Archive for the Capitol Report Category

Legislative Activity For The Week Of February 6-10

This week was the kind of week only a policy wonk could love. PBA lobbyists had many (many) meetings with legislators and legislative staff. These meeting are the key to establishing a base of support for our lobbying positions. Our goals this week were to meet with appropriations (budget) and policy staff, along with securing co-sponsors and general supporters for our legislative priorities.

At week’s end, I can happily state we checked every box.

Gary Bradford and Mick McHale met with Chairman Ross Spano to confirm that our body camera review (HB 305) legislation by Representative Shawn Harrison will be on next week’s Criminal Justice Committee agenda. Once that was indeed confirmed, they set out to meet with every member of the committee and secure co-sponsors. They also met with staff to work through any concerns the analysts had with our language. We are ready for our hearing next week…

Ken Kopczynski and I met with the budget staff in both Legislative chambers to discuss our pay raise proposals. We set out to demonstrate the differences between what we asked for and the Governor’s proposal. Obviously, the Governor gets all the attention with his proposal. Our task was to present our plan with associated costs in order to provide them with a proper contrast. The budget process literally takes all session to unfold, which means we will have to meet with the staff and the Legislators multiple times to keep our proposals in the forefront of their minds. As of today, no one has disagreed with our proposal for across the board raises. Now they haven’t exactly agreed with our request of $10,000 across the board…

We are still working on language to present to the Legislature for an actuarial impact study on FRS COLA restoration. We have teamed up with our partners at the Florida Professional Firefighters to provide multiple options for the Legislature to review. We plan to have our language finalized no later than next early week…

PBA lobbyists publicly supported SB 154 by Senator Perry Thurston and HB 39 by Representative Evan Jenne creating standardized Autism awareness training for Law Enforcement Officers.

We also publicly supported HB 111 by Representative Cynthia Stafford creating a public records exemption for the identity of a witness to a murder.

That is it for this week. We basically had a lot of meetings and if you are interested in meeting details and you want to hear more about it please contact the Florida PBA.

As always, please stay safe.

Sincerely,

Matt Puckett
Executive Director
Florida PBA

Legislative Activity For The Week Of January 9-13

This week was the first full fledge committee week of the 2017 Legislative Session. Both chambers were in action with lengthy committee meetings focusing on next fiscal year’s budget forecast. The money is projected to be tight for the next three years. The Legislature will need to set priorities (the wants versus the needs). PBA’s job is to ensure that law enforcement and corrections (public safety in general) is a need … a must for priority funding.

The Legislature must fund public safety. And by fund public safety, PBA believes the Legislature needs to focus on increasing the salaries of our state officers, along with maintaining and enhancing the benefit packages for all FRS employed officers. We are not going to sit by passively this year simply because budget projections are tighter than expected.

Our priorities over the past week were to secure sponsors for two of our legislative agenda items. We were able to fully accomplish both goals.

Review of Body Camera Footage

The legislation will allow an officer to review footage from a body worn camera prior to writing a report, or making a statement on an officer involved incident. Although several jurisdictions already have the policy in standard operation procedures; there are outliers. We strongly believe not having this policy in place severely hampers an officer’s ability to fully utilize body cameras as a tool. Whether you like body cameras, or not, preventing this provision in an agency’s SOP puts the officer, the agency and, perhaps justice itself, in jeopardy. Our sponsors are Senator Greg Steube and Representative Shawn Harrison. Bill numbers are to be announced.

Career Development Plan for Public Safety Officers

For the second year, the PBA will lobby for the creation of a Public Safety Officers’ Career Development Plan. The legislation requires each agency to establish a Career Development Plan for state law enforcement officers, state correctional officers, state correctional probation officers and state forestry firefighters. All of these officers are among the lowest paid in the state and nation. This legislation will set the agencies on a path to creating a sustainable salary plan that helps to recruit and retain public safety professionals. The details of this legislation will most certainly shift and adjust as it moves through the process. The end result will be a plan that provides salary increases to officers objectively based on their experience and ability. Our sponsors are Senate Budget Chairman Jack Latvala (SB 168) and Representative Bobby Payne (bill number is TBA).

Please join me in thanking the following PBA leaders for joining us in Tallahassee this week: Ernie George, John Kazanjian, Mick McHale, Gary Bradford, Jim Baiardi, Terrance Bing, Chris Kirkland and David Loy.

Florida Legislature Puts The Spotlight On Law Enforcement Officers & Their Families

Wednesday afternoon, the Florida House of Representatives led by Speaker Steve Crisafulli, passed the final two issues of what has become a tremendously important package of bills aimed at protecting those who protect us. The 2016 Florida Legislature will be remembered for a number of events, but, I believe, one legacy it will leave behind is showing real compassion for our public safety professionals and their families.

Here’s what we accomplished:

The Senate took up SB 7022, which exempts depictions of killing of a law enforcement officer from the public record. They passed it and sent it over to the House. The House quickly placed the issue on the calendar and passed it unanimously yesterday afternoon. The bill has already been sent to the Governor for his signature. PBA spoke to the Governor’s staff last night and expressed our support for his approval of this important issue. We thank the Speaker and Senate President for allowing this issue to continue to move despite some hiccups along the way.

The House also took up and passed SB 7012 which provides an increase to the FRS Death Benefits for Special Risk Employees killed in the line of duty. This legislation increased the benefit to survivors for both investment plan and pension plan employees to 100% of the salary of the officer at the time of death. The legislation is retroactive to September 1, 2013 in order to include the widow of Orange County Deputy Sheriff Scott Pine who was left with three children and no monthly salary benefit from her husband’s investment account. Deputy Pine’s wife, Bridget, has been a tireless advocate for this legislation and she deserves our respect and gratitude for standing firm against what appeared to be difficult odds. I also want to personally thank several people involved with the issue by name (in no particular order) – Senator Jeremy Ring; Sara Carroll Glassner, Florida Sheriff’s Association; Captain Dennis Strange, Orange County Sheriff’s Office; Representative Rene Plasencia; Senate President Andy Gardiner; Speaker Steve Crisafulli; Representative Matt Caldwell; Joe McVaney, Staff Director Senate Government Oversight & Accountability Committee; and Representative Mike Hill.

Up next, the Florida Senate passed a Joint Resolution HB 1009 placing a constitutional amendment on this year’s ballot asking the voters to provide a homestead exemption to first responders who are totally and permanently disabled in the line of duty. The amendment requires at least 60% approval in order to be placed into the Florida Constitution. Thank you to Senator Joe Negron and Representative Larry Metz.

The Legislature also moved legislation SB 436 making a threat against law enforcement officers and their families a felony terroristic threat. We thank Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco for bringing this issue forward. Senator Wilton Simpson and Representative Jimmie Smith were the sponsors and we greatly appreciate their support.

Finishing what we started last year, HB 93 establishing statewide guidelines for body worn cameras has been sent to the Governor. This legislation does not mandate body cameras, but it does create uniform guidelines and policies for agencies utilizing body cameras. We thank Senator Chris Smith and Representative Shevrin Jones for being great partners on this issues.

Finally, the Legislature approved the creation of a Career Development Plan workgroup HB 5003 for the sole purpose of creating a step plan for the sworn law enforcement officers of the Highway Patrol, Law Enforcement Officer, Lottery, and FDLE Special Agent bargaining units represented by the Florida Police Benevolent Association (PBA).

Thank you for following our Capitol Report this year. We had a excellent session. I hope each of you are encouraged by the support we received on our issue this year and, always please stay safe.

Please look for the next Florida PBA’s Florida COPS magazine in the mail with much more in depth coverage of each one of these issues.

The Florida Capitol Report For The Week Ending March 4

This week was supposed to be dominated by budget conference meetings, but there has been very little of it so far. However, we fully expect conferencing to happen with more frequency as the weekend nears. The days of regular committee meetings are over and we now have full floor sessions in both chambers. Next week will be more of the same.

Right now the most important event of the session is budget conference. The budget is the only reason why the Legislature must meet each year. Conference is where the two chambers work out the differences between the respective spending proposals.

For the Florida PBA, the conference is where potential pay raises, the career development plan, and state group health insurance premiums will be decided. The conference process decides every issue we have with money attached to it so we shifted our efforts early in the session to focus on conferencing in order to put our issues in the best possible posture.

As it stands today, pay raises for certain groups (perhaps all of our bargaining units) are still in play, the Senate placed the career development plan into its budget offer (keeping it in play), and the state group health insurance premiums look to stay the same (no increases). None of this is etched in stone and even if the Legislature agrees, we have to survive a gubernatorial veto. Remember the governor vetoed the forestry firefighters pay raise last year (a move we believe is in violation of collective bargaining rights).

As for the noneconomic issues, we have several bills in place to pass. The Legislature seems poised to make terroristic threats against law enforcement officers and their families a felony (SB 436 and HB 257). The LEO body worn camera bills (SB 418 and HB 93) appear likely to pass (remember this legislation does not mandate body cameras). Also, the public record exemption preventing the release of videos and photos depicting the killing of a law enforcement officer (SB 7022) will move to the Senate floor today. The House can then pick up the Senate bill and pass it.

Florida Retirement System legislation seems to remain in play. HB 7107 has two very important provisions that the Florida PBA supports and one provision that we do not support. We have been lobbying to separate the provisions enhancing the death benefits survivors and allowing investment plan retirees to return to the FRS investment plan. So far the two chambers are at odds with each other over these provisions. We remain hopeful.

That is all for this week. Follow our emails for updates.

Until next week, may God bless you and please stay safe.

The Florida Capitol Report For The Week Ending February 26

The session continued this week with extremely packed committee agendas and days long floor action. The Legislature is, as of this writing, not in agreement on spending allocations for the budget. Although, word from the Capitol late last evening was that the Senate and House were close to achieving consensus and, perhaps, ready to conference this weekend.

We had a good crowd up from Palm Beach and Dade this week: PBA President John Rivera, Palm Beach President John Kazanjian, PBA Treasurer Ernie George, Dade County Executive Board Member Robert Davis, Palm Beach County Executive Board members Kevin Igo and Greg Allen, and Dade County PBA member Darryl Hall. They helped us reach out to several key lawmakers this week as we made our case on our remaining issues.

We publicly supported SB 7022 which will prevent the expiration of a public records’ exemption for the depictions of killing of a law enforcement officer. We stood in support of SB 436, a proposal that makes threats against law enforcement officers and their families a felony terroristic threat. The body camera legislation SB 418 cleared its final committee in the Senate this week so both bills are on the chamber floors. We feel strongly that each of these issues will pass the full legislature by session’s end.

The House passed its latest version of FRS pension reform (HB 7107). Although we are not supporters of all three provisions within the reform package, we have asked that two of the provisions be included in a compromise (if one can be achieved). We support allowing retirees and those who took a withdrawal from their investment accounts to be allowed to be re-enrolled in the investment plan if that employee is reemployed by an FRS employer. We also support either plan (House or Senate) to increase the FRS death benefits for employees killed in the line of duty. We do not support changing the default from the pension plan to the investment plan for new employees after July 1, 2017. In our opinion, keeping the default to the pension plan is critical to the overall health of the pension system and, therefore, we cannot support a change.

Finally, the budget conferencing process holds a major issue still on the table for the PBA. First and foremost, we have been very encouraged by the legislative leadership’s response to our career development plan for State Law Enforcement, Highway Patrol, FDLE Special Agents and Lottery Law Enforcement. Our goal for the career development (a step plan) proposal is to get a resolution into the budget during conference. Let me offer everyone concerned about this issue a few additional thoughts: 1) information about budget conference is always difficult to broadcast because so much happens on weekends and in the late evenings with long breaks in between meetings (follow our emails alerts); 2) the legislature always (always, always, always) decides employee issues like raises and impasse resolution at the end of conference which only heightens the tension; 3) we have spent the last two weeks reintroducing our plan to the legislative leadership and legislative staff who deal directly with our subject matter. Our plan should be very fresh on their minds and we will be there to remind them of the message as conference gets under way. Like I stated last week and countless other times, we are consistently applying the necessary pressure to put this conference issue over the top.

That is all for this week. Until next week, may God bless you and please stay safe.

Matt Puckett
Executive Director
Florida PBA

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