Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Legislative Report #7

FASSS-FCSS Legislative Report #7

Emergent Design and Development, Inc.
Legislative Update
January 5, 2009

Happy New Year and we wish each of you a prosperous, healthy, and rewarding 2009. Things are going to be interesting in the Legislature, as always. Less money, more needs, special interests, along with the normal party politics will make for an exciting year. We will update you regularly regarding the Educational issues.

The Special Session begins today (Jan 5, 2009). The purpose is to bring the Budget in line with the expected income. Currently the prediction is a shortfall of $2.3 billion.
The House will take public testimony from 1-5pm today. The overall calendar is expected to result in a budget passing each house by Friday. Conference Committees would work on the weekend (January 10 and 11). The budget would be printed by Tuesday the 13th, wait the required 72 hours, and have a final vote by Jan. 16.
During these two weeks, both Houses expect to have time to meet in their regular committees to work on legislation for the 2009 Session. Agreement seems to have been reached on some general guidelines:
No higher taxes on cigarette products or on alcohol
Possible adjustments to unnamed uses fees
Higher fines and fees related to traffic enforcement
Higher criminal and civil court fees
Transfer of trust funds
Reduction of appropriations in current budget

The current budget crisis appears to put pressure upon the Legislature to examine the costs related to the Bright Futures Scholarship Program.

Among changes to lower the cost of the program are:
Raise academic requirements for the program
Include family income as one criterion
Raise college grade point requirement for renewal
Raise credit hour requirement for renewal
Establish and freeze a flat rate for the scholarship
Lower the percentage of tuition and fees covered by the program

Multistate Powerball in Florida starts this week with ticket sales beginning on Jan.4 and the first drawing on Jan. 7. Florida will be the 30th state to join along with the Virgin Islands and D.C.
Base jackpots will begin at $220 million and the average winning jackpot expected to come in at $141 million. (The odds of winning are 1 in 198 million vs. the current Florida lottery odds of 1 in 122 million)
Sales of the current lottery program have reduced by 7.5% since July. According to lottery officials, 40% of Powerball sales in Florida will go to the education system, 5% will be paid to retailers, and the rest will go to winners in the multistate program.

Last year, Legislators decided to ease the pressure of the FCAT on the grades given to Florida High Schools. It now seems that the fix has raised some concerns, especially among Florida Superintendents.
In a pilot program, State DOE officials have recalculated the grades given to High Schools last year, using the new system. One hundred twenty nine (129) High Schools would have dropped one letter grade. Twenty-four (24) would have improved. The number of schools identified as failing would have doubled.
We would expect to hear further reaction from the Legislature concerning this issue.
Bills of interest filed in the Florida Legislature are attached in a PDF