Archive for May 5, 2008

Florida Legislature 2008:

What passed, failed
A roundup of bills in each sector

BUSINESS REGULATION

Passed

Foreclosure fraud — Increase disclosure requirements for foreclosure-related services (HB 643)

Annuity regulation — Increase penalties on sellers who pressure elderly to buy annuities they don’t need or want (SB 2082)

Failed

Crane regulation — Require certification of cranes and crane operators (SB 1316/HB 609)

Toilet paper — Require public bathrooms to meet cleanliness standard and provide toilet paper (SB 386/HB 437)

Online dating — Require online dating companies to disclose to paying subscribers whether they do background checks (SB 1536 /HB 354)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Passed

Alan Crotzer — Former St. Petersburg man collects $1.25-million for 24 years in prison on wrongful rape conviction (HB 7037). Signed by governor.

Wrongful incarceration — Exonerated individuals can receive $50,000 per year in prison if they have not had a prior felony conviction (SB 756)

EDUCATION

Passed

High school grading/FCAT — Reduce emphasis of FCAT results in high school grades, tweaks FCAT writing exam and pushes FCAT exam dates later in school year (SB 1908)

End of term exams — Establish end-of-course exams in high school to complement the FCAT (SB 1908)

Curriculum — Replace Sunshine State Standards with “Next Generation” standards for all subject areas by 2011; make it easier to qualify to teach foreign languages (SB 1908)

Teacher ethics — Strengthen penalties for misconduct (SB 1712)

Physical education — Require middle schools to provide 30 minutes of PE weekly (SB 610)

Vouchers — Expand by $30-million a year the corporate income tax credit scholarships that give students tuition for private schools (HB 653)

Antibullying — Require schools to ban harassment of students (HB 669)

Failed

Class size — Give schools more flexibility to meet class-size requirements (HB 7043, SB 1756)

Evolution — Require teachers to present critical analysis of evolution theory (HB 1483); protect teachers who present critical views on evolution (SB 2692)

65 Percent — Require schools to spend at least 65 percent of operating budget in classrooms (HB 1463). Failed but put on November ballot by the Florida Taxation and Budget Reform Commission

Baggy pants — Ban students from exposing below-waist underwear in public school (SB 302/HB 335)

Governance — Ask voters to shrink the size and scope of universities’ governing board, helping clarify the Legislature as universities’ tuition setter; and reinstate an elected education commissioner (SJR 2308)

Charter schools — Toughen standards for financial management; establishes anti-nepotism rules (SB 1652/HB 1301)

ELECTIONS

Failed

Public financing — End taxpayer financing for qualified statewide candidates (SJR 956/HJR 277)

Open primary elections — Open primaries to all voters when all major party candidates are from same party regardless of write-in candidates (SB 2776)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Passed

Greenhouse gas — Establish Southeast’s first gas emissions market (HB 7135)

Everglades — Budget appropriates $50-million, half of last year’s total (HB 5001)

Florida Forever — Land-buying program extended for 10 years with $300-million annual funding (SB 542)

Transmission lines — Ease utilities’ ability to run lines through state preservation lands (HB 7135)

Nuclear power — Endorse nukes as low-carbon option (HB 7135)

Coral reefs — Ban dumping sewage off state’s east coast but not until 2025 (SB 1302).

Plastic bag ban — Prohibit local governments from banning plastic bags (HB 7135)

Failed

Growth management — Close loopholes that allow changing growth plans to accommodate developers (SB 474)

Recycling — Require airports and state agencies to recycle (SB 692/HB 301)

GAMBLING

Failed

Video lottery terminals — Allow parimutuels to add VLTs (SB 1380)

Quarter horse racing — Exempt current permit applicants from tougher regulations (SB 604/HB 1009)

GOVERNMENT

Failed

Property appraiser — Require private land owned by elected county property appraiser be assessed for tax purposes by non-related appraiser (HB 127)

Double-dipping — Limit when state pensioners can also draw a state salary (SB 2848)

Growth management — Prohibit local governments from having referendums on land use changes (HB 7129)

Road paving — Open more maintenance contracts to private contractors (HB 683)

HEALTH CARE

Passed

Uninsured — Create low-cost insurance plans for low-income Floridians (SB 2534)

Christian care — Give religious groups that provide access to health care an exemption from being regulated under insurance codes (SB 2534)

Autism — Require insurers to cover autism in children (SB 2654)

Hospital expansion — Streamline the rules making it easier to build new general hospitals (SB 2326)

Failed

Abortion — Require women seeking a first-trimester abortion to have an ultrasound and be offered an explanation of the images (SB 2400/HB 257)

Alzheimer’s — Place Johnnie B. Byrd Sr. Alzheimer’s Center & Research Institute under USF (SB 1080/HB 5089 )

Mental health parity — Mandate benefits for mental illness match physical illness (HB 19/SB 164)

IMMIGRATION

Failed

Status verification — Require government programs or employers to verify immigrants’ status or report undocumented workers (HB 73, 159, 571, 821, 1247 and various related Senate bills)

Deportation — Allow jailed undocumented immigrants to be deported after serving half their sentence (HB 577/ SB 540)

PROPERTY INSURANCE

Passed

Rate freeze — Freeze Citizens rates through Jan. 1, 2010 (SB 2860)

Doubled fines — Fine insurers up to $40,000 for unfair trade practices (SB 2860)

Nonpayment — Consumers could sue insurers for refusing to pay undisputed part of claim in 90 days (SB 2860)

Use and file — Ban insurers, through 2009, from charging a rate before approval by regulators (SB 2860)

Dropped policies — Insurers would have to give notice before dropping more than 10,000 policies in a year (SB 2860)

Transparency — Make the state’s actuaries’ work open to public review (SB 2860)

Insurer loans — Borrow $250-million from Citizens to fund low-interest loans for startup insurers (SB2860)

Citizens study — Commission to study state-run insurer (SB 2860)

My Safe Florida Home — Added a no-interest loan program to the state’s hurricane mitigation program for homeowners (HB 7103)

PUBLIC SAFETY

Passed

Guns at work — Employees with concealed weapons permits can leave guns in locked car at work (HB 503). Signed by governor.

DNA — Expands list of offenders who must submit biological specimens (HB 29). Signed by governor.

Concealed weapons — Restrict concealed weapons licenses to citizens and permanent resident aliens; extends license from five years to seven (SB 948)

Marijuana — Make it a third-degree felony to own a house where marijuana is being cultivated and reduces number of plants from 300 to 25 for a person to be convicted of a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison (HB 173)

TAXES

Passed

Highest and best — Limit assessment practice known as “highest and best” in which commercial property is valued at its future potential, not current use (HB 909)

Failed

Sales tax holiday — One-week tax break on back-to-school supplies (HB 893/SB 2094)

Gas tax cut — Reduce gas taxes for two-week period this summer (SB 1838)

Hurricane tax holiday — Twelve-day tax break on hurricane preparedness items (SB 86/HB 111)

Internet tax — Lay the groundwork to join compact to collect tax on Internet sales (SB 962/HB 1393)

Corporate tax — Close loophole allowing multistate companies to avoid taxes by shifting income to subsidiaries elsewhere (SB 2766/HB 1237)

Strip-club tax — Add $1 surcharge to strip club admissions to help low-income nursing home residents (HB 751)

TRANSPORTATION

Passed

Crosswalks — Require drivers to stop when pedestrian is in the crosswalk (SB 154)

Hybrid cars — Allow hybrid, low-emission or energy-efficient vehicle in a high-occupancy lanes (SB 1992)

Toll hikes — Give local expressway authorities the option to index tolls to inflation every five years to enhance bonding abilities (SB 682)

Failed

Alligator Alley — Lease the South Florida highway to Lawton Chiles Endowment to generate $500-million for road construction (SB 1978)

Cell phones — Prohibit cell phone use for those younger than 18 while driving (SB 504/HB 193)

CSX — Provide immunity from liability to railroad to seal $650-million deal for commuter rail in Orlando (SB 1978 / HB 1399)

Toll hikes — Increase Florida Turnpike tolls 25 percent (SB 1978)

Truck Nutz — Ban displays of car accessory that resembles reproductive parts of a bull (SB 1992)

MISCELLANEOUS

Passed

Slavery apology — Resolution expressing state regret for involuntary servitude of Africans (SB 2930)

State tortoise — Designate gopher tortoise as official state tortoise (SB 542)

State song — Remove racially offensive lyrics of Old Folks at Home and name as state anthem Where the Sawgrass Meets the Sky (SB 1558)

U.S. flag — Give homeowners the right to fly U.S. flag or military flag on free-standing pole. (SB 1378)

Failed

Anatomical parts — Ease museum transport of plastinated bodies for educational use (SB 728)

“I Believe” license plate — Create specialty tag for license (HB 401/SB 2010)

Toxic toys — Ban manufacture, distribution and selling of toys that contain toxic substance. (SB 886)

Source: Florida Trend

It would be really nice if we could get the freaking FCAT results in time for the seniors that haven’t yet PASSED the damn thing to know if they’re going to get a high school diploma. Oh, sure, it doesn’t matter except to them. Another case of passing the damn laws and not knowing/caring how it affects the students.

We have serious problems with illegal aliens, drug and human smugglers, gang murders, soaring and unaffordable insurance rates, and what solutions have we been offered? Proposed laws regulating toilet paper, truck nuts, and carbon capping for a nonexistent problem by idiots that equate carbon dioxide to pollution. (It’s called plant food.)

You legislators believe in out of control global warming because Al Gore said so? Then why in the hell is it now too cold in my northeast Florida county to grow the commercial orange groves which were here at the turn of the last century? If y’all knew the history of Florida, maybe you wouldn’t be wasting our (taxpayer) money on such foolishness.

When they come up for election again, I’m not voting for a damn single one of them that is in office now.

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Revisions in FCAT are Among Changes in Education

TALLAHASSEE — Baggy pants won’t be outlawed, but the bullies will have to be stopped. Students and teachers will have more time to prepare for the FCAT.

Middle school students will have to take P.E. class. And high schools won’t be graded solely on test results.

University and community college students will pay more. But they’ll see larger classes and service cutbacks.

These are among the changes for public classrooms in Florida, under legislation that passed during the session that ended Friday. Gov. Charlie Crist is expected to sign the plans into law.

The former Okaloosa schools superintendent, Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, was behind one of the most significant changes for K-12. Lawmakers approved his plan (SB 1908) to reduce the emphasis of the FCAT exam in determining high schools’ state grades. Only freshmen and sophomores take the reading, math and writing tests.

Gaetz’s bill makes the FCAT only 50 percent of a high school’s grade. Other factors like graduation rates, student participation and passage of Advanced Placement and IB exams will now determine the grade as well.

Gaetz’s plan also requires the FCAT testing schedule be changed by the 2010-11 school year, so that the writing exam doesn’t happen until the end of February and the other subjects not before mid April.

“Pushing the FCAT back is probably one of the better ideas that came from this session,” said Mark Pudlow, spokesman for the Florida Education Association. “And the idea that school grades won’t be solely hinging on FCAT is a step in the right direction.”

The same bill calls for a revision of public school curriculum standards, something House leaders tacked on as a priority of Speaker Marco Rubio. The curriculum, to be developed and adopted over the next three years, will include more rigorous standards for language, math and science. It also emphasizes technology, “media literacy,” foreign languages and civics.

“The three R’s are no longer enough,” said a House education leader, Rep. Joe Pickens, R-Palatka.

Lawmakers approved a bill to ban bullying (HB 669), and another to establish more stringent ethics standards for K-12 teachers (SB 1712).

For universities and community colleges, they are recommending a 6 percent tuition hike for Florida undergraduates that Crist says he will approve for fall 2008 (HB 5001).

Meanwhile, a “differential tuition” approved last year for the University of South Florida will allow officials to charge up to 30 percent more to new undergraduates on the main campus.

UF, Florida State University and likely the University of Central Florida and Florida International University also will be able to charge a differential.

The revenue will help universities that lost tens of millions of dollars because of the state budget deficit, but college classrooms will be more crowded and the course offerings more scarce.

“Our state university students will have less and pay more,” said Sen. Charlie Justice, D-St. Petersburg, who is an academic adviser at the University of South Florida.

Source: TampaBay.com

So, we’re going to have more rigorous standards in schools to include more technology, more and tougher classes for the students with courses in “media literacy” for any kids out there that aren’t having affairs with felons that they met on FaceBook or MySpace or haven’t yet posted a video of somebody being beaten up to YouTube and, along with all other increased standards, the middle schools need to have 30 minutes worth of PE carved out of a schedule full of academic classes. Oh, yeah, and the schools also need to stop “bullying” and improve test scores.

The public school systems have less money to spend for “technology”, books, teachers to include special education teachers, P.E. teachers, art teachers, music teachers, and core curriculum teachers, salaries, raises, benefits such as health insurance which is already taking up a big chunk of school employee salaries if they have dependents, bus drivers, aides, custodians, maintenance workers, etc.

I do wish that when legislators up there in their ivory capital pass laws about what schools and teachers have to do without any actual funding to do it, they’d have the grace to at least look embarrassed about the way they’re screwing everybody. Unfortunately, I don’t believe they have a clue. They’re busily patting themselves on the back because even though lil’ Johnny may not be able to read, believes in global warming, and can’t do math, they’re by Gawd taking steps against childhood obesity (without actually funding any extra PE teachers).

*Sigh*. Administrators and teachers throughout the state didn’t suddenly decide to cut recess or P.E. or playing outside. Nope. That would have been the fault of the Florida Legislature mandating what has to be taught so the kids could pass the FCAT.

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