Legislative Update, Week 4: Union-Busting Bill Passes in the House of Representatives

HB 11 by Rep. Scott Plakon (R-Longwood) passed in the House of Representative by an official vote of 75-41 on March 30th. Three Brevard Republican representatives joined House Democrats against the bill.

This openly anti-union measure would add an additional requirement to an employee union’s annual renewal with the Public Employees Relations Commission. HB 11 requires that each certified bargaining unit of a registered employee organization must provide the number of eligible employees for union membership and the number of dues paying members.

If the certified bargaining unit dues paying membership is less than 50%, that bargaining unit must petition PERC for recertification as the exclusive bargaining representative within one month after the date on which the bargaining unit applied for renewal. Application for PERC recertification requires either voluntary recognition of the union by the employer or petition to PERC for recertification upon submission of call for union representation election cards from at least 30% of the full bargaining unit. Then an election would be held through PERC for recertification of the bargaining unit.

Plakon represented that the measure was in support of democracy but the Florida Constitution and Chapter 447, Florida Statutes, strikes a fair balance between the “right to work” and “the right of employees, by and through a labor organization, to bargain collectively shall not be denied or abridged.” Nine House Democrats debated against the legislation and some claimed, accurately in our opinion, that it was purely “political” and aimed directly at teachers and the FEA. The legislation will go to the Senate as its next stop.

UFF encourages all its membership to fight this legislation, not only by contacting your senator, but by asking a potential member to join your chapter of UFF and help stop legislators from bullying public employees and their unions!

Know that UFF, FEA, AFL-CIO and its affiliated unions will continue working to make sure this legislation dies in the Senate. But we cannot take that for granted.

Budget Subcommittees Complete Their Work

Both House and Senate Higher Education Budget Subcommittees completed their work in Week 4 of the Session. The full Appropriations Committees will adopt the final budget plan in Week 5 and the full House and Senate will vote on their plans during Week 6. Then serious negotiations will begin between the House and Senate in Conference Committee meetings with a budget compromise due 72 hours preceding the end of the 2017 Session on May 5th.

What’s in the two budget proposal as of now?

The House proposal funds Florida Colleges at $1.153 billion, a reduction of $88 million from the current year. $72.6 million of that reduction was made due to carryover reserves held by the colleges and the committee’s attack on college funds being shifted to foundations. Funding for colleges are exclusive of tuition and fees. Performance funding was maintained at $60 million with $30 million from college base funding.

Universities are funded at $4.56 billion which includes $1.96 billion in tuition and fees. The universities have been cut $172 million from the current year with $159.4 million due to carryover reserves and university funds being transferred to foundations. Performance funding was unchanged from the current year.

The Senate proposal for Florida Colleges is about $7 million less at $1.146 billion, a reduction of $95 million from the current year. The Senate reduction is primarily from the suspension of performance funding and cuts to Developmental Education Programs. Funding is exclusive of tuition and fees.

Universities are funded at $3.117 billion in state funds, exclusive of tuition and fees. While normally tuition and fees are included, the block tuition proposal in SB 2 resulted in this funding being removed from the total. Block tuition, if passed, will be university-by-university but cannot be a tuition increase. The Senate plan for state support exceeds House University spending by over $500 million. Much of that difference, $130 million, is a result of funding new programs should SB 2 pass.

University Performance Funding was increased by a total of $25 million to $525 million. State funding grows to $250 million and base funding of $275 million is continued.


HB 351 Secret Executive Searches

The bill, sponsored by Representative Bob Rommel (R – Naples), will create an exemption from public record and meeting requirements for information associated with the applicant recruitment process and discussions associated with the applicant search for president, provost, or dean at any state university, college, or community college. UFF opposes this legislation that permits a cloak of secrecy around the process of selecting university and college leadership.

The bill passed the Oversight, Transparency & Administration Subcommittee by a 10-3 vote with all Republicans voting yes. The next stop is the House Education Committee.


PCB GAC 2017-4, Florida Retirement System (FRS)

This legislation was posted online at the end of the day on Friday of Week 3 and was heard Tuesday morning, March 28th, at 8:00. The 63-page bill covered a multitude of FRS issues including 2017-18 contribution rates but the real serious change was reversing the default choice for future employees from the defined benefit plan to the defined investment plan.

This could have serious consequences on the FRS plan for the future and all the changes together increased the cost to the system. The real problem is that future retirement earnings on typical individual investment plans versus the defined benefit plan are much less.

This bill, available at the last minute with no specific committee references other than the Government Accountability Committee, is just another assault on the FRS defined benefit plan. The default reversal legislation has been filed repeatedly in the past.  This year, it appeared in such a stealth manner within House Rules but not in a transparent process that one might expect from its Legislature.