Another week of interim committees meant another week of meetings with legislative leaders and staff to lobby our priorities.
Our team met with Senator Jack Latvala, who is our Career Development Plan (SB 168) sponsor and the Senate Budget Chairman, to discuss the status of the bill and our pay raise proposal. The Senator is adamant that a raise will be a part of the final General Appropriations Act (budget). He is firmly committed to seeing the issue through to the end and he has the backing of Senate President Joe Negron.
The PBA will continue to inform the entire Legislature of our plan. We are asking for a $10,000 across the board raise, the implementation of a Career Development Plan and increases to the Salary Incentive Program through state matching dollars. Yes, our proposal is aggressive and expensive, but it is also extremely necessary.
We are scheduled to testify before the Joint Select Committee on Collective Bargaining to discuss our wage proposal next Thursday, February 23.
The Florida PBA and the Florida Professional Fire Fighters submitted a draft of potential COLA study options to the Florida Senate. Our proposed options will allow the return of the COLA to all current and retired employees affected by the 2011 COLA suspension. We suggest if the legislature is not inclined to immediately and fully reinstate the COLA at the 3% level that it should at least create a COLA at 2% minimum (employees eligible to receive more than 2% will still receive it), or it can delay the implementation of the full 3% for a set amount of time either according to age, or length of retirement. Once, the actuary performs the study, we will have a much better handle on the direction the Legislature desires to travel.
Our body camera footage review bill (HB 305) by Representative Shawn Harrison was not on the House Criminal Justice Committee agenda like we initially thought it would be. However, it is on next week’s agenda which is occurs on Wednesday, February 22. This legislation will allow an officer to review footage of an incident taken from his/her body camera prior writing a report or issuing a statement.
Finally, a rather old issue (seven years) is back again. Legislation to add options to the State Group Health Insurance (PCB HHS 01-17) by Representative Jason Brodeur was heard in the Health & Human Services committee this week. This legislation will expand the health care offerings to state employees with the statutorily stated goal of raising quality and lowering your premiums. The Florida PBA has been a long time supporter of this legislative idea. We believe more choice allows for better bargaining power for our state employee members.
The state insurance plan is estimated to run deficits in the coming years so getting ahead of the market forces with this slowly phased in approach makes sense to our team. The legislation requires a detailed and lengthy study of the new offerings along with executive and legislative review and approval before the new services are added to the menu of options. It does not require an employee to make a change if the employee is satisfied with their current plan.
This legislation is about choice and, to the PBA, it is about bargaining options to help you maintain, raise your quality of health care while maintaining or lowering your premiums. The premiums haven’t been increased since 2005 and we all know that won’t last forever. We agree with this measured approach to adding more options and look forward to working with the Legislature on making this change occur.