Some Bills That Passed
Only 1,844 bills were proposed, the least since 2004; of these, 286 were passed by both houses and sent to the governor.
The Legislature had a seizure of fiscal responsibility, and for the first time in years, they ponied up their full obligation to the Florida Retirement System; they had been underpaying for years (hey, they're the Legislature - they can do what they want), which is one of the reasons for the talk about the FRS's long term stability. Senate Bill 1810 is a step in the right direction.
The "sales tax holiday" runs from August 2 to August 4 this year, and covers clothing and accessories of at most $ 75 each, and school items of at most $ 15 each. It also covers many computer-like items (book readers, laptops, handheld's, tablets, even towers, but not cell phones, video game consoles or media receivers) of up to $ 750 each. Incidentally, the title of this bill is Economic Development.
Virtue is increasingly fashionable, and House Bill 569 eliminates one of the more notorious kinds of bribe-er-contribution laundromats, the Committees of Continuous Existence. It also imposes a number of disclosure and reporting requirements. The price for these reforms was to raise the caps on campaign contributions to candidates and to political committees - and also to give candidates more freedom to play with surplus funds.
In addition, the Legislature passed bills giving schools more authority to deal with cyberbullying (or to make a spectacle of themselves doing so), creating two high school diploma tracks, one for college and one for "industrial certifications" (this bill also creates the Preeminent Research University Program), and provides for "qualified contractors" to propose rules for, and provide and administer, online courses and assessments.
Some Bills That Failed
The Florida Education Association led the sometimes lonely battle against Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford's campaign to eviscerate the Florida Retirement System. Early in the session, the pundits and the politicians agreed that Weatherford's bill to convert our retirement system into an IRA was unstoppable, and that the only hope was something like Wilton Simpson's compromise. But the FEA held firm, and we won this one. The FRS still stands, and hopefully this is a sign that the tide has turned on the war on our retirement system. Yet the Legislative Leadership is still optimistic: take a look at this photo of Governor Scott and the Leadership celebrating in front of their top five agenda items: four checkmarks, and under "FRS Reform" it says, in small type, "To be continued ..."
By the way, did you see the announcement about donating to UFF's PAC in the left column?
Also failed were the "Parent Trigger Bill", which could have enabled private companies to more readily replace public schools with their own enterprises, and a bill that could have provided said companies with confidential information about students, which would have allowed companies to market their services more directly.
Your friendly neighborhood unions at work. This summer, we will be organizing a Political Activities Committee for the USF Chapter of the UFF, to help prepare this fall and to help educate the Legislature next spring. Anyone UFF member interested in participating is invited to contact our Membership Chair, Art Shapiro. And if you aren't a member, join today: we need all the help we can get.