Florida House Passes Legislation To Make College More Affordable

By  //  April 26, 2015

Legislative Session Update

The House spent the majority of Week 8 on the floor discussing, debating, and voting on numerous pieces of legislation.
The House spent the majority of Week 8 on the floor discussing, debating and voting on numerous pieces of legislation.

TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — The House spent the majority of Week 8 on the floor discussing, debating and voting on numerous pieces of legislation.

One of the most important bills we passed this week was HB 7125, legislation designed to make college education more affordable for Florida families.

This good bill, part of our Work Plan 2015 joint legislative agenda, addresses college affordability issues in several ways.

First, it creates the Florida Apprenticeship Grant Program to expand apprenticeships and creates the Rapid Response Grant Program to increase technical center programs targeted to specific industries.

SEAL-OF-FLORIDA-2000This bill takes important steps to put graduate school education in reach for more Floridians by requiring universities to seek approval from the Board of Governors (BOG) for an increase in graduate tuition rates.

To help students purchase textbooks at lower prices, the bill requires institutions to post textbook International Standard Book Numbers (ISBN), which are unique numeric identifiers, no later than 45 days before the start of classes.

Students can use the ISBN on websites such as Half.com or Amazon.com to shop for textbooks at lower prices.

The bill also requires postsecondary institutions to conduct cost benefit analyses and report annually to their chancellors on the institution’s textbook selection process for general education courses and specific initiatives designed to reduce costs.

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The bill also codifies in statute the State University System Performance-Based Funding Incentive that has been previously implemented in proviso. Performance funding will help ensure colleges are offering meaningful degrees that will better prepare students for jobs and success careers.

The Florida House is committed to keeping the cost of higher education affordable in our state so more students have the opportunity to pursue their educational goals. This bill will help open doors to students who may think that college is out of their reach because of the financial hardship.

Houses Passes Local Pension Reform  

This week, the House passed Senate Bill 172 to reform local retirement plans for our city firefighters and police officers. The bill proposes what I believe are reasonable changes to city firefighter and police officer pension plans to help ensure the plans are stable and well-funded for the future.

By reforming these plans now, I believe we are taking the steps necessary to keep the retirement plans sustainable for our brave public servants and their families. By doing so, I also believe we are protecting the future of our police officers and firefighters who work hard to protect us from harm every day.

Empowering Persons with Disabilities

This week, the House passed several bills to expand pathways to economic independence for persons with disabilities, an important component of our Work Plan 2015 agenda.

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Senate Bills 642, 644, and 646 implement the federal ABLE Act in Florida. The Florida ABLE program created by these bills will assist individuals with disabilities and their families to save funds needed for future services without losing their eligibility for state and federal benefits.

Similar to the tax-advantaged college savings plans that allow families to responsibly save for their children’s education, the ABLE program will establish a tax-exempt investment plan for beneficiaries, who may use the funds to pay for qualified disability expenses.

Personal Learning Scholarships Accounts

SB 602 expands eligibility for Personal Learning Scholarships Accounts so a greater number of students with disabilities can benefit from the educational opportunities provided by the program.

These scholarships empower parents of students with disabilities to create a customized education plan by selecting appropriate placements or services that best meet the needs of their child.

I believe it is important to provide educational opportunities that will provide families the ability to achieve more successful outcomes for their children with disabilities.

I applaud the efforts of the Legislature to improve economic independence for persons with disabilities across our state.

For regular updates on House District 51, be sure to follow me on Facebook (Steve Crisafulli) and Twitter (@SteveCrisafulli).