Archive for the Capitol Report Category

Legislative Activity For The Week Of February 13-17

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.

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.

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