BCPBA News

The Florida Capitol Report For The Week Ending Feb. 9

The halfway mark of the 2018 Legislative Session has arrived.

The major event of the week was the separate passages of the 2018-19 spending plans. As a state, Florida is now operating in the $80 billion range and, with these two proposals, we will be reaching and then eclipsing $87 Billion. Hard to believe.

The House and Senate have several areas of disagreement between the two spending plans. K-12 Education, Higher Education, Environmental, Health Care and Corrections are all areas where the plans diverge widely. The showdown over K-12 Education could prove to be quite a battle during the session’s second half. Monstrous battles over big spending items can suck the air out of the room. This leaves other issues as after thoughts. Our lobbying job will require constant contact with the legislative deciders in order to keep our issues “in play.”

Let’s review what remains “in play” at the halfway point of the session.

From a spending plan standpoint, PBA bargaining units are in at least one budget proposal … in some cases both proposals. That means pay raises are “in play” for the negotiations between the House and Senate.

The COLA legislation passed through a single Senate committee and it was workshopped in a House committee. That probably puts the issue “in play” to get funding for a special impact study which is a constitutional requirement for any benefit enhancement. If this COLA study occurs, we may have the opportunity to add in estimating the costs to reverse the age and years of service requirements for FRS employees hired after July 1, 2011. Getting an actuary to study the costs of both ideas in one study is “in play.”

The PTSD legislation has been heard in committees of both the House and the Senate thereby placing this issue in a position to pass by the end of session.

Both local pension bills are ready to be heard on the House floor. The process for local bills happens later in the session when the chambers follow a consent procedure. This procedure allows them to roll through multiple local bills in a short amount of time. The local pension bills seem to be on track to pass.

The electronic threats bill and the toll exemption for unmarked LEO vehicles are “in play” to pass this session, too. We had to amend the toll exemption bill onto another item (SB 1012) to get the issue moving in the Senate, but that is not uncommon.

Politics and legislating any issue can often be a struggle. Lobbying can be intense. It takes a strategy. PBA has put in a strategic plan for every issue that was mentioned up above and for several that are not being mentioned.

One key component of our strategy is to help elect supporters/allies of Law Enforcement, Correctional and Probation Officers and their families to important positions within our state. To facilitate building up our allies, PBA leaders met with multiple statewide candidates this week and outlined to them the hopes, dreams and struggles for officers and their families. We were impressed by each candidate.

There are 28 days left.

Thank you to everyone who lobbied with us this week:

Florida PBA President John Rivera, Senior Vice President Dick Brickman, Treasurer Ernie George, Vice President John “Kaz” Kazanjian, Vice President Mick McHale and Sergeant at Arms Jeff Marano

Broward County PBA Vice President Rod Shirvin

FHP Chapter President Bill Smith

Correctional Probation Officers Trusteeship Tony Highsmith

The Florida Capitol Report For The Week Ending October 24

We wrapped up the second legislative interim committee week in preparation for the 2018 Legislative Session. Our lobbying team spent much of the week gathering information from key staff members, legislators and other special interest groups. The budget outlook is still murky as a result of Hurricane Irma, yet the outlook is far from bleak . . . at least in my opinion.

Our legislative agenda is still taking shape, but, as I wrote in the last update, multiple issues are already in the process.

Priority funding for all of our state bargaining units continues to our primary budgetary consideration. We are lobbying for pay raises for State Law Enforcement Officers, Florida Highway Patrol, Lottery, FDLE Special Agents, and the Security Services Unit (including Correctional Officers, Probation Officers and Institutional Security Specialists). The Governor and agencies have put forward a spending proposal for State Law Enforcement, Highway Patrol and FDLE. The PBA bargaining teams are scheduled to begin bargaining with the Department of Management Services over those proposals on November 6. The Governor is asking for flexibility to fund the specific pay needs of each agency. Great idea. We are encouraged by what we have seen so far, but details need to be sorted over. Expect to see a list of each proposal following the November 6th bargaining session. PBA may put forward a pay proposal at a later negotiation unless an agreement is reached on the individual agency plans.

The PBA Security Services bargaining team has already put forward a pay proposal and we are scheduled for a second negotiation in mid-November. The team is asking for a 3% across the board increase with a 2% longevity step for every Security Services Unit officer (including Correctional Officers, Probation Officers and Institutional Security Specialists) with more than five years of state service. An additional $2,500 pay request for Probation Officers and Institutional Security Specialist is included to reach equity with FDC Correctional Officers. Probation Officers and Institutional Security Specialist were not included in last year’s pay raise for FDC Correctional Officers.

Anatrisha Jackson from our Correctional Probation Officers’ Trustee Board joined us in Tallahassee on Tuesday and Wednesday. She met with several legislators and staff to educate them on the probation officers’ role within the criminal justice system and why a pay raise is needed to keep officers at the agency.

We are also working closely with the Florida Professional Firefighters to secure sponsors for legislation restoring, or restructuring, the Florida Retirement System Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA). The COLA was suspended on July 1, 2011 and with each passing month the COLA accrual rate continues to drop. We are eager to address this problem and we remain hopeful that the full Legislature can support us.

Senator Lauren Book (SB 376), Senator Victor Torres (SB 126) and Representative Matt Willhite (HB 227) have filed legislation to reform worker’s compensation coverage for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Current law requires that coverage be provided when the mental or nervous system injury results from a physical line of duty bodily injury. As we all understand, PTSD often occurs without an accompanying physical injury. We are working with the Professional Firefighters and the Fraternal Order of Police to reform the existing law to expand the coverage requirements and help first responders who are suffering.

PBA will also lobby to change toll road requirements for unmarked official law enforcement vehicles. Today, an unmarked law enforcement vehicle is not exempt from paying the tolls while many other exemptions exist. Representative Shawn Harrison (HB 141), Senator Dana Young (SB 356) and Senator Denise Grimsley (SB 336) are sponsoring legislation to add these vehicles to the list of toll road exemptions.

Finally, PBA Lobbyist Gary Bradford provided public support for HB 165 by Representative Stan McClain. This legislation put forward by the Florida Police Chiefs Association will designate electronically communicated threats to kill or do bodily harm as a second degree felony.

Stay safe!

Matt Puckett
Executive Director
Florida PBA

The Official Start Of Legislative Interim Committee Meetings Began Last Week

The official start of Legislative Interim Committee meetings began last week. Per usual, the first committee meetings are designed to get reacquainted with state agencies’ finances, effects of new laws and, obviously, the lingering issues of the state. This week was typical in this regard with the impact of Hurricane Irma casting a large shadow over the hearings. The legislative tone was a little weary, but Florida’s first responders were consistently highlighted in a very positive light.

Multiple legislators asked me to send a “thank you” for your efforts during the hurricane. Your sacrifices have not gone unnoticed in the Capitol. The appreciation for your job is at an all time high right now. Let’s all hope the praise translates into a meaningful session for law enforcement, probation and correctional officers and your families.

Much of what we are trying to accomplish this year is targeted at certain niche’ officer populations like Correctional Probation Officers, State Law Enforcement Officers, Troopers, Correctional Officers, FRS employees, and individual municipalities. In each subsequent Capitol Report, I will categorize the topics into segments so you can jump right to your areas of concern, but, in this version, I am addressing everyone collectively.

An awful lot has transpired in a brief amount of time. We have fellow officers without homes and, unfortunately, we have lost others to more senseless violence. Under any other circumstance, a person, or group of people, could be excused for wanting a break from the grind, but none of you have that luxury. Florida’s citizenry depends on you too much even though not everyone shows their appreciation. For what it’s worth, I saw the appreciation in full effect this week from every corner of the Capitol.

The tangible signs of respect were present, too.

There is support for more wage increases for all of our state bargaining units. The Governor and multiple state law enforcement agencies put pay raises at the top of their priority funding lists. Legislation addressing the COLA suspension for all FRS employees is in the bill drafting stage. Three separate bills have been filed to address PTSD compensation concerns for first responders. Of course, other legislative issues are filed like waiving toll fees for unmarked official law enforcement vehicles and enhanced penalties for threats against law enforcement. More issues for first responders will follow in the coming weeks and months. Session starts in January so the pace will pick up rather rapidly.

Hurricane Irma will have an effect on state and local budgets, but I am encouraged by the level of support for you in the Capitol. The PBA team will do our best to ride the wave.

Here’s hoping this early support translates into a successful session.

Florida PBA Update On Our Hurricane Irma Recovery Efforts

This is not designed to brag about our efforts to assist our membership during the recovery. Although, what we have seen from everyone is overwhelmingly impressive and a testament to the unity of our association.

As you know, the entire southern portion of the state was hammered by Hurricane Irma and the storm caused major flooding all the way up into the Northeast.

By Monday evening, September 11, the storm was in Georgia so much of the state was experiencing evening sunshine, but no power, severe damage and toxic flood waters. John Rivera and his team were already in the field performing clean up for members. Clearing driveways of down trees, cutting trees off of roofs and shuttling food and supplies.

By Tuesday, our entire team in south Florida was performing clean up, providing food and water, along with securing food for the officers working extensive shifts. A team moved in from the Tampa Bay area to assist the Southwest portion of the state.

By Wednesday, a team led by Brittney Welborn carried fuel, food and supplies to our correctional officers in the “iron triangle” who were without power and experiencing a rising flood of water. Jim Baiardi led the efforts in the South to fed every correctional institution.

On Thursday, the cavalry was in full motion. Gary Bradford, Abe Carmack and George Lofton had secured commitments from Publix and Walmart to bring in two truckloads of supplies for South Florida. Tampa PBA had already brought a shipment of food for the Fort Myers area and Matt Sellers was coordinating efforts to feed over 100 troopers in the field who had not been fed in nearly two days. Mick McHale had his contacts in New York hauling in a load from the North all the way down to “the Keys” but they were stuck in Jacksonville so Kim Kilpatrick of Coastal PBA got a team from the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office together to secure the supplies and make the remainder of the trip.

Friday saw the first shipment from Tampa come into South Florida and the amount was so massive that the supplies were allowed to travel all the way down to mile marker 48. John and his team were feeding over 1,800 officers during the day. Jimmy and Brittney continued to feed correctional officer while power was being restored and the flood waters were receding.

On Saturday, the New York supplies arrived via Coastal Florida PBA. Followed by another shipment from Tampa Bay via George Lofton and Suncoast PBA on Monday.

In just a few days following a major disaster, the Florida PBA with all its chapters and charters and its partners like Publix, Walmart and our friends from New York answered the call.

I am honestly awed by how generous and compassionate everyone has been.

God Bless you,

Matt Puckett
Executive Director
Florida Police Benevolent Association

BCPBA IS ASKING FOR DONATIONS TO AID HOUSTON AREA LAW ENFORCEMENT

With the effects of Hurricane Harvey ravaging the city of Houston, several law enforcement officers have lost their homes and possessions, yet they are still out on the streets serving the Houston community without going home.

Through the website, AssistTheOfficer.com, donations are currently being accepted to help these men and women who are putting the needs of their community before their own.

The Broward County Police Benevolent Association is making a donation to this cause and is asking its members and supporters to aid these Houston area law enforcement officers who have suffered from the severe flooding as well.

Donations can be made online by clicking here or mailed to:

Assist the Officer
FBO Harvey Relief
1600 State Street
Houston, TX 77007

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Broward County Police
Benevolent Association
2650 West State Road 84
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33312

Telephone: (954) 584-7600
Fax: (954) 583-0405

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