2013 Legislative Summary

The Florida Legislature concluded its 2013 session on Friday, passing legislation that recognizes the University of Florida’s preeminence in the State University System (SUS) and provides funding for a variety of projects that will advance our academic and research programs.

FY 2013-2014 is the first year since 2006 that the SUS has not experienced a budget cut.  Instead, the legislature restored $300 million in funding that was cut last year and provided additional appropriations for the system. 

The level of funding UF received this session is unprecedentedcompared to recent years, and we thank the Florida Legislature for its support of our university and higher education. 

The following is a list of highlights from the legislative session.  Most of the items are pending Governor Scott’s approval.

Preeminence Bill - Signed into law by Governor Rick Scott on April 22, this bill designates the University of Florida as a Preeminent University in the state and provides $15 million per year for five years to help UF attain our goal of becoming a top ten public university.  The funds will enable UF to attract and retain outstanding faculty to advance our academic and research missions.

The legislation also awards UF the state's new Institute for Online Learning and appropriates $10 million to cover the start-up costs for this program, which will greatly expand the number of baccalaureate degrees available online.  Another $5 million is provided annually for operational expenses, beginning on July 1, 2013.

Performance Funding - The legislature voted this year to continue special support for universities that excel in Information Technology education.  UF received $3.75 million for the current year, and will be allocated the same amount for the next fiscal year.  Another performance funding program will distribute $20 million to universities based on certain metrics (percentage of students employed after graduation, average wages they earn and the cost per degree, for example).  A third funding program will divide $15 million among universities that successfully match degree production with job opportunities.

 Critical Deferred Maintenance - Important maintenance work on campus buildings has been postponed for several years due to budget cuts, and now the university is facing a critical situation with regard to roof, air conditioning, elevator and other major repairs.  The legislature provided $16.7 million to begin to meet this needed maintenance.

Tuition Fee Increase - The legislature authorized a 3 percent increase in the tuition fee. That will generate an additional $2.5 million per year for UF.

Pay raise - University employees will receive the first pay raise in 6 years.  The budget provides a $1,400 raise to employees earning $40,000 a year or less and a $1,000 raise for employees whose salaries exceed $40,000 a year.  There are also funds for $600 bonuses for eligible employees.

This will also help our efforts to become a top ten public university by attracting leading academicians and researchers to the State of Florida.

Chemistry Building - The legislature appropriated $15 million toward the construction of a new chemistry building.  The facility is needed because the  undergraduate teaching labs were built in 1947 and have not been significantly updated or expanded since that time.  Antiquated facilities and overcrowding compromise the university’s ability to offer a modern experience that the state’s best and brightest deserve and that prepares them well for careers in STEM disciplines.

UF/IFAS - UF/IFAS also did well this year, receiving $1 million for the Workload Formula, $850,000 for aquaculture research, as well as slight increases in mosquito/airborne disease research and water quality data collection.

Florida High Tech Corridor - The University of Florida partners with the University of South Florida and the University of Central Florida on this program, which matches state funds with industry investments to further university research.  The $2 million provided to UF in the FY 2013-2104 budget will help attract, retain and grow high-tech industries in the central Florida region.

St. Augustine Historic Properties - The Florida Legislature in 2007 voted to turn over to UF the state’s historic properties in St. Augustine, and since that time the university has been seeking support for renovating and promoting the site.  This year, the legislature provided $2.25 million to continue the renovation of Government House, construct facilities and produce a documentary to encourage tourism.

Reitz Union Expansion and Newell Hall Renovations - The Reitz Union is undergoing a renovation and expansion in response to growing student demand and the need for an upgraded and more energy efficient building.  The legislature authorized the University of Florida to spend $11.6 million from student capital improvement fees on phase two of the renovation.  The university -- with strong support from the students – sought bonding authority for another $8.4 million, to be underwritten by these fees, but the legislature did not approve that request. 

The students also supported a UF request to bond $13.3 million, underwritten by student capital improvement fees, to renovate the historic Newell Hall into a student study space, but that was rejected by the legislature, as well.

College of Medicine - After beginning the budget process with a $7 million cut, the College of Medicine ultimately had its funding restored, and received an additional $1 million from the legislature.  The legislature also appropriated $2.6 million to fund primary care residency positions.

Lastinger Center - The College of Education’s Lastinger Center also faced cuts in the initial budget phase, but was able to end the session with a $500,000 increase in its base budget .  The legislature also appropriated  $2 million  to support a pilot program to help Florida High School students learn algebra.  In addition, the College of Education received funding for a program to help high risk delinquent youth.

Florida Initiative on Neurodegenerative Disease (FIND) - UF is in partnership with Mt. Sinai Hospital in Miami, USF and Mayo to conduct research on Alzheimer’s Disease.  UF/Mt. Sinai will receive $1.25 million to support additional research activity and seek further funding from the National Institutes of Health.

Public Radio Emergency Network - UF’s WUFT-FM has joined with other public radio stations in Florida to create the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network, which will provide hurricane and tropical weather alerts statewide.  The legislature provided $2.13 for equipment and $1.3 million for operating costs for the network, which will be supported by weather content produced by UF's Multimedia Properties.  

New World School of the Arts - After years of budget cuts, the New World School of the Arts was given a $100,000 increase.  This program at Miami Dade College is a partnership between that college, UF College of Fine Arts and the Miami Dade Public Schools.

McKnight Brain Institute - The McKnight Brain Institute received $500,000 to fund the Brain Tumor Registry. 

Shands - The budget includes $3.3 million for Shands Cancer Hospital to fund an endowed chair in cancer research and $7.05 million for cancer research.



April 9, 2013 Update:

As the Florida House of Representatives and Senate begin the second half of the annual legislative session, their proposed budgets are advancing through their appropriations committees and are headed for floor votes. After five years of budget reductions, the State University System (SUS) is expected to receive an increase in funding for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2013.

Appropriations bills in the House of Representatives and the Senate  restore $300 million in SUS funding that was cut during last year’s session.  In addition, the House is proposing $65 million in Performance Funding that would be distributed among the universities according to metrics established by the Board of Governors.  The Senate would provide $45 million for three initiatives at $15 million each.

For the University of Florida, the House and Senate include in their appropriations bills $15 million per year for five years to help UF become a top ten public university.  This funding, which was also included in Governor Scott’s proposed budget, will be used to attract and retain outstanding faculty.

Another bill moving through the legislature would establish an institute for online learning at UF that would significantly increase the number of baccalaureate degree programs offered for fully online students.  The House and Senate have proposed a $15 million appropriation in FY  013-14 to start the effort and $5 million per year thereafter to support it.

Years of budget cuts required UF to defer maintenance work on campus buildings, and now UF is facing critical demand for repairs to roofs, plumbing, air conditioning and heating systems, elevators and other projects.  The House budget would provide UF $29 million for maintenance, with the Senate proposing $14 million.

A top priority for the university and our students is funding for the renovations of Reitz Union and Newell Hall.  Reitz Union is undergoing a massive expansion that will increase its size by 100,000 square feet, and approval for another $20 million is needed to complete phase two.  Newell Hall, one of the oldest buildings on campus, is now standing vacant due to needed repairs.  If the legislature approves $13.3 million for its renovation, the historic building will be opened again to provide more study space on campus for students.  Both projects are funded by fees that have already been approved and are paid by the students.

The legislature also intends to provide pay increases to state employees, including university faculty and staff.  The House would allocate to universities an amount equal to $1,400 per eligible employee and the Senate would support a 3% pay raise.

Other appropriations of interest include:

  • $2 million for the High Tech Corridor project that supports the transfer of UF technology from the laboratory to the marketplace (Senate);
  • $2.25 million for UF projects at historic St. Augustine (Senate);
  • $1 million for the College of Medicine to help offset a cut made last year (House);
  • $1.25 million (Senate) / $400,000 (House) for the Florida Initiative on Neurodegenerative Diseases;
  • $1 million to fund increased demand for IFAS research and extension activities (House);
  • $850,000 for IFAS for aquaculture research for Tropical Aquaculture in Ruskin and Clams in Cedar Key (House);
  • $500,000 (House) / -$1.2 million (Senate) for the Lastinger Center in the College of Education;
  • $180,000 for the Whitney Lab (Senate).

The House and Senate will resolve their budget differences in the coming weeks.

The Legislature is moving away from Medicaid Expansion per the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  Instead, the Senate has developed a plan to use the available federal funds from the ACA to extend health care coverage to more than one million uninsured through the creation of the Healthy Florida Program, with Florida KidCare as the model for delivering coverage (SB 1816 by Senator Negron).  The House has not yet offered a plan, but has spoken against the use of any federal funds under the ACA.  Hospitals support the Negron plan. 

Gators were everywhere in the Capitol last week.  Student Government President TJ Villamil, and others from SGA met with legislators and the Governor’s staff to support the Reitz Union and Newell Hall projects. 

On April 4, the students were joined by Faculty Senate President Cheri Brodeur, alumni and administrators for the annual Gator Day celebration.  The Alumni Association hosted a luncheon at the Capitol and Florida Blue Key concluded the day with a reception at the Governor’s Mansion, where Governor and Mrs. Scott greeted FBK members and guests.  Governor Scott also presented President Bernie Machen with the Governor’s Business Ambassador Award. 

Gator Day was also commemorated with resolutions passed by the Senate and House of Representatives. 


March 28, 2013 Update:

The Florida Legislature is in its fourth week of session, and there are several bills of interest to University of Florida Gators.  They are as follows:

Preeminence Bill (HB 7057) – This legislation provides funding in support of the University of Florida’s goal of becoming a top ten public university.  Under the bill, UF will submit to the Florida Board of Governors goals for achieving key performance metrics for national excellence.  Examples could include graduation rates, research funding, etc.  The effort would be funded by an appropriation of $15 million a year for five years, to be matched by UF with non-state funds.

The bill also establishes a separate set of standards for designating Florida universities as preeminent state research universities, and creates an institute for online learning for the university that ranks the highest on those measures.  The online institute will offer high-quality, fully online baccalaureate degree programs at an affordable cost and is funded with a one-time appropriation of $10 million and an ongoing appropriation of $5 million a year.

A similar bill, SB 1720, is pending in the Senate.

The Senate Education Appropriations bill contains the $15 million allocation for UF’s top ten goal.  It also includes language to begin an institute for online learning for the university that ranks the highest on specific measures.     

The Senate Education Appropriations committee has released a bill draft that restores the $300 million cut made last year to the State University System.  The House of Representatives has not yet considered its education appropriation bill but will be releasing proposed budget numbers shortly.


2013 Legislative Priorities

Florida Governor Rick Scott has announced his support for UF’s goal to become a top ten public university, and the university will be seeking funding for recruiting world-class faculty to help make that happen. 

In addition to faculty funding, UF’s requests include the following:

Chemistry Building - UF ranks in the top five chemistry departments nationally in Ph.D. production and is among the top 20 in bachelor’s graduates. Within the State of Florida, we account for 30 percent of all chemistry degrees. This new building will replace the current undergraduate chemistry teaching labs, which were built in 1947 and have not been significantly updated or expanded since that time. The existing building serves 2500 students per semester, but the current demand exceeds 3000 students and is growing. The new building would accommodate 4000 students per semester and meet the needs of increasing enrollment and interest in STEM disciplines.

Building maintenance - Budget cuts have delayed the necessary maintenance of utility systems, mechanical systems and roofs. UF is seeking funding to prevent the deterioration of campus buildings.

Florida High Tech Corridor (FHTCC) - UF is a member of this economic development organization that grows high tech companies through partnerships between companies and UF, UCF and USF.  State funds allocated to FHTCC are matched by high tech companies and used to support university research.

St. Augustine Historic Preservation - UF is seeking funds to continue restoration of the Government House, construct restrooms for St. Augustine visitors and produce a documentary film that will be used during the
upcoming 450th anniversary celebration.


The 2013 Legislative Session is March 5 - May 3, 2013.