In the Spotlight: 2009 Legislative Session Update: Determining future path of workforce education and manufacturing in Florida

With the close of the extended 2009 Regular Session of the Florida Legislature about to take place, several issues important to workforce education and manufacturing have been secured. This session was dominated by the state of the economy and the federal stimulus package. The one remaining task that will still profoundly affect us – the governor's review and approval of the budget– is still in the works. Against that backdrop, outlined below are highlights of some issues that the Manufacturers Association of Florida and Florida Association of Community Colleges have been tracking and the subsequent outcomes.

What Passed
· HB 127 – Enterprise Zones, Authorizes City of Ocala to apply to OTTED for designation of enterprise zone; provides application deadline; provides requirements for area of enterprise zone; requires OTTED to establish effective date of enterprise zone.

· HB 485 – Fast Track Economic Stimulus for Small Businesses, Provides tax credit for new market development. This economic stimulus bill for small businesses revises New Markets Development Program tax credit; providing for a tax credit for making certain qualified equity investments.
· HB 521 - Ad Valorem Tax Assessment Challenges that lowers the burden of proof in property tax challenges

· HB 903 - Workers Compensation, Seeks to hold down workers compensation insurance costs by clarifying attorney's fees in workers' compensation cases. Clarifies requirements for payment of fees & costs under retainer agreement; specifies amount of attorney's fees which claimant is entitled to recover from carrier or employer.

· SB 1616 – Career & Adult Education, renames the Division of Workforce Education within the DOE as the "Division of Career and Adult Education”; revises the membership of the Seaport Security Officer Qualification, Training, and Standards Coordinating Council by replacing the chancellor of the Community College System with the Commissioner of Education; provides an exception for adult high school students regarding certain prerequisites for high school graduation. OPPAGA study comparing public with private program offerings; amendment pending that will take on Senate OPPAGA study with cost to student.
· HB 7031 – Economic Development, Innovative Incentive Program, Alternative and Renewable Energy, & SIC to NAICS Code Conversion, The Innovation Incentive Program is created within the Office of Tourism, Trade, and Economic Development to ensure that sufficient resources are available to allow the state to respond expeditiously to extraordinary economic opportunities and to compete effectively for high-value research and development, and innovation business, and alternative and renewal energy projects.

Defines "Alternative and renewable energy" to mean, “electrical, mechanical, or thermal energy produced from a method that uses one or more of the following fuels or energy sources: ethanol, cellulosic ethanol, biobutanol, biodiesel, biomass, biogas, hydrogen fuel cells, ocean energy, hydrogen, solar, hydro, wind, or geothermal.”

Amends statute so that the rate of taxation on the purchase of such electricity or gas, when purchased by an industrial consumer which uses the electricity or gas directly in industrial manufacturing, processing, compounding, or a production process, is aligned with the five-digit NAICS Industry Major Group rather than the outdated SIC Number.

· SB2682 - Florida College System, Renames the Division of Community Colleges as the Division of Florida Colleges, defines the terms “Florida College” and “community college”, and specifies the counties served by each college. To allay fears that the demise of two-year programs will result with the expansion of the baccalaureate movement, specific language has been included in the bill that re-emphasizes the core mission of the system. Moreover, it specifically states that a college may not terminate its associate degree programs as a result of being authorized to offer one or more baccalaureate programs. All four-year offerings proposed must meet the scrutiny of workforce demand for the degree within the geographic region to be served.

In keeping with the most recent updates from Nancy Stephens, executive director of MAF, when the final appropriations bill is passed, we expect to see $3.3 million for Quick Response Training (a decrease in funding from previous years, but an increase over what was originally proposed), $4 million for Incumbent Worker Training ($2 million from state, $2 million from federal stimulus dollars for an overall increase), and $13.4 million for the Enterprise Florida Closing Fund (a decrease).