EDUCATION Several education bills are gaining traction this year. Senator Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton) is sponsoring the “Florida Excellence in Higher Education Act of 2018” which includes provisions to create a World Class Faculty and Scholar Program; establishes the State University Professional and Graduate Degree Excellence Program; authorizes students to use Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program awards for summer term; and extends coverage of the Benacquisto Scholarship program. The bill has passed its committees and is ready for a Senate floor vote.
Senator Dorothy Hukill (R-Port Orange) is trying to pass her financial literacy bill again this year. Senate Bill 88 would require all high school students to take a one-half credit financial literacy and money management course. The bill is ready for a Senate floor vote, having passed three committees. Another bill sponsored by the Senator is the Community College Competitiveness Act of 2018 which would expand the state’s 2+2 path to graduation, making it easier for students who complete associate degrees in state colleges to go on to baccalaureate degrees in state universities.
Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) is again sponsoring a computer coding bill which would authorize high schools to offer students opportunities to take computer coding courses. These could satisfy two credits of foreign language instruction.
SCHOOL BOARDS Representative Jason Fischer (R-Jacksonville) and Senator Greg Steube (R-Sarasota) have filed proposals in their respective chambers that would place a constitutional amendment on the 2018 ballot limiting school board members’ tenure. At the same time, the state Constitution Revision Commission is considering placing a similar proposal on the November, 2018 ballot. Both proposals, which would need 60 percent voter approval, would limit school board members to two four-year terms. The 37-member Constitution Revision Commission has the authority to place proposed amendments directly on the 2018 ballot.
COMMUNITY REDEVELOPMENT ORGANIZATIONS Representative Jake Raburn (R-Valrico) is sponsoring legislation to reform community redevelopment agencies, which are used by cities to redevelop blighted communities. The bill would set new restrictions to combat fraud and provide better accountability, prohibit the creation of new CRAs after October 1, 2018 and generally require the sunset of all such agencies by 2038. The bill has gone through its single committee of reference in the House and is ready to be voted on the floor. A similar, but substantially different bill has gone through one of its four committee stops in the Senate.
TEXTING WHILE DRIVING After years of being unable to pass legislation which would make texting while driving a primary offense, rather than secondary, the legislation appears to be gaining momentum this year. Four bills have been filed, with only one having received their first committee hearing. However, Speaker Richard Corcoran (R-Lutz) has expressed his support of this legislation publicly which might give the issue more attention.
GUN LAWS Senator Steube again filed bills this year involving gun owner rights. The Senator had watered down his more controversial proposals into two bills, which were heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee on December 5th. Both bills, and one filed by another sponsor, were voted down when two Republicans joined the committee’s Democrats in voting against them.