End of the 2021 Legislative Session
Today was an extraordinary close to an extraordinary session. While UFF normally has 5-7 bills which pertain to us, this year there were over 30. They kept being cut and re-cut, and jumped from Committee to Committee, so it was a very challenging session.
THANK YOU to our members who emailed and/or called your elected officials, or who shared our messages out on social media. Without your activism, and the activism of our union allies around the state (see attachment), things could’ve gone very badly for us. We narrowly avoided having our institutions’ Presidents hired in secret, and we were able to stop both the end of payroll dues deduction and the 50% membership decertification bills. And the Higher Ed budgets ended up being much better than expected. – Karen Morian, UFF President (2019-2021)
“Big congratulations to our United Faculty of Florida (UFF) members who worked tirelessly to stop college and university presidential searches from being conducted in secrecy. SB 220, which required a two-thirds vote because it would have created an exemption to Florida’s “Sunshine Law” (public records), easily passed in the House but was stopped in the Senate.” – FEA WEEKLY FRONTLINE REPORT 4/30/2021
On Tuesday, the House and Senate finalized their budget and placed the budget “on the desk” of members, which began the mandatory 72-hour “cooling off period” to provide time for legislators and the public to read what has been included. This year, thanks to the federal stimulus funds, the budget which normally hovers around $90 billion, tapped out at $101.5 billion for fiscal year 2021-2022 while putting $6 billion in reserves for “rainy day funds.” One good change for state employees is that they raised the minimum wage for state employees to $13 an hour. Education budget highlights are below.
Higher Education budget included the following:
- $2 billion for Florida College System and $5.3 billion for the State University System.
- Tuition and fees, as well as funding for need-based financial aid, are held at current levels and were not cut as originally proposed.
- $26 million for college system school maintenance and $37.8 million for state university school maintenance.
- $982.6 billion in student financial aid, of which $623.3 million is for Bright Futures scholarships. Despite an effort to amend the Bright Futures awards this session, the student awards remain at levels consistent with current law, but the $600 textbook stipend was eliminated.
- The budget maintains the following performance funding at career technical centers, state colleges and state universities: $6.5 million for students earning industry certifications in high-skill, high-demand areas at career technical centers; $14 million for students earning industry certifications in high-skill, high-demand areas at Florida colleges; $30 million in performance funding for state colleges through the 2+2 Student Success Incentive Fund and the Work Florida Student Success Incentive Fund; and $560 million in performance funding for state universities.
In addition to the funding provided through the state budget, Florida’s higher education institutions received over $873.9 million from the CARES Act and $1.26 billion from the CRRSA Act.2021-FINAL-LEGISLATIVE-BRIEF
UFF Legislative Toolkit: FEAweb.org/session/uff
Follow 2021 Legislative Session FOR UPDATES
UFF Legislative Update April 23, 2021
This week was another hectic week at the Capitol as the end of legislative session nears. On Tuesday, more than 20 UFF members joined with 150 other public employee union members to testify against SB 1014waiting in the long queue at the Capital (well, at the Civic Center because the only place not open in Florida is the Capital). By lunchtime, we were informed that it would not be taken up that day. This gives us some breathing room, but this is by no means over, so please stay vigilant until sine die. This last week will be incredibly fluid, so join us on social media for updates.
( Facebook / Twitter )
What Can We Do Right Now?
1 . Help Stop SB 220: Sunshine Law Exemption for University/College Presidential Searches
Contact your Senator ASAP. Ask a friends and colleagues to do so as well.
This bill would exempt the hiring process for new college and university presidents from Florida Sunshine Laws. These transparent processes allow for public and stakeholder overview of our public institutions; this change would be catastrophic for the independence of our 40 public institutions of higher education in Florida, and the vote count is close. This has passed the House, and may be up for a vote in the Senate as early as Tuesday. To learn more, read the Florida AFL-CIO’s talking points on the companion bill from the House.
2. Continue to contact Legislators on SB 1014/HB 835
Call both your local Legislators on these bills. Our collective bargaining rights and basic freedoms are at stake.
- CALL legislative offices, SEND emails, WRITE letters to the editor or Editorials, keeping in line with our strategic talking points for this legislative session. You can review our talking points and positions in our Legislative Toolkit: http://bit.ly/UFFLegislativeToolkit
- Take to social media! RECORD a video of yourself and tag Senators and Reps, or TWEET at them to let them know how strongly you want them to vote NO on these bills! Please see the attached handout that was shared with testifiers this week, which includes the Twitter handles of all the Senators on the Rules Committee, some sample Twitter Scripts, and additional info you may find useful as you continue to activate and spread the message – we do NOT want these bills to pass!
3. Join FEA’s Daily Action Hour: Every day FEA will be hosting an Action Hour from 5 PM to 6 PM EDT and from 11 AM to 12 PM EDT on Saturday and Sunday. During the Action Hour, people who join on the Zoom meeting are asked to contact certain legislators on the issue of the day. Not all of these are Higher Ed related, but we want to act in solidarity with our K-12 colleagues, just as they do for us. Here is the Zoom Link for this statewide meeting: https://feaweb.org/dailyaction
“We have, for years, opposed attempts to hide the process of hiring our presidents,” said Karen Morian, president of the United Faculty of Florida. “We know that these presidents will control billions of state funds, that they will have to do so in the sunshine, and we question why they would want to be hired in secrecy.”
Tallahassee, FL (April 19, 2021) – Following a series of attacks on the constitutional protections afforded to all Floridians, the Florida Legislature is set to move this week on SB 1014/HB 835, a bill which infringes on educators’ freedoms and focuses instead on government overreach and fiscal irresponsibility.
UFF Legislative Update 4-16-21
We are approaching the final moments we have to try to defeat HB 835 and SB 1014, the bills that would deal the roughest blow to our union and to our labor brothers and sisters across the state. Earlier this week, HB835 passed its final committee, despite having a packed room and a very robust public comment where our members and other labor allies turned up to speak in opposition to the bill.
NOW IS THE TIME: IT WILL TAKE ALL OF US TO STOP THIS!
On Tuesday, 4/20, the Senate Rules Committee will hear the anti-freedom, anti-union bill SB 1014, in its final committee stop, and it has already been put on the special order calendar for 4/21 “if received” – this means they are anticipating passing the bill Tuesday and bringing it for a floor vote ASAP. Your Presence is needed NOW, more than ever!!
Here’s how you can get involved:
COME TO TALLAHASSEE
If you can bring your work with you and camp out in the legislature with us, we can get you a hotel room for Monday and Tuesday evening (4/19-4/20) and cover your mileage and expenses. You may not get to testify, but we NEED to pack the room and ensure our legislators know that educators and public employees across the state stand against this bill! If you are able to travel to Tallahassee Mon-Wed, please fill out this form so we can organize your hotel: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/FX9JJ5M
CALL THIS TARGETED LIST OF LEGISLATORS
- This is the primary list of legislative targets to contact to voice our opposition to this bill and urge them to vote NO – please call, email, and try to set up a meeting with them – they need to keep a record of every contact received, so it is time to ensure our voices are heard loud and clear:
|Albritton- SD 26||850-487-5026|
|Bean- SD 4||850-487-5004|
|Bradley – SD 5||850-487-5005|
|Brandes- SD 24||850-487-5024|
|Brodeur- SD 9||850-487-5009|
|Burgess – SD20||850-487-5020|
|Gainer- SD 2||850-487-5002|
|Garcia -SD 37||850-487-5037|
|Grueters -SD 23||850-487-5023|
|Hooper- SD 16||850-487-5016|
|Hutson- SD 7||850-487-5007|
|Mayfield- SD 17||850-487-5017|
|Passidomo -SD 28||850-487-5028|
|Rodriguez- SD 39||850-487-5039|
SUBMIT YOUR PERSONAL STORY
- Take a few moments to send us a paragraph about your experience during this past year and the impact your union has had during this time. We will be putting together a statewide press release using some of the statements we receive on Monday – please submit no later than Sunday, 4/18 at 5pm. If your story is not used now, it will be used in the future. Submit here: http://bit.ly/UFFMediaRelease
To learn more about these bills and our positions, along with the other bills that we are most closely following this legislative session, please access our UFF Legislative Toolkit here: http://bit.ly/UFFLegislativeToolkit
Thank you, let’s keep fighting!
Thank you to everyone who sent in written testimony, set up meetings with your legislators, called and made your voices heard, wrote in personal emails, we need to amplify and uplift our voices even more right now! Special thank you to the UFF members who testified in the House State Affairs Committee against SB 1014’s House companions, HB 835 & 947 by Reps. Byrd and Plakon: Matthew Lata, Vincenza Berardo, Steve Kirn, Krystal Williams, and Roxie Brookshire, and to all others who came and packed the room.
All Democratic committee members deserve kudos for their part in defending our members’ interests in an intense and passionate debate. Representatives Smith, Joseph, Hinson, Nixon, Bartleman, Woodson, Chambliss, and Hardy asked questions and debated against the measure. Hardy, Joseph, Hinson, and Smith were particularly strong and called Byrd out on the truth about why the bill is filed. It was quite a testy meeting! Check it out in The Florida Channel archives.
Additional Legislative Update Regarding two more bills important to UFF:
SB 220 – re: President Searches was not heard in Senate Rules. About a dozen UFF members waited for five hours to speak on it and against SB 1014, Sen. Baxley’s anti-freedom/anti-union bill, along with about 100 other union members, but it the clock ran out. It is on the agenda for Tuesday, so tune in at 9:00.
HB 7017 — the bill related to foreign influence naming “countries of concern” was heard at second reading today, April 13. The bill requires the Board of Governors and State Board of Education to provide guidelines for research and hiring of foreign-born researchers and restricts activity with any “countries of concern”. An amendment related to whistleblower rights was added and the bill was rolled onward to third reading and possible final passage.
HB 997- by Rep. Garrison (R-Orange Park) is the bill exempting executive searches for college and university presidents from public records and public meetings until finalists are selected. The bill was heard on Second reading. Good Questions came from Democrat Representatives Guillermo-Smith, Diamond, Geller, Thompson, Hardy, and Eskamani. There was an amendment by Garrison which aligned it with the Senate bill (SB 220) and set a deadline when secrecy ends but does not even define how many finalists are allowed. Unfortunately, Representative Alexander (D-Tallahassee) supported the amendment and announced support for the Bill when it came to Third Reading, on April 14. Thanks to Reps. Geller and Guillermo-Smith for their debate against the bill.
Special thanks to UFF-FAU leaders for putting together this Op Ed!
UFF Legislative Update 4-9-21: COME TO TALLAHASSEE!
Your calls, emails, and meetings are working and helping get our message across to Legislators. Next week, the anti-union, anti-freedom bills may be heard, and we want UFF members to join with other FEA members in Tallahassee, regardless.
FEA will pay hotel and reimburse travel for an activist who travels to Tallahassee on either Tuesday, April 13th, or Wednesday, April 14th. We will have actions planned for April 14th and 15th. If activists want to stay both days, we can accommodate that as well. The actions will include testifying in front of a legislative committee, meeting with your legislators, and/or attending other actions as necessary.
If you are coming, please send ([email protected] ) your First Name, Last Name, Non-work email, cell phone, party registration, what day you plan to check-in, and what day you plan to check out. The sooner we have the information, the better. The deadline to confirm is the end of business on Monday, April 13th.
The additional information you need to know.
- There will be a Zoom meeting on Tuesday evening to brief activists.
- If you are traveling to Tallahassee, a single occupancy room will be reserved for you. The room charge is billed directly to FEA.
- FEA will reimburse travel expenses (IRS Mileage Rate and $65 a day for meals) for any member who travels to Tallahassee on the specified dates. The attached expense report needs to be completed within two weeks of the expense.
- Additional information will be sent to you via email.
If you are unable to come to Tallahassee next week, but still want to help our legislative efforts, please consider making a contribution to UFF-PAC: https://myuff.org/contribute-to-uff-pac-today/
CSCS HB 233 regarding viewpoint diversity survey, anti-shielding provision, and allowance of most recordings in a class has passed both houses. It passed the Senate today by a 23-15 vote. The only Republican vote against was Senator Bradley (R- Orange Park).
The House Education and Employment committee chair refused to hear HB 835, so it has been moved into State Affairs. This is a sign they are determined to get it done.
The Florida Senate passed its budget SB 2500 with a few minor amendments and SB 2502, its Implementing, by 40-0 votes. The Employee Compensation bill SB 2508 which limits salaries for college and university faculty and staff to $180,000 from lottery and state GR funds, not tuition, passed 40-0. It also disallows these funds from being used for across the board pay increases at universities but that restriction is not made on tuition or other university funds.
The FRS bill SB 84 which closes the FRS defined benefit option to new employees, other than special risk, effective 7/1/2022, was open for questions over more than two hours. This is the Senate President’s bill and most Senate Democrats asked questions. This bill passed on a straight party-line vote of 24-16. Ten Democratic senators addressed their issues for the bill in over an hour of debate. Debate by Senators Thurston, Torres, Berman, and Farmer stood out. They raised the true arguments of the unfunded actuarial liability and quoted State Board of Administration Executive Director Ash Williams with statements made at a recent meeting of the Florida Cabinet. They also raised the inherent risks and fees associated with 401(k) type retirement plans. Farmer in his final remarks that this action will harm our current system and the cost to employers within the FRS DB plan are 30% below the national average. The good news for now is, so far, that there is no House companion.
Some encouraging budget numbers!
SURPRISE — POLITICO: Florida lawmakers on Tuesday just got a $2 billion present. Ahead of final budget negotiations, state economists say Florida will bring in $2 billion more in general revenue than previously anticipated in December, the last time they projected general revenue for the current and next fiscal years. That includes a boost to current year revenues by $1.4 billion, and an increase to next fiscal year’s forecast by $550.8 over the next fiscal year. The combined two-year total, which is money lawmakers can use as they finalize next year’s budget, is just over $2 billion more than revenue estimators previously forecast.
Resources to Take Action April 12 – 30, 2021
Please view ActionToolkit Resources necessary to Take Action and achieve LAC’s desired goals. You are encouraged to share these resources with your colleagues:
- UFF Legislative Toolkit
- UFF Live Legislative Training Recording. Use Passcode: 8gZuN4=&
- UFF FAU Legislative Talking Points
UFF Legislative Update 4-1-21
Both the House and Senate Appropriations proposals for Higher Ed include hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts.
SB 1014/ HB 835 -Educators’ union dues – The bill will require 50% of college and university union membership or be decertified. It also allows for much interference by the administration and/or the state in who is currently a member. It also would disallow school boards from payroll deduction of union dues.
The bill has a fiscal impact of almost $380,000 to hire new employees at the Public Employees Relations Commission to meet the requirements of this bill. In other words, more state revenues needed to strip union rights of educators.
HB 835 was heard by the State Administration and Technology Appropriations Subcommittee on 4/1/21 and it is no joke. The committee is chaired by Rep. Cyndi Stevenson (R-St. Augustine). There are 10 Republicans and 5 Democrats on this committee. Rep. Byrd’s presentation of the bill was loaded with hypocrisy as he stated the purpose to be stopping taxpayers from paying to collect union dues. He cited the Supreme Court’s Janus decision as rationale and railed against the education union espousing political views and that some teachers do not agree with the union. First the Janus decision was about the mandatory payment of dues which conflicted with the “right to work.” And other non-education unions do not speak out politically and advocate for their bargaining units. Police unions and firefighter unions do not lobby and endorse candidates? Florida by virtue of Article 1, Section 6, of its constitution is both a right to work and a right to organize state. As Rich Templin, Florida AFL-CIO, informed the committee that the right to organize is by vote and the right to work is by decision to join or not join the union.
There were at least 23 speakers opposing the bill and only one person from the Americans for Prosperity waived in support. These speakers were given one minute each to address this critical issue. Matthew Lata, UFF-FSU Chapter President and UFF Government Relations Chair), Stephanie Kunkel from FEA, Rich Templin, and teachers from as far away Polk County came to give their one minute! They were dramatic and well-spoken when expressing their faults with this bill, taking away their individual rights to advocate for their students and asked why it was necessary to spend almost $400,000 to do so.
Thanks to Rep. Goff-Marcil (D-Maitland), Rep. Hinson (-Gainesville), Rep. Hunchofsky (D-Coconut Creek), and Rep. Woodson (D-Pembroke Pines) for their debate in opposition and their statements that the bill is a “solution to a problem that does not exist” and that the bill is “shameful.” In the closing Rep. Byrd said the bill is about political speech. But whose political speech is it about? The bill passed 9-5 with Goff-Marcil, Hinson, Hunchofsky, Woodson, and Rep. Killebrew (R-Winter Haven) voting No. Rep. Robinson (D-Miami Gardens) was absent from the meeting.
The bill will be heard next in the House Education and Employment Committee.
SB 78/ HB 947- Public sector union dues (including educators)- This is another bill that interferes with your ability to maintain your union membership. The bill would require union members to rejoin each time there is a new contract. There was no action on this bill this week.
SB 220/ HB 997 –Secrecy of College and University President Searches – This legislation would remove public college and university presidential searches from the Sunshine. The bill passed The House Education and Employment Committee on 3/29/31. It requires a 2/3 majority to pass, so we need talk to legislators and particularly Senators to defeat this legislation.
HB233- “intellectual diversity’– carves out college classrooms from the state law which makes it a felony to record someone without their permission, requires political perspectives survey of students, faculty, and staff. It also establishes anti- “shielding” provisions (prevents public IHEs from refusing to let groups meet on campus).
- This bill has passed the House and is now on the Senate floor and could be scheduled for its third and final reading next week.
SB 176/HB 553 -Graduate fee waivers- Assigned to committees but not moving. It appears this will die in committees.
SB 2010/HB 7017 – Foreign Influence – The bills address agreements with foreign countries and entities and restrict all research agreements with seven countries of concern. SB 2010 was passed on 3/30/21 in the Senate Education Committee. HB 7017 will be heard next by the House State Affairs Committee.
SB 84 FRS – Retirement – The bill will close the FRS defined benefit plan to new members, other than Special Risk, effective 7/1/2022.
Thebill bySenator Rodrigues (R- Fort Myers) passed after many members of the public testifying against the bill. An amendment by Senator Farmer (D-Fort Lauderdale) would have delayed the closure until after a thorough actuarial study was completed. Farmer’s amendment failed.
Kudos to Senator Farmer (Senate Democratic Leader – Fort Lauderdale) and Senator Hooper (R-Pinellas and Pasco Counties) who asked great questions and added great debate for the DB plan. And testimonies from Rich Templin of Florida AFL-CIO and Yale Olenick from FEA were superlative but this is the Senate President’s bill, so Republicans were in support. There were other FEA members who testified. The vote count in the Senate Appropriations Committee was by party vote.
SB 86 regarding Bright Futures by Senator Baxley (R-Lady Lake) was also passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee on 3/31/21. That bill no longer requires a course of study in specific fields to receive a Bright Futures award which is a credit to students, parents, and faculty raising concerns. The bill maintains the list of careers in a “dashboard” with possible career benefits plus requires colleges and universities to provide career guidance. The troubling aspect of the bill is the deletion of the specificity of the 100% and 75% Bright Futures levels. While this level of funding might not change, it gives pause to students and parents that the “promise” may not be kept.
Senator Farmer, Senator Stewart (D-Orlando), and Senator Rouson (D-Saint Petersburg) debated against the bill.
HB 6001 – Guns on campus – The bill has not been placed on any committee agenda and there is no Senate companion. Without leadership intervention, the bill will most certainly die in committee.
Other bills of note:
SB 2508 Higher Ed Compensation
From staff analysis:
Effect of Proposed Changes: This bill revises limitations on compensation from appropriated state funds for Florida College System (FCS) institution and State University System (SUS) university employees, including presidents. The bill expands the cap to include all faculty and staff of FCS institutions and SUS universities, specifically including teaching faculty and medical school faculty and staff. The bill lowers the cap from $200,000 to $180,000. The bill redefines the term “appropriated state funds” and “public funds” to mean “funds appropriated from the General Revenue Fund or the Educational Enhancement Trust Fund.” This authorizes FCS institutions or SUS universities to use funds from tuition to pay employees or presidents above the statutory cap.
The bill restricts how SUS universities may implement salaries when using appropriated state funds. Salary increases for state university employees are required to be based solely on performance, except as otherwise provided in the General Appropriations Act. Salary increases may not be issues to every employee of the university, or every employee within a cohort within the university, without regard to performance.
Note: Salaries may be paid from tuition funds or other funds that are not considered “appropriated state funds” without considering performance.
SB 7018 FRS Contribution Rates
Our members either are in the FRS Defined Benefit Plan, the FRS Defined Investment Plan, or in the Colleges or SUS Optional Retirement plans. The Defined Benefit (pension) plan rates are calculated annually. The total rate increase in the DB plan for the employer is 0.83% in 2021-22. The employee rate continues at 3% for all plans. This bill passed.
MAKE AN APPOINTMENT WITH YOUR LEGISLATORS ON APRIL 8.
UFF Weekly Legislative Update : March 26, 2021
SB 1014/ HB 835 -Educators’ union dues – The bill will require 50% of college and university union membership or be decertified. It also would disallow school boards from payroll deduction of union dues. This is our number one target. SB 1014 was to have been heard this week but was again postponed. It may be up in Rules on March 31st as may SB 78, the other union dues attack. HB 835 could be heard in committee this week, but we will not know until Tuesday afternoon.
SB 78/ HB 947- Public sector union dues (including educators)- This is another bill that interferes with your ability to maintain your union membership. The bill would require union members to rejoin each time there is a new contract. There has been no action on this legislation the past two weeks. The House bill is not on Monday’s agenda, but >>>>>>
SB 220/ HB 997 –Secrecy of College and University President Searches – This legislation would remove public college and university presidential searches from the Sunshine. HB 997 passed a House Committee this week and is scheduled in the House Education and Employment Committee on Monday. It requires a 2/3 majority to pass, so we need talk to legislators and particularly Senators to defeat this legislation. ON the Senate side, the bill could be up in Rules on Wednesday.
SB 264/HB233- “intellectual diversity’– carves out college classrooms from the state law which makes it a felony to record someone without their permission, requires political perspectives survey of students, faculty, and staff. It also establishes anti- “shielding” provisions (prevents public IHEs from refusing to let groups meet on campus).
- This bill has passed the House and is now on the Senate floor.
- The Senate version is also waiting on the Senate to act.
- Either bill could pass this coming week.
SB 176/HB 553 -Graduate fee waivers- Assigned to committees but not moving. It appears this will die in committees.
SB 2010/HB 7017 – Foreign Influence – The bills address agreements with foreign countries and entities and restrict all research agreements with seven countries of concern. SB 2010 was Temporarily Passed (TPd) this week but is scheduled to be heard on Tuesday, March 30 in the Senate Education Committee. HB 7017 passed the House Appropriations Committee this week and will be heard next by the House State Affairs Committee.
FRS – Retirement – There has been conversation on closing the FRS Defined Benefit plan and there will be legislation setting FRS rates for 2021-22.
HB 6001 – Guns on campus – The bill has not been agendaed and there is no Senate companion. Without leadership intervention, the bill will most certainly die in committee.
Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee – The initial information on the Senate Chair’s Higher Education budget proposal indicates an approximate $1 million increase in state funds for colleges and a decrease of approximately $225 million in state funds for universities when compared to the 2020-21 General Appropriations Act. This is based on documents published by the Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee yesterday. NOTE: Both K-12 and higher education budgets are done by this subcommittee.
House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee – Chair Plasencia (R-Titusville) explained his 2021-22 Budget proposal to the committee. The proposal is a decrease of 7% over the 2020-21 General Appropriations Act. Mostly, the cuts were to the State University System of $556.4 million. However, he indicated that federal funds (from CARES and new stimulus from 2021 Congress) will replace those lost state funds and that the full 2020-21 appropriations will be distributed as the Governor’s “holdback” funding will be restored later this fiscal year.
House Higher Education Budget Document:
The subcommittee also passed the Proposed Committee Bill HEA 20-01, now in HB 5601, on an 11-2 vote. Opposition was to possible loss of funds for low-income students attending an ICUF institution, and particularly HBCU institutions, which would lose support due to low metrics. The bill does the following:
- Specifies that all funds appropriated for Preeminent State Research Universities must be distributed equally;
• Eliminates the State University Professional and Graduate Degree Excellence Program;
• Provides minimum performance standards for institutions to be eligible to participate in the Effective Access to Student Education (EASE) tuition assistance program;
• Eliminates the Access to Better Learning and Education tuition assistance program;
• Expands the existing faculty salary cap from state university administrative employees to include all university faculty, excluding those in specified high-demand fields; and
• Creates the Florida Integrated Library System to provide funding for critical library services, a distance learning catalog, and transient student applications.
Weekly Legislative Recap: Legislators’ Attack Higher Education Unions – March 2021
Florida legislators are trying to pass bills that attempt to silence the voice of Florida’s educators, including the loss of collective bargaining, due process, and just cause for thousands of higher education faculty and graduate employees. (See the Florida Education Association’s weekly recap below this email.)
We need YOU to get involved!
We are holding a Statewide Legislative Training on Sunday, 3/21 at 4pm on Zoom to prepare you to talk to your legislators. They need to hear from you.Please Register for the training here: https://floridaea.zoom.us/s/96220995586
Find and Contact your Legislators here via phone and email: https://feaweb.org/issues-action/find-your-legislator/. Please let them know you want them to VOTE NO on these pieces of legislation, especially SB1014/HB835 as it continues to move towards a floor vote.
Bills with serious invasions of our personal and academic freedoms are moving quickly through the Florida Legislature. HB835/SB1014 (which seeks to divide us and undermine our right to collectively bargain) and SB264 (intellectual freedom) are flying through committees along mostly party-line votes (Republicans supporting/Democrats opposing) and are expected to be brought to the floor for votes early in the session.
UFF opposes these companion bills because they will do three important things:
- There is a requirement for all 40 public colleges and universities to survey how members of the “college community” feel about the intellectual diversity on campus. This is required to be statistically viable, so we might see untenured faculty and GAs susceptible to pressure to complete this and report their personal political beliefs. We oppose this because the First Amendment includes a right against coerced speech. There are also rulings against requiring employees to reveal their political perspectives.
- There is a provision that would remove college and university autonomy to choose who uses campus property. This would require, as an extreme example, FAMU to allow the KKK to rally on campus. It is our contention that these decisions should continue to be made locally.
- There is a provision allowing (in spite of Florida law) students to record classes without consent from the instructors or their classmates. The only recourse to misuse of these recordings is to sue (IF you can find the person). The issue of recording of minors was not addressed, nor was the possibility that a failed legal or academic case might result in the recorder being charged with a felony (under the existing law).
Legislative Update – February 3, 2021
UFF’s work to advocate on behalf of our members and higher education now pivots to the 2021 Florida Legislature. In fact, this work began shortly after the November election when local chapters were supplied with a template and encouraged to send letters to all elected and reelected legislators, congratulating them and introducing their UFF chapter representatives. We see this as the first step towards building healthy, long-term relationships with our legislators, regardless of party.
UFF’s Government Relations Committee’s structure and programs will be expanding and evolving this year. In addition to the statewide GR Committee chaired by Matthew Lata, there will be several subgroups and working groups coordinated by President Karen Morian. Additionally, we will be assisting the chapter GR Committees with their lobbying efforts and local work by providing assistance and resources.
*If you are interested in getting involved, please reach out to your local chapter leaders.
Our top state legislative priority, as always, is funding. We hope to preserve the 2020 budget that they passed last year, and which funds the state through the end of June 2021.
We are currently watching several pieces of proposed legislation of particular interest to UFF and Higher Education. Some include ideas and changes we have seen before:
STATE GROUP HEALTH INSURANCE
UFF will be monitoring prospective changes to the State Group Health Insurance plan. As this affects our university faculty, UFF will work in partnership with the FL AFL-CIO and other public-sector unions whose members would be impacted by any such changes.
FLORIDA RETIREMENT SYSTEM
UFF will be monitoring prospective changes to the FRS, including language which would close the defined benefit option to new hires which could destabilize the system. UFF will be working in partnership with the FL AFL-CIO and other public-sector unions retirement security options for all public employees. This will be a costly and disastrous change to one of the country’s strongest retirement systems.
SB 220 is an attempt to remove state college and university president searches from the oversight required by Florida’s Sunshine Laws. UFF opposes this bill as these decisions should be made transparently. We believe the lack of transparency opens up this process to all manner of corruption. Rep. Ramon Alexander (D-Tallahassee) is expected to again sponsor this in the House. As it takes a 2/3 vote to remove proceedings from the Sunshine, we will push to stop this in the Senate (again) this year. We will need your engagement and testimony to keep searches in the sunshine, not in the shadows.
HB 233/SB 264 would require an annual assessment of the “members of the college community” (including universities and colleges), asking people to reveal their political perspectives and beliefs, without indicating how this information would be used. There are several reasons to oppose this bill: it is an unnecessary expense, it has not been statistically valid in other states (and yet they reference those surveys to support the need here in Florida, it would open up the possibility of a political litmus test tied to employment (last year conservative Senator Rob Bradley likened it to McCarthyism and urged that it be voted down every time it came back), it includes language which would allow students to film faculty in class and disseminate the film online, but has no reciprocity for faculty. In addition to our Tallahassee leaders, our UFF-FAU and UFF-FGCU leaders have done important work by meeting with their legislators and providing them with important information.
SB 78 is a government overreach/union-busting bill that would require public employee union members to re-join the union every time we have a new CBA or every three years. It also inserts the institutions’ HR departments between members and the union, requiring them to verify with the member that they did, indeed, intend to join their union. As of now, there is no timeline for how long HR can take to process a renewal form, problematizing an individual’s active membership status and raising questions about whether they are covered by the union insurance policy or for grievance purposes. UFF and FEA made a huge impact in speaking in committee against this bill, reinforced by thousands of emails from members opposing the bill. For now, it has been “temporarily postponed” but we will need to stay engaged.
HB 553/SB 176 The Graduate Assistant fee waiver bill is one we have been working on for a number of years. These fees have risen exponentially over the last decade, rendering meaningless the hard-won tuition waivers and stipend increases our union has secured. Thanks to Senator Cruz and House Representative Goff-Marcil for sponsoring this bill. Its path begins in the Senate Education committee. Our Graduate Assistants United members have been reaching out to legislators and raising awareness on the plight of many grad workers who have been forced to choose between childcare, medicine, and fees. We have reason to hope that some version of this will pass this year, but we must fight for this to be a priority.
HB 281/SB 0052 is a large post-secondary education bill, most of which UFF has no position on. However, it does include some bonus-pay-for-new hires language which may conflict with existing collective bargaining agreements. It also provides public funding for private dual enrollment high school students to attend public college. We are not in favor of either of these sections.
HB 6001 is a Guns-on-Campus Bill (UFF Senate has passed a resolution opposing this.) This bill does not have a lot of support in the leadership, nor does it have a Senate companion bill.
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UFF has been well represented in committee meetings by our Tallahassee members: Martin Balinsky, Matthew Lata, Vincenza Berardo, Ben Serber, Jordan Scott, and Krystal Williams from UFF-TCC, UFF-FSU, FSU-GAU and FAMU-GAU.
We have had assistance from our Executive Director Emeritus and current UFF consultant (Marshall Ogletree) and our colleagues in the FEA Public Policy and Advocacy department (Cathy Boehme and Yale Olenick).