Flurry of education bills pass House
The Florida House is in a marathon session today taking up dozens of bills, many of them education-related. Here's a look at what passed this morning:
- HB 7089, sponsored by Rep. John Legg, R-Port Richey, puts Florida statutes in line with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and revises due process hearing requirements for parents of children with disabilities, among other changes. It passed 116-0.
- HB 281, sponsored by Rep. Mike Weinstein, R-Orange Park, allows purchasers of prepaid tuition contract scholarships to be refunded unused portions of the contract if that refund is used to purchase more prepaid scholarships. It passed 117-0.
HB 835, sponsored by Legg, creates a Gifted and Academically Talented Task Force to track gifted students and makes other provisions to improve the development of gifted students. At the beginning of the session, Legg said this bill was a top priority for him. It passed 115-0.
HB 885, sponsored by Rep. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, requires state university health centers to become in-network providers for top insurance companies and then recover the costs of medical care from those health plans, thereby making it possible for health fees to be reduced or eliminated. Lots of debate on this one, with some Democrats concerned the bill created an unfunded mandate for universities already facing budget cuts. It passed 111-7.
And finally, the big discussion of the morning was over HB 453, sponsored by Rep. Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, which expands and renames the Corporate Income Tax Scholarship Program to account for a change allowing insurance premium tax credits to be used to fund the program.
The program, to be named the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program, is a school choice program started in 2001. Some 24,000 students participate and Weatherford said the state saves $40 million a year by giving students and parents this choice.
Lots of debate on both sides and across parties. Still, it passed 95-23.