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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.

Governor Proposes $30 Million For State Law Enforcement Pay

Governor Proposes $30 Million For State Law Enforcement Pay

Gov. Rick Scott will ask the Legislature to set aside $30 million in next year’s state budget to give the state’s law enforcement officers another pay raise.

Scott will announce his $30 million proposal Wednesday at the Florida Highway Patrol post in Jacksonville. In a statement, he said the money could be used to recruit new officers, but each agency would determine how to distribute the money.

Scott’s request is more than double the $12.7 million the Legislature agreed to set aside for state law enforcement officers in this year’s $83 billion budget. The money gave 5 percent pay increases for the nearly 4,000 sworn state law enforcement officers in the state.

The pay increase would help state agencies struggling to keep trained officers on the job. For years, FHP has faced high turnover due to newly trained troopers finding more lucrative jobs at county or municipal police agencies.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran said although Scott’s request would face the same legislative process as other requests, this year’s 5 percent raise was widely supported by his chamber.

The raises would also mean a bigger base budget, but Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, said repeatedly training new officers was also a hefty annual expense.

“We’re losing law enforcement officers to higher paying positions elsewhere,” Corcoran said. “If we continue that, it costs more in training.”

If approved, sworn law enforcement officers at all state agencies could be eligible, including the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the state Department of Agriculture.

The top official from the labor union representing state law enforcement said Scott’s plan is unique but welcomed. Matt Puckett, director of the Florida Police Benevolent Association, said the “out of the box” plan would be an easy lift.

“We can’t wait to sit down and work on this,” Puckett said. “We don’t think it would be difficult to get done.”

Puckett said the FDLE has come up with its own pay increase plans in the past, and those plans may be replicated for other agencies if lawmakers approve Scott’s proposal.

“Each agency is unique so it will be up to how the governor wants to distribute the money,” Puckett said. “Like with FHP, you’ve got high turnover, a need for more traffic homicide investigators and other areas.”

Scott’s announcement comes less than a month after this year’s state budget took effect on July 1. Lawmakers are already scheduled to begin gathering in the Capitol for committee meetings in September.

The Legislature will address Scott’s request during the 2018 legislative session, which begins in January.

Governor Scott Signs Two PBA Bills Into Law

On Tuesday, May 9, 2017, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed the PBA’s body camera review legislation and witness to a murder legislation into law.

HB 305 (sponsored by Senator Greg Steube and Representative Shawn Harrison) permits an officer who wears a body camera to review the footage prior to making a statement, or writing a report on an incident. The effective date is July 1, 2017.

HB 111 (sponsored by Senator Randolph Bracy and Representative Cynthia Stafford) prevents the identification of a murder witness from being available through a public record request for two years. The effective date is July 1, 2017.

We thank the Governor and our sponsors for their support.

As always, please stay safe.

The Florida Capitol Report For The Week Of May 1-5

The Legislature did not finish on time this year. Today is the official last day of session, there was a 72 hour extension to the end of session in order to complete the budgeting process. Although there are a few hours left before everything is officially over, we anticipate the following issues to be resolved in the manner listed below:

– Both local police pension bills for West Palm Beach HB 1135 and Tampa HB 535 have passed. The changes to these plans are the result of local collective bargaining changes and compliance with the statute changes of 2015.

– The Governor received the body camera footage review legislation HB 305 and has until Thursday, June 11th to act (sign, veto, or do nothing which allows it to become law). The legislation permits an officer who wears a body camera to review the footage prior to making a statement, or writing a report on an incident. The effective date is July 1, 2017.

– The witness to a murder legislation HB 111 and training for autism awareness HB 39 have both passed the Legislature. HB 111 has been presented to the Governor and, like HB 305, he has until Thursday to take an action. This legislation prevents the identification of a murder witness from being available through a public record for two years.

– Totally and permanently disabled first responders & surviving spouses of totally & permanently disabled first responders shall receive a 100% homestead tax exemption via HB 455.

– There will be no increase to the FRS employee contribution. I should probably mention there will not be a decrease either.

– The Florida Retirement System will be positively modified in two significant ways for special risk members, or their surviving family members. The provisions of SB 7022 pertaining to the Florida Retirement System are as follows:

1) Survivors of a special risk member killed in the line of duty on, or after July 1, 2002 will be able to receive 100% of the member’s salary at the time of death. This benefit was added during last year’s session, but the retroactivity only went back to September of 2013.

2) Florida Retirement System employees who were enrolled in the FRS investment plan then left FRS employment and took a cash payment from the investment plan will soon be able to re-enroll in the investment plan if they are reemployed by an FRS employer. This new reemployment provision only applies to former members of the investment plan at the time of separation and does not apply to retired members of the pension plan who are reemployed by a FRS employer. The effective date is July 1, 2017.

Current employees who were previously investment plan members and have been barred from participation since reemployment are eligible after July 1, 2017 to apply for re-enrollment in the investment plan.

The change allows the member to participate in the investment plan as a member of special risk if the member qualifies.

– There is one additional change to the Florida Retirement System that does not apply to special risk members. After January 1, 2018, all new non-special risk employees will have nine months to select either the investment plan, or the pension plan. If the employee fails to make an active selection following the nine month selection period that employee will be defaulted into the investment plan. The employee will still have a one time opportunity to select the pension plan at a later date in his, or her career.

All newly hired special risk employees will continue to default into pension plan even if they do not make an active selection within the first nine months of employment. The newly hired special risk employee will also still have a one time option to make a switch later in his, or her career.

– SB 7022 also creates the ability to actively select, or collectively bargain for more options to the State Group Health Insurance for state employees. The current insurance provisions will remain in place with additional options to come on line in later years. The options will be subject to approval by the Governor, Senate President and Speaker of the House.

– Finally, SB 7022 provides pay increases to PBA’s state employee bargaining units in the following manner:

Effective July 1, 2017, there will be no increase to the employee’s Health Insurance premium.

On July 1, 2017, Law Enforcement Officers in the PBA’s Law Enforcement, Florida Highway Patrol, FDLE Special Agents and Lottery Law Enforcement bargaining units will receive a 5% increase to his, or her base rate of pay. These officers will not be eligible for the September 30, 2017 pay raise that other state employees will receive.

On September 30, 2017, All Correctional Probation Officers and Institutional Security Specialists will receive a base salary adjustment in the following manner:

a) Employees earning less than $40,000 per year of base salary will receive a $1,400 increase to his, or her base salary.

b) Employees earning more than $40,000 per year of base salary will receive a $1,000 increase to his, or her base salary.

On October 1, 2017, all Correctional Officers employed by the Florida Department of Corrections in the PBA’s Security Services bargaining unit will receive a $2,500 increase to his or her base rate of pay. These officers will not be eligible for the September 30, 2017 pay raise that other state employees will receive.

Additionally, the Department of Corrections has been awarded funding to adjust the minimum base salaries for the following class codes:

  • Correctional Officer (8003) to $33,500
  • Correctional Officer Sergeant (8005) to $36,850
  • Correctional Officer Lieutenant (8011) to $40,535
  • Correctional Officer Captain (8013) to $44,589

Correctional Officers below the new minimum base salary for the class code will receive the necessary salary adjustment to the new base amount even if the amount exceeds the $2,500.

The omnibus bill SB 7022 which dealt with FRS retirement, survivor death benefits, health insurance for state employees and pay raises for state employees is unique. The puzzle that was constructed in that legislation just goes to show how many issues the PBA was negotiating over at the end of this session. This particular bill also illustrates how every issue was leveraged against the other in order to complete a final deal.

Of course, we did not receive everything we set out to receive. Yet, we moved the needle in the right direction (in a few cases, the needle moved substantially) and did not lose any ground. We just did not get everything we wanted.

Here’s how long some of the issues in SB 7022 have been waiting to be resolved. The negotiations started in July of 2011 over the default change to the pension. The health insurance negotiations have been around since 2012. The death benefits and reemployment provisions have been in the negotiations, off and on, since 2013. And of course, we negotiated over the latest round of pay raises starting in 2016. Multiple years in many cases that all came together in one big bill SB 7022.

Considering how this 2017 version of the legislative session will finish, our team did a good job. Nobody, from the Governor on down, got everything they wanted.

There will be a four month break before the session starts all over again, PBA will be working on ideas to create a COLA reinstatement for FRS employees, along with redrafting legislation to double salary incentive monies and create a step plan for our state bargaining units. Not mention other issues that will be added to our agenda over the next four months.

As always, please stay safe.

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