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Amendment 7

First Responder and Military Member Survivor Benefits; Public Colleges and Universities

Source: Constitution Revision Commission

Quick Summary: Creates a supermajority requirement for universities to impose new or increase existing student fees; enshrines in the Constitution guidelines for the State College System; mandates that employers or the state pay a death benefit to first responders and members of the military killed in the line of duty.

Full Summary: This question has three parts.

  1. The first issue is a new requirement for supermajority votes when universities want to increase student fees or impose new ones (a CRC analysis of this proposal is here). Currently, a board of trustees overseeing a university needs a simple majority of its 13 members to increase student fees or add new ones. That request then needs approval from a majority of the state’s 17-member Board of Governors. Under this proposal, nine of the university’s 13 trustees must vote in favor, and 12 of the 17 members of the Board of Governors must approve the university’s request. This proposal does not address tuition, just fees such as those universities charge students to pay for athletics, health and transportation.

  2. The second part of this question would add a new section to the Constitution addressing the State College System, which includes Florida’s 28 institutions formerly known as community colleges (a CRC analysis of this proposal is here). While the Constitution currently addresses the responsibilities of school districts and universities, it is silent on state colleges. The additional language proposed in this section of the amendment includes a broad statement of purpose for the colleges, including offering bachelor’s degrees, as well as the role of each school’s board of trustees and the state Board of Education, which oversees the state college system.

The final part of this question creates a constitutional requirement for governments to pay death benefits when first responders they employ, or members of the military, are killed in the course of their duties (a CRC analysis of this proposal is here). Florida law already provides those benefits to survivors of law enforcement officers, corrections officers, firefighters and members of the National Guard. Those benefits include monetary payments to survivors, as well as waivers for educational costs. This amendment would provide a new constitutional guarantee of those benefits and would add paramedics, emergency medical technicians and members of the U.S. military who are residents of Florida or stationed here. The amount of the payments will be determined by the state Legislature. An analysis by the state Department of Management Services could not determine how much the additional military benefits would cost but noted that Florida has more than 90,000 men and women on active duty or in the reserves. If the amendment is approved, this part would take effect on July 1, 2019.

A YES vote on Amendment 7 would:

  • Force universities’ boards of trustees and the state Board of Governors to get supermajority approval from their members to increase student fees or impose new ones.
  • Make the governing framework for state colleges a part of the Constitution.
  • Create a constitutional requirement for state and local governments to pay death benefits to first responders.
  • Expand the definition of first responders under state law to include paramedics and emergency medical technicians.
  • Require the state to provide death benefits to members of the U.S. military who are either residents of Florida or who are stationed in the state.
  • Create an undetermined financial burden on local and state government from paying death benefits to a larger group of first responders and members of the military. The amendment does not specify a funding source for those payments.

Supporters:

Association of Florida Colleges

A NO vote on Amendment 7 would:

  • Continue allowing universities to increase student fees or impose new ones with a simple majority of votes from governing bodies.
  • Exclude a governing framework for state colleges from the Constitution, while keeping it in state law.
  • Continue providing death benefits for first responders through state law rather than making it part of the Constitution.
  • Maintain the current definition of first responders eligible for death benefits, which excludes paramedics and emergency medical technicians.
  • Continue providing death benefits to the families of National Guardsmen who are killed in the line of duty, but not extend those benefits to the families of U.S. service members who live in Florida.

Opponents:

League of Women Voters of Florida; Florida Education Association

P.O. Box 1911 Orlando, FL 32802-1911

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