After another sixty days, Florida’s regular legislative session adjourned on Friday, March 8 after passing 211 bills and a balanced budget totaling $117.46 billion.

FCAN has released a recap brief to provide an overview of the higher education legislation passed. Some of the bills covered were highlighted during the webinar on April 2 with panelists including Representative Lauren Melo (R – Naples), Representative Jervonte Edmonds (D – West Palm Beach), and Nicole Washington of Washington Education Strategies.

Unless otherwise noted, all bills and the budget are waiting for Governor DeSantis’ signature as of the date of this release.

Senate Bill 7032
Rep. Melo discussed her focus on nontraditional student populations in Florida.

Senate Bill (SB) 7032 creates the Graduation Alternative to Traditional Education (GATE) Program to provide an alternative educational pathway for individuals ages 16 to 21, who have dropped out of high school and do not have a diploma and additional education. Students enrolled in the GATE program would have the opportunity to earn a diploma and career certificate or industry certification at no cost.

The bill also highlights 32 counties in Florida, labeled as areas of opportunity to focus this program in. Rep. Melo mentioned that these counties are defined as such based on designations from the Governor. Some of these counties include Baker, Calhoun, Collier, Hardee, and Palm Beach.

Among the various initiatives for the GATE Program, Rep. Melo shared that about $14.7 million was allocated in the budget.

House Bill 1285
Referenced as one of this year’s education omnibus bills, Rep. Melo also shared portions of House Bill (HB) 1285 focused on higher education.

The Office of the Ocean Economy will be housed at Florida Atlantic University with an intent to connect Florida’s oceanic resources to economic development strategies and opportunities. Florida College System (FCS) institutions can opt into offering this new specialized transfer degree for AA programs that may require additional coursework prior to transferring to a university.

Senate Bill 62
Rep. Edmonds covered SB 62 and shared how this evolved from an initial conversation with Miami Dade College.

This bill ensures additional opportunities for previously incarcerated individuals in Florida. The bill states that an individual may not lose their resident status for in-state tuition purposes due to incarceration. Rep. Edmonds shared the broad makeup of his district and highlighted the workforce needs of Palm Beach county, while also recognizing the impact educational access can have on those who are currently or have been previously incarcerated.

Fiscal Year 2024-2025 Budget: $117.46 Billion
Nicole Washington provided an overview of the budget for fiscal year 2024-2025. The Governor has until July 1, the start of the new fiscal year, to sign. Major items are listed below.

  • State University System: $4.96 billion
    • $645 million for performance-based funding incentives
  • Florida College System: $1.72 billion
    • $30 million for student success incentive funds
  • Bright Futures: $616.9 million
  • Effective Access to Student Education (EASE) Grant: $134.8 million
    • Includes new EASE Plus for students in select critical workforce programs
  • Pathways to Career Opportunities Grant Program: $20 million
  • Workforce Capitalization Grant: $100 million

Additional Bills

  • SB 494: Graduate Program Admissions sponsored by Senator Bryan Avila (R – Hialeah Gardens)
    • State universities shall waive the GRE and GMAT requirement for servicemembers applying to a graduate program.
  • SB 7016: Health Care sponsored by Senator Colleen Burton (R – Lakeland)
    • Part of the Live Healthy Act to address healthcare workforce shortages and includes the Dental Student Loan Repayment Program, the Florida Reimbursement Assistance for Medical Education Program, and expands the current Linking Industry to Nursing Education (LINE) Program. The bill also creates the new Training, Education, and Clinicals in Health (TEACH) Funding Program.
    • Signed on March 21 and takes effect on July 1.
  • HB 917: Career and Technical Education (CTE) sponsored by Representative John Snyder (R – Stuart)
    • Provides increased agency coordination for CTE and outlines the process for the creation of a statewide asset map to inform relevant stakeholders of ways they can partner and expand CTE opportunities for students.
  • HB 5101: Education sponsored by Representative Josie Tomkow (R – Polk City)
    • Provides policy provisions for the education budget, including renaming the current Florida Law Enforcement Academy Scholarship Program to the Florida First Responder Scholarship Program. It has been expanded to include EMTs, paramedics, and firefighters.

Show Notes:

To learn more and watch the webinar, take advantage of these resources:

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