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Week in Review | October 21-25, 2019

State representatives have wrapped up their third week of committee meetings in Tallahassee in preparation for the 2020 legislative session. During House committee meetings, members heard briefings and participated in important discussions on items ranging from public integrity and ethics discussions to abortion restrictions and state education improvements. The next committee week is scheduled for November 4-8, and the 2020 legislative session is slated to begin Tuesday, January 14.

House Health & Human Services Committee votes to protect human life

Parental consent is required for most medical procedures on a minor; abortion – one of the most life-altering decisions a person can make – should not be an exception.

HB 265, passed by the House Health & Human Services Committee, prohibits a physician from performing an abortion on a girl younger than 18 unless a parent consents or a court waives the requirement. This common-sense abortion restriction respects the fundamental right of parents in the upbringing of their child by allowing them to play an active role in life-altering decisions like abortion, and it protects children from having to consider such a decision without parental guidance and support.

The bill includes a robust judicial waiver process for minors in unique and challenging situations who cannot obtain parental consent. The Florida Supreme Court upheld the same judicial waiver process for parental notice, so lawmakers are confident this new consent provision is consistent with the Florida Constitution.

Superintendents offer insights on Florida classroom teacher compensation

Members of the House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee heard presentations from four school district superintendents on Florida classroom teacher compensation; those school districts included Jackson, Osceola, St. Johns and Sarasota counties. Each superintendent was asked to provide information on their process for setting and ratifying their district’s performance salary schedule for classroom teachers and for determining the amount they include in the base salary for highly effective and effective teachers.

Their presentations gave lawmakers additional insight into factors that superintendents suggest make it difficult for school districts to allocate funding for teacher compensation. While the state legislature allocates their overall funding in the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP), decisions about teacher salaries are made at the district level through collective bargaining. The districts are responsible for establishing the operational budget for their schools with the FEFP being the major funding source.

During the meeting, the superintendents emphasized a desire for recurring funds for pay raises. Some requested an overall increase to the Base Student Allocation – which would provide districts with continued flexibility in how they allocate state dollars – while others preferred clear guidance from the state legislature in terms of how funds should be spent.

House lawmakers will consider the information provided during this committee meeting as they craft a constitutionally required balanced state budget.

DEO shares findings with House lawmakers on innovation, future of workforce

Florida’s growing economy and record-low unemployment rate are something the state can be proud of, but with technological advances such as automation and artificial intelligence, the workforce of tomorrow will be different than today’s. A presentation to state representatives highlighted some of the workforce challenges and opportunities Florida will face in the future.

The Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) told members of the Workforce Development and Tourism Subcommittee that the workforce is evolving, and the skills needed for Floridians to thrive in it are changing, as well. While automation is expected to displace some workers, recent studies suggest that most jobs are not, in fact, at risk. Moreover, many of the jobs lost to automation are expected to be replaced by new opportunities that have adapted to technology and innovation.

DEO also noted that industries with the highest employment growth rate often require some type of postsecondary vocational training. Currently, only 47 percent of working-age Floridians have completed post-secondary education. In 2019, the legislature set a goal to increase that number to 60 percent by 2030. The Florida Talent Development Council has been tasked with submitting a strategic plan to the legislature by the end of 2019 in order to accomplish this goal.

House subcommittee hears report on opportunities for students with disabilities

The Higher Education & Career Readiness Subcommittee met with various presenters on the state of educational and career opportunities for students with disabilities. The Able Trust, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, Florida Center for Students with Unique Abilities, and Bureau of Exceptional Education and Student Services all offered reports on the important services they provide.

Under new leadership, The Able Trust is on track with its goal of enhancing employment of residents with unique abilities. The organization’s signature youth program, High School High Tech, saw a near 100 percent graduation rate in 2019, and 8 in 10 students who participated have since been employed or pursued postsecondary education. The Division of Vocational Rehab reported its 2018-19 data, which showed that the program has helped more than 5,500 people with significant disabilities obtain or maintain a job — a 24 percent increase over the previous year.

The Florida House of Representatives values Floridians with unique abilities and sees them as a vital part of the workforce. This committee will continue to highlight the benefits high-quality education has on career readiness.

House subcommittee continues discussion on student-athlete health concerns

The House PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee continued the discussion on health concerns for student athletes, hearing presentations by experts in both legislative policy and sports medicine. The Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA) and the Florida High School Athletic Association’s (FHSAA) Sports Medicine Advisory Committee presented new information about exertional heat illness and stroke preparedness and policies in Florida.

A senior policy analyst for OPPAGA said the office’s research found Florida ranks 14th among states for its use of nationally recognized best practices for the prevention and treatment of exertional heat stroke. In a survey of Florida schools, OPPAGA also found that 20 percent of respondents do not have protocols in place to prevent and respond to heat stroke emergencies.

A physician from the policy-making body for the FHSAA, the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, expanded on OPPAGA’s report by pointing out some procedural flaws when schools must handle life-threatening situations. The committee member offered several recommendations, including the development of a comprehensive practice plan that would provide schools with clear-cut procedures in case of a medical emergency.

House lawmakers are committed to prioritizing the safety of all of Florida’s high school student athletes.

CareerSource Florida outlines Hurricane Michael workforce recovery efforts

A year after Hurricane Michael tore through Northwest Florida — destroying homes, roads and businesses in its path — the area is still grappling with a shortage of workers and the decimation of workforce housing.

During the Workforce Development & Tourism Subcommittee meeting Wednesday, presenters from CareerSource Florida outlined workforce development efforts underway in response to Hurricane Michael’s devastation. CareerSource Florida has engaged in a digital outreach campaign to make residents aware of resources available to them. The organization has also put $1 million from the disaster recovery fund toward enhancing job seeker services and providing long-term recovery to Floridians who need it the most.

The Florida House is dedicated to getting residents back to work after natural disasters and will be monitoring workforce development efforts as recovery continues.

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