The Legislative Session Continues, And The PBA Has Been Very Busy

Two years ago (right after passage of the omnibus pension bill), a fellow labor friend and I were discussing what the changes in the bill meant to the larger scheme of things. Specifically, we wondered if exempting newly hired special risk employees from defaulting into the investment plan (which we were able to do) was the “beginning of the end” or the “end of the beginning”. The answer remains to be seen, but may slowly be coming into focus.

There are two competing thoughts on this subject. The first believes we are all in this together and exemptions between the employee classes (like defaulting into the investment plan for non-special risk new hires) will eventually catch up with everyone. The other believes special risk employees can separate from the rest of the employee classes and continue to thrive. The municipal systems have done this for years.

We will likely learn which school of thought is correct over the next decade.

How we negotiate through this forth coming period will determine much of the outcome, but a portion (perhaps a sizable portion) will be decided by the luck of the economy. The old compensation systems are falling out of favor with the public. Salaries, pensions and retiree health insurance are the biggest costs to any agency and during a recession the public can be persuaded, because of envy, to turn against you. When a bad economy strikes, the target on your compensation grows larger.

To avoid the backlash, we must think of better ways to pay for the benefits and the methods of delivery. The systems are undergoing changes because of demographics and attrition. There are a large number of innovative road maps at the local level and from other states to show us how to precede; therefore, we must be willing to try out new ideas.

And that’s exactly what we will do. This year, in our opinion, is another step on a new path. A lot of our ideas are at the moment, just that… ideas, but as we explore and work with our allies much of what we want to accomplish will materialize into legislation.

If you have an idea that you think we should hear please email me, or local representative.

Please join me in thanking everyone who joined the lobbying team in Tallahassee this week – President John Kazanjian, Broward County President Rod Skirvin, SCO President Jimmy Baiardi, CPO Treasurer Tony Highsmith, Palm Beach County Treasurer Lou Penque, Dade County Executive Vice President John Jenkins, Dade County Treasurer Nazim Ishmael, Dade County Representative Darryl Hall, Dade County Executive Director Steve Shiver along with Correctional Officers Scott Torres, Samantha Sibley, Amanda Pepin, Steven Pepin, Adam Maxwell and Sean Crawford

Here’s where we are as of today… in no particular order.

Pay raises for State Law Enforcement Officers, Lottery Law Enforcement Officers, FDLE Special Agents, Florida Highway Patrol, Correctional Probation Officers, and Correctional Officers

We continue to negotiation with the Department of Management Services over our contract re-openers with all of our state bargaining units. On Monday, we testified before the Joint Select Committee on Collective Bargaining please skip to 1:16:46 to watch our testimony, or you can watch the whole meeting.

SB 784 by Senator Joe Gruters and HB 779 by Representative Chuck Clemons
This Legislation will create a COLA floor of no less than 2% for all Special Risk Employees hired prior to July 1, 2011. The legislation requires a special impact study in order to become law. Our study request was submitted to the Division of Retirement. We are now waiting for the results to come back to us. Remember this legislation is designed to stop the bleeding.

SB 920 by Senator Jason Pizzo and HB 1021 by Representatives Chris Latvala
The idea is to help speed up the process for an arrest of a DNA match. Current law, requires a search warrant to collect a buccal swab of a person who matches a crime scene sample and an offender profile in CODIS. This step was added because sample collections are performed by humans and humans make mistakes. However, we strongly believe that a warrant for arrest should be an option available to a judge when a CODIS match is found.

SB 920 by Senator Jason Pizzo will receive a hearing on Monday, March 18 in the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.

SB 76 by Senator Wilton Simpson and HB 45 or 107 by Representatives Emily Slosberg and Jackie Toledo
This Legislation will attempt to make distracted driving, or, at a minimum, texting while driving a primary traffic offense. Our organization has been involved with this legislation for multiple years now.

Criminal Justice
We continue to be involved in the debate around criminal justice reform. The Senate is conducting a full scale review of our sentencing laws to specifically include minimum mandatory sentences for drug offenses, along incarceration models and diversion programs.

Other Issues
We are also working with other special interests groups on an array of issues during this session. You can always contact the PBA if there’s a question about something that we did, or did not cover.

The 2019 Legislative Session Is Officially Underway

On Tuesday, March 5, the 2019 Legislative Session officially began.

From our perspective, this session is our chance to change course on several fronts. The previous eight years setback law enforcement and corrections considerably. Now, Florida has a new Governor in Ron DeSantis, along with a new Cabinet, who hold a pro law enforcement and corrections outlook.

The most obvious setback everyone experienced was the reduction to your pension. Florida PBA has been on a “claw back” mission since 2012 to restore pension benefits across the board at both the local and state levels. We cannot get everything restored at once, but we must stop the bleeding and begin to repair what was broken. When we talk about restoring pension benefits, we include the FRS investment plan participants, too.

Here’s a less obvious setback that legislation cannot fix, but building stronger relationships with Florida’s top leadership can. There is a politically correct ideology that pushes extremely harsh discipline, along with aggressive micro-management and deflection of blame to subordinates. Officers under this ideological leadership do not feel like upper administrators have their backs and that they make all of their decisions base on how the media may react to a situation. The worst part of this ideology is the false impression given to people outside of the agency. From the outside, all seems fine, but internally the rank and file are suffering. The task of unmasking this behavior can be daunting, but having strong support of law enforcement and corrections from Governor Ron DeSantis and other top leaders like Lt Governor Jeanette Nunez, Attorney General Ashley Moody and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis can help change this negative atmosphere. Thankfully, this ideology is not everywhere and if it is not happening to you, consider it the blessing of good leadership.

More money has always been our top priority, but even with the recent salary increases in certain locations, there are still many officers who are grossly underpaid for their public service and sacrifice. Florida’s economy is growing, but the salaries of those who protect this state (which, by the way, greatly contributes to our positive economic growth) have not kept pace.

So that ‘s what this session means to us. Our chance to reset what has gone astray, rebuild what was taken, and provide what has been withheld.

Here’s where we are as of today… in no particular order.

Pay raises for State Law Enforcement Officers, Lottery Law Enforcement Officers, FDLE Special Agents, Florida Highway Patrol, Correctional Probation Officers, and Correctional Officers are a yearly priority for the Florida PBA. The Legislature does not fund multiple year pay proposals. Therefore, we must request yearly increases. This year we may have an option to create internal career development plans with existing agency monies to help alleviate some of the pay burdens. We are negotiating a proposal to allow each agency the ability to create its own unique career plan if the dollars exist. PBA is also pursuing across the board raises and other pay enhancements for all of our state employee bargaining units. The pay decisions are part of the General Appropriations Act which is not decided until the first week in May.

SB 784 by Senator Joe Gruters and HB 779 by Representative Chuck Clemons will create a COLA floor of no less than 2% for all Special Risk Employees hired prior to July 1, 2011. The legislation requires a special impact study in order to become law. Our study request was submitted to the Division of Retirement this week. We have no idea what this proposal will cost and, under Florida constitution, the legislation cannot become law without the study.

SB 920 by Senator Jason Pizzo and HB 1021 by Representatives Chris Latvala is a work in progress, but we had a lot of positive discussion on the legislation this week. The idea is to help speed up the process for an arrest of a DNA match. Current law, requires a search warrant to a collect buccal swab of a person who matches the crime scene sample and the offender profile in CODIS. This step is added because sample collections are performed by humans and humans make mistakes. However, we strongly believe that a warrant for arrest should be an option available to a judge when a CODIS match is found.

SB 76 by Senator Wilton Simpson and HB 45 or 107 by Representatives Emily Slosberg and Jackie Toledo will attempt to make distracted driving, or, at a minimum, texting while driving a primary traffic offense. Our organization has been involved with this legislation for multiple years now. This week our Florida Highway Patrol Chapter President and Vice President of Legislation Bill Smith was able to place an amendment on the Senate bill which requires the vehicle to be in motion in order for any violation to occur. We thank Senators Travis Hutson and Wilton Simpson for working with us on the amendment.

We are involved in the debate around criminal justice reform which continues to advance in the Senate. The Senate is conducting a full scale review of our sentencing laws to specifically include minimum mandatory sentences for drug offenses, along incarceration models and diversion programs. This debate centers on ideology clashing with data.

We are also working with other special interests groups on an array of issues during this session. You can always the PBA if there’s a question about something that we did, or did not cover in this report.

Until next time please stay safe and may God bless you.

Interim Committee Period Ends; 2019 Legislative Session Begins March 5

The interim committee week period prior to the start of session ended on February 22, and the official start to the 2019 Legislative Session begins Tuesday, March 5. The Legislature will take next week off before the 60 day stretch begins.

Our lobbying team hit all of our objectives during the interim period.

Our pay raise requests for all of the Florida PBA state employee bargaining units have been discussed with House and Senate Appropriations’ leadership. We are still in the process of making the formal request through the collective bargaining process. However, that process is merely perfunctory since all pay decision are handled by the Legislature. Meaning even if the PBA and the Executive Branch agreed to a pay plan (we are currently not in agreement), the final decision rests with the Legislature’s 2019-2020 General Appropriations Act.

SB 784 by Senator Joe Gruters and HB 779 by Representative Chuck Clemons will create a COLA floor of no less than 2% for all Special Risk Employees hired prior to July 1, 2011. The legislation requires a special impact study in order to become law. Our study request was presented to legislative staff this week and we now must wait for a formal submission of the study from the Legislative committee chairman. Yes, I am being vague and that is by design. This study has been derailed for two years so caution is needed.

Our Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) DNA database legislation has been assigned bill numbers in both chambers SB 920 by Senator Jason Pizzo and HB 1021 by Representatives Chris Latvala. This bill proposal will removed the required probable cause for a search warrant to seek a buccal swab from an offender who already matched crime scene DNA with the offender profile in the CODIS. Instead, the bills may be used to find probable cause for the issuance of a warrant for arrest of the offender following a match of crime scene DNA to the offender profile in CODIS. The elimination of the search warrant requirement will speed up the apprehension of the offender.

SB 76 by Senator Wilton Simpson and HB 107 by Representatives Emily Slosberg and Jackie Toledo will attempt to making distracted driving, or, at a minimum, texting while driving a primary traffic offense. Our organization has been involved with this legislation for multiple years now. Last year, we felt like the proposal was stopped over claims of potential racial profiling by police officers. Not only will this legislation save lives, but our engagement in the debate will help us build stronger relationships with legislators who may have a level of discomfort with police. These legislators are potential future allies. However, there are no doubt a handful of legislators who simply do not like the police and no amount of constructive dialogue will change their position.

There are other issues we have been working on, or around, during this interim period. Our team has been busy since January and we are ready to go with the regular session.

Week Two Of The February Interim Committee Weeks Is Complete

Meetings are still the top order of business for our lobbying team. We had quite a few this week highlighted by a chance to sit and discuss our budget requests with both chambers’ appropriations chairmen (Senator Rob Bradley and Representative Travis Cummings). Two great friends of the Florida PBA who really understand our issues. Our priority was simple – PBA’s state bargaining unit employees need a raise.

A small team consisting of me, Executive Committee Vice President of Services Jim Baiardi, Business Director Al Shopp, General Counsel Stephanie Dobson Webster met with new Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Mark Inch and Deputy Secretary Ricky Dixon. We used the time together to discuss our priorities and hear about his plan to steer the department forward. We came away with a positive feeling about his core principles and beliefs. Let’s all move forward with him and his team to raise the morale and the salaries.

Both Florida Retirement System Cost of Living Adjustment bills are officially filed now. SB 784 by Senator Joe Gruters and HB 779 by Representative Chuck Clemons will create a COLA floor of no less than 2% for all Special Risk Employees hired prior to July 1, 2011.

Our study request is scheduled to be discuss with legislative committee staff next week. Our proposed study request will look at a return of the COLA for all employees regardless of hire date and a retroactive return of the age and years of service requirements for all employees hired after July 1, 2011. This change will have a positive effect for every member including FRS investment plan members. As noted last week, the normal costs to the system will increase with any COLA and age enhancements which will increase the contribution into your investment account.

Our CODIS DNA proposal continues to gain support among legislators. Look for bills to appear over the next two weeks. The new language will allow a probable cause for arrest of an offender following a match of crime scene DNA to the offender profile in CODIS.

Florida PBA President John Kazanjian, VP of Services Jim Baiardi, VP of Legislative Services William Smith, General Counsel Stephanie Dobson Webster and I visited chapter meetings on Monday and Tuesday in the Central Florida PBA and Northwest Florida PBA Chapters. We appreciate the hospitality and the feedback we received from the members of Ocoee, Leesburg, Escambia County and Santa Rosa County, along with our Correctional Probation Officer Chapter.

Also big thanks to PBA lobbyists Gary Bradford and Ken Kopczynski for their hard work this week.

Broward County PBA Names Michael Braverman Senior General Counsel; Revamps Legal Department

The Broward County Police Benevolent Association, the voice of law enforcement in Broward County, announced today the naming of Michael Braverman, P.A. as the organization’s Senior General Counsel.

In his new role, Braverman will lead an expanded legal department which now incorporates PBA-affiliated attorneys from Palm Beach and Miami-Dade Counties as well.

Braverman began his career with the Dade County PBA from 1985-95, serving as a law clerk, staff attorney and General Counsel. He started his own firm in 1995, but remained a PBA-affiliated attorney, representing law enforcement officers throughout the state of Florida as a special labor counsel. Braverman received his undergraduate degree in criminology in 1984 from Florida State University, where he graduated cum laude, and his J.D. in 1987 from the Saint Thomas University School of Law in Miami. He was admitted to the Florida Bar Association in 1988.

“We are proud to bring our members the most powerful legal department in PBA history,” Broward County PBA President Rod Skirvin said. “We have joined forces with the Dade and Palm Beach County legal teams to combine with our already highly respected attorneys, who are well established in Broward County.”