2013 legislative bills to know

As the Florida legislative season opened Tuesday, higher education was a buzzword among the thousands of House and Senate bills that will be put forth in the coming months.

In his opening address, Speaker of the House Will Weatherford (R-Wesley Chapel) said education reform was the way toward fostering upward mobility.

Education solves problems that government cannot, he said. Florida needs nationally-acclaimed universities. We must break theparochial, narrow vision that has encouraged a culture of mediocrity.

Weatherford alluded to performance-based funding a concept that is likely to gain traction as the Board of Governors furtherdevelops ways to distribute funding between its 12 public universities.

We set the stage last year with an approach that we called pre-eminence, Weatherford said. …Every university will have the same opportunity to earn more funding through highachievement. No university will have a guaranteed outcome. By untethering our best to rise to the top we will lift the entiresystem. But equally important, we need an innovative universitythat utilizes and leverages technology in a way like never before.

Rep. James Grant (R-Tampa), who met with students who traveled to Tallahassee two weeks ago for USF Day at the Capitol, said in an emailstatement to The Oracle at the time that higher education would be prioritized.

I look forward to continuingthe dialog about ensuring opportunities for our graduates as they move into an evolving and global economy, he said. USF students are getting a first class education and we, as legislators, ought to be focused on providing an environment in Florida that creates first class opportunities for these graduates It is important for the university, students, and alumni to remain engaged and active in the legislative process.

The following bills pertaining to higher education will be introduced on the floor in the coming days, and can be tracked atwww.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Bills or at http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bills.

Bill titles: HB 11, 17 and 29; SB 180, 260, 268, 624

What these bills are about: Resident status for tuition purposes

Why these bills areimportant: These bills change the definition of who is allowed to qualify for in-state tuition. While some propose to eliminate the necessity of their parent or guardians citizenship or residential status to be used as a criteria for in-state tuition and thus allow the Florida-born children of undocumented immigrants the right to in-state tuition, other bills would allow veterans and military service personnel the right to in-state tuition.

Bill titles: HB 387; SB 526, 680, and 1440

What these bills are about: Changes in Bright Futures eligibility

Why these bills areimportant: These bills propose to increase eligibility requirements based on standardized test scores (ACT and SAT), repeal some requirements and allow volunteering for a public officials campaign to count toward Bright Futures community service requirement.

Bill Titles: HB 4025, SB 276

What these bills are about: Exemptions from tuition and fees

Why these bills areimportant: While the House bill proposes to repeal the existing statute that provides homeless students or students who lack a regular nighttime residence or sleeping accommodation with an exemption from tuition and fees, the Senate bill proposes to provide exemptions for all Mandarin and Portuguese course tuition and fees after a student takes an introductory course and receives a B grade or higher.

Bill Title: SB 1202

What this bill is about: Prohibition of credit card
solicitation on campuses

Why this bill is important: This bill would ban all advertising, marketing or merchandising of credit cards on state university campuses including via fliers, posters and vendor tables. This bill would prohibit banks and credit unions on campuses from providing applications or advertising during student orientations.

Bill Title: SB 920

What this bill is about: Tuition freezes

Why this bill isimportant: This bill received much attention when Gov. Rick Scott spoke of the idea at the time he released his budget. This proposal would freeze tuition rates for four years in an effort to help students have a better way to financially plan for their college years and provide incentive for students to graduate within four years something that would improve the State University Systems four-year graduation rate