Florida Capitol Report

An opening week of celebration to welcome in the new leaders of Florida’s state government was highlighted by the Inauguration of Governor Ron DeSantis, Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nunez, Attorney General Ashley Moody, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, and Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Fried. The mood was festive, yet business like, giving us multiple opportunities to discuss our legislative priorities with Legislators and new members of the Florida Cabinet. We are eager to get going and excited for what the future holds.

Florida Police Benevolent Association’s Board of Directors set several priorities for the upcoming session. Most of the items are from previous years:

  • Our state employees’ bargaining units request for yearly pay raises
  • Restoring the Florida Retirement Systems’ (FRS) Cost of Living Benefit (COLA)
  • Reverting to the 25 years and out years of service for FRS Special Risk Class members hired after July 1, 2011
  • Defending Municipal Police pensions

This session, the board added the following items:

  • Updating Florida law to allow probable cause for an arrest after a Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) match (or hit)
  • Upgrading texting while driving to a primary offense
  • Criminal justice reform with an emphasis on the Florida Department of Corrections

The agenda is not complete since there are several other areas in terms pay, retirement and public policy that we will be involved with before the session ends on May 3, 2019.

Our lobbying team had contact with legislative budget leaders to begin discussions on across the board pay raises and career development plans for our state employee bargaining units. The budget outlook has slightly improved since the last Capitol Report correspondence which is encouraging. The next step will be negotiations with the Department of Management Services (DMS) over each sides wage proposal. The proposals will be sent to the Legislature for final determination. The process will take place over the entirety of interim committee weeks and the full legislative session.

Our team also discussed a Florida Retirement System study request with new leaders in the Legislature. We have been talking to members of the leadership since the early summer of last year. A new actuarial impact study will have to be complete before the Legislature can enhance any of the FRS benefits. We are requesting several options to examine restoration of the COLA, restoring years of service and age. Our sponsors for the Legislation are Senator Joe Gruters and Representative Chuck Clemons.

We also discussed updating Florida law to allow a CODIS hit to grant probable cause for an arrest instead of probable cause to take a DNA sample from the match in the CODIS. The law was created back when DNA science was in its infancy. Today, DNA sample are as accurate as a latent fingerprint. Our position is as follows – waiting for the results of a DNA match following a CODIS hit unfairly places the public in danger. Not to mention, the delay gives a suspect time to flee.

All in all, this week was successful.

Our lobbying team and a great many of PBA elected officials were able to attend the Inaugural events while also advancing our issues for the upcoming session.