before the House and for statutes already signed into law. For example, if you put 6001 where it says Bill #, up will come Licenses to Carry Concealed Weapons or Firearms, with its list of four sponsors, and a brief description ("Removes provision prohibiting concealed carry licensees from openly carrying handgun or carrying concealed weapon or firearm into college or university facility"). Down below are the House Referrals, i.e. links to three committees that are supposed to look at it. Further down is a link to the Bill Text, so you can read it yourself. Very significant is what is not there: there is no Vote History nor are there any Related Bills; in particular, there are no related bills in the Senate. These omissions suggest a certain lack of enthusiasm for the bill.
Compare this to House Bill 233 (so you enter 233 where it says Bill #), and up comes Postsecondary Education, which came out of committee with three co-sponsors, and whose description is, "Prohibits State Board of Education and BOG from shielding students, staff, and faculty from certain speech; requires State Board of Education to conduct annual assessment on intellectual freedom & viewpoint diversity; creates a cause of action for recording or publication of certain video or audio recordings; revises provisions related to protected expressive activity, university student governments, & codes of conduct." It only went through two committees (apparently the House Leadership wanted it handled expeditiously), the Bill Text went through a few revisions, the staff took four looks at it, and the Bill History lists a lot of activity, culminating in a favorable vote on the floor, 77 - 42. The next stop is the Senate, where it has a companion ("Related") bill in the Senate, which we will get to in a moment.
Now, suppose that you had strong feelings about one of these bills, and you wanted the Legislature to know how you felt. Readers may remember that there are written rules (do not use university equipment or accounts to lobby legislators) and unwritten rules (be polite, concise, unequivocal, and to the point) about doing this. You can contact a House representative by going to that representative's page and then clicking contact member; your options are to send a letter, make a phone call, or fill in the form - which will forward the message. In all three cases, your message will be read by a staff member, who will probably give the representative a report on the messages received.
The Senate site is similar. All senators are listed on the Senators page, and again there is a Find Your Legislators page, which will produce your Florida legislators, your U.S. Congressperson, and your senators. Most of the legislative work is done in committees, and we are particularly interested in the work of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education and the Committee on Education. Again, notice the links to videos.
And there is a ribbon on the top for searching for bills before the Senate. For example, recall that House Bill 233 had been passed by the House. Its Senate companion bill was 264 (that's what you enter in the Bill # field), and you can see that it has been approved by the Education Committee, the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education, and the Appropriations Committee, but the CS ("Committee Substitute") suggests that the committees are still looking at various versions of the bill.
Contacting senators is similar to contacting representatives: go to their page, and you can write a letter, call them up, or send an email. Remember the written rules (do not use university equipment or accounts to lobby legislators) and unwritten rules (be polite, concise, unequivocal, and to the point) for doing this.
Vaccines are becoming more available. Governor DeSantis announced that effective this week, COVID-19 vaccines will be available to long-term care facility residents and staff, people aged 50 and older, frontline care workers, and "extremely vulnerable" people who have a note from their physician. There are many sites in the Tampa Bay area dispensing vaccines, and many can be found via Vaccine Finder. FEMA's website directs people to local sites, such as the sites for Florida Health, Hillsborough County, Manatee County, Pasco County, Pinellas County, Polk County, and Sarasota County - and USF, which has a "limited supply" of vaccine. Meanwhile, the CDC advises that, "it typically takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity (protection against the virus that causes COVID-19) after vaccination. That means it’s possible a person could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination and still get sick. This is because the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection." And the Mayo Clinic recommends that people should continue to take certain precautions against infecting others even after being vaccinated.
You can track COVID-19 vaccinations via the USF Library Vaccinations by County website. You can also follow how USF is doing via the USF Coronavirus Dashboard, and you can see how Florida is doing via the Johns Hopkins' Florida Overview.
Chapter Meeting tomorrow Friday, March 26, at 12 noon, via Zoom. All UFF USF members are welcome: for the Zoom link, contact the Chapter Secretary.the Chapter Secretary. Come and join the movement.
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