2012 Legislative Summary
Governor Rick Scott vetoed HB 7129 (April 27, 2012), State Universities of Academic and Research Excellence and National Preeminence, which would have provided the University of Florida additional financial resources, authority and flexibility.
This legislation presented the University of Florida with a pathway toward excellence and would have enabled the great State of Florida to have two world-class universities. Our state, expected to become the third largest in the country, deserves to lead the nation in innovative thinking, cutting edge research, economic development, job creation and exceptional quality of life – all things that come from great universities.
While we are very disappointed by this development, we will continue to pursue excellence in education, research and service and renew our commitment to serving our students and the people of Florida.
A summary of other items from the legislative session is below.
The Florida Legislature concluded its business on Friday, March 9, ending a session that brought significant policy changes for the State University System. The following report provides information on a select number of legislative items of particular interest to the University of Florida.
State Universities of Academic and Research Excellence and National Preeminence
HB7129/SB1752, known as the State Universities of Academic and Research Excellence and National Preeminence, is designed to raise the quality of higher education in Florida. It provides the financial resources, authority and flexibility needed to improve educational quality, advance our research enterprise, and move our best programs higher in the national rankings.
Universities that meet 11 of 14 high-level accountability measures qualify for the benefits of the legislation. Those measures relate to:
- Student grade point averages
- National rankings, including those for STEM fields of study
- Graduation rates
- Quality of faculty
- Amount of research expenditures
- Number of patents awarded from university research
The University of Florida meets all 14 measures and is therefore able to:
- Gain additional authority and flexibility from the Board of Governors
- Recruit the best and the brightest graduate students
- Charge market rate tuition
- Hire more top-flight faculty and reduce student-faculty ratio
- Require a signature course that will provide all students with a common experience
- Add value to a UF degree
In passing this legislation, the Florida Legislature recognized that quality higher education is important to the state economy and provided benchmarks and goals for higher education to achieve. Flexibility in programs, requirements for specific courses to teach critical thinking and the ability to raise tuition to the national average will make the University of Florida a better institution. (Vetoed by Gov. Scott on April 27, 2012)
FY 2012-13 Budget
Faced with a budget deficit, the Florida Legislature again reduced funding for the State University System.
The UF budget was cut by $36.5 million. In addition, the Legislature voted to reduce the employer contribution for faculty and staff in defined contribution pension plans by 2.27%, resulting in another $15.5 million cut to UF.
However, the UF appropriation does include funding and policy changes that will benefit the university, including $6 million for UF’s Academic and Research Center at Lake Nona, approximately $2 million for utilities, maintenance and infrastructure, and $2.5 million for Government House and a museum exhibit at St. Augustine.
The budget bill also allows UF to increase student fees for construction projects approved by students, and permits the university to bond student fees for a major expansion and renovation of Reitz Union, also supported by students. When complete, the Union will accommodate the growing demands of more than 920 student organizations, add the Center for Leadership & Service to the Union and replace outdated student government and multicultural facilities with a new 100,000 square foot multilevel structure.
IFAS fared well in the budget, receiving more than $6 million in funding for research, education and extension, with another $2 million for laboratories across the state. ($1.1 M for mosquito research vetoed by the Governor on April 17, 2011)
Once again, the Florida Legislature reduced Medicaid payments to hospitals. The FY 2012-13 reduction is 5.64 percent, which will cost Shands at UF $13.9 million and Shands Jacksonville $9.4 million. The FY 2011-12 budget cut these payments by 12.5 percent.
On the positive side, the legislature provided $7.5 million to the Shands Cancer Hospital for biomedical research and $9.7 million to Shands for indigent care. Another $12.2 million was made available for competitive grants for cancer research by universities and research institutions in the state, and Shands will be able to compete for those funds.
Two proposals that would have negatively impacted Shands were defeated in the Legislature. The first would have deregulated trauma centers, making it more expensive to operate Shands trauma centers in Gainesville and Jacksonville. The second would have forced Shands to contract with HMOs on terms unfavorable to Shands.
Other appropriations of interest to UF include $1 million to the Institute for Commercialization of Public Research. This organization, headquartered at Innovation Hub, connects investors and entrepreneurs who want to start businesses based on technologies developed by universities and research institutions.
The New World School of the Arts, a school for the visual and performing arts in Miami that is a joint venture between the UF College of Fine Arts and Miami Dade State College, received $400,000.
In its final hour of session, the Florida Legislature approved a bill that allows UF to self insure to provide health care coverage to faculty, staff and graduate students. The self insurance program will give UF more flexibility in meeting specific needs of employees and provide easier access to the unique programs and services of UF &Shands. (Vetoed by Gov. Scott on April 20, 2012)
The 2012 Legislative Session is January 10 – March 9.