UFF’s work to advocate on behalf of our members and higher education now pivots to the 2021 Florida Legislature. In fact, this work began shortly after the November election when local chapters were supplied with a template and encouraged to send letters to all elected and reelected legislators, congratulating them and introducing their UFF chapter representatives. We see this as the first step towards building healthy, long-term relationships with our legislators, regardless of party.
UFF’s Government Relations Committee’s structure and programs will be expanding and evolving this year. In addition to the statewide GR Committee chaired by Matthew Lata, there will be several subgroups and working groups coordinated by President Karen Morian. Additionally, we will be assisting the chapter GR Committees with their lobbying efforts and local work by providing assistance and resources.
*If you are interested in getting involved, please reach out to your local chapter leaders.
Our top state legislative priority, as always, is funding. We hope to preserve the 2020 budget that they passed last year, and which funds the state through the end of June 2021.
We are currently watching several pieces of proposed legislation of particular interest to UFF and Higher Education. Some include ideas and changes we have seen before:
STATE GROUP HEALTH INSURANCE
UFF will be monitoring prospective changes to the State Group Health Insurance plan. As this affects our university faculty, UFF will work in partnership with the FL AFL-CIO and other public-sector unions whose members would be impacted by any such changes.
FLORIDA RETIREMENT SYSTEM
UFF will be monitoring prospective changes to the FRS, including language which would close the defined benefit option to new hires which could destabilize the system. UFF will be working in partnership with the FL AFL-CIO and other public-sector unions retirement security options for all public employees. This will be a costly and disastrous change to one of the country’s strongest retirement systems.
SB 220 is an attempt to remove state college and university president searches from the oversight required by Florida’s Sunshine Laws. UFF opposes this bill as these decisions should be made transparently. We believe the lack of transparency opens up this process to all manner of corruption. Rep. Ramon Alexander (D-Tallahassee) is expected to again sponsor this in the House. As it takes a 2/3 vote to remove proceedings from the Sunshine, we will push to stop this in the Senate (again) this year. We will need your engagement and testimony to keep searches in the sunshine, not in the shadows.
HB 233/SB 264 would require an annual assessment of the “members of the college community” (including universities and colleges), asking people to reveal their political perspectives and beliefs, without indicating how this information would be used. There are several reasons to oppose this bill: it is an unnecessary expense, it has not been statistically valid in other states (and yet they reference those surveys to support the need here in Florida, it would open up the possibility of a political litmus test tied to employment (last year conservative Senator Rob Bradley likened it to McCarthyism and urged that it be voted down every time it came back), it includes language which would allow students to film faculty in class and disseminate the film online, but has no reciprocity for faculty. In addition to our Tallahassee leaders, our UFF-FAU and UFF-FGCU leaders have done important work by meeting with their legislators and providing them with important information.
SB 78 is a government overreach/union-busting bill that would require public employee union members to re-join the union every time we have a new CBA or every three years. It also inserts the institutions’ HR departments between members and the union, requiring them to verify with the member that they did, indeed, intend to join their union. As of now, there is no timeline for how long HR can take to process a renewal form, problematizing an individual’s active membership status and raising questions about whether they are covered by the union insurance policy or for grievance purposes. UFF and FEA made a huge impact in speaking in committee against this bill, reinforced by thousands of emails from members opposing the bill. For now, it has been “temporarily postponed” but we will need to stay engaged.
HB 553/SB 176 The Graduate Assistant fee waiver bill is one we have been working on for a number of years. These fees have risen exponentially over the last decade, rendering meaningless the hard-won tuition waivers and stipend increases our union has secured. Thanks to Senator Cruz and House Representative Goff-Marcil for sponsoring this bill. Its path begins in the Senate Education committee. Our Graduate Assistants United members have been reaching out to legislators and raising awareness on the plight of many grad workers who have been forced to choose between childcare, medicine, and fees. We have reason to hope that some version of this will pass this year, but we must fight for this to be a priority.
HB 281/SB 0052 is a large post-secondary education bill, most of which UFF has no position on. However, it does include some bonus-pay-for-new hires language which may conflict with existing collective bargaining agreements. It also provides public funding for private dual enrollment high school students to attend public college. We are not in favor of either of these sections.
HB 6001 is a Guns-on-Campus Bill (UFF Senate has passed a resolution opposing this.) This bill does not have a lot of support in the leadership, nor does it have a Senate companion bill.
To stay up to date, follow UFF on social media:
OR sign up to track bills at:
OR follow the Legislature yourself on the Florida Channel: https://thefloridachannel.org/
Karen Morian, UFF President
Jaffar Ali Shahul-Hameed, UFF First Vice President
and Candi Churchill, UFF Executive Director
UFF has been well represented in committee meetings by our Tallahassee members: Martin Balinsky, Matthew Lata, Vincenza Berardo, Ben Serber, Jordan Scott, and Krystal Williams from UFF-TCC, UFF-FSU, FSU-GAU and FAMU-GAU.
We have had assistance from our Executive Director Emeritus and current UFF consultant (Marshall Ogletree) and our colleagues in the FEA Public Policy and Advocacy department (Cathy Boehme and Yale Olenick).
Our sincerest thanks to all.
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