Archive for the Capitol Report Category

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

Florida PBA’s 2016 Legislative Update

The 2016 Legislative Session started last Tuesday, January 11th with the typical pomp and circumstance of opening day. The Florida PBA was well represented with elected leaders and members from our charters and chapters.

We thank PBA President John Rivera, Treasurer Ernie George, Vice President of Services John Kazanjian, Vice President of Chapters Mick McHale, Lou Penque, Robert Davis, Pablo Lima and Nikki Sears for joining our lobbying team during the first week.

The amount of legislation we have been able to address during committee hearings has steadily increased since the first day. We have handled a number of important legislative agenda items while also adding a few new issues to the list.

Here’s a list of the issues we have addressed in committee meetings over the last two weeks.

Care for Retired Law Enforcement Dogs – SB 440 by Senator Joe Abbuzzo

This legislation is referred to as the “Care for Retired Law Enforcement Dogs Program Act”; creating the Care for Retired Law Enforcement Dogs Program within the Department of Law Enforcement; requiring the department to contract with a corporation not for profit to administer and manage the program; placing an annual cap on the amount of funds available for the care of an eligible retired law enforcement dog; providing an appropriation, etc.

Vice President Mick McHale testified in favor of this legislation.

Selection and Duties of County Officers – HB 165 by Representative Frank Artiles

This legislation will require that all counties have all five constitutional county officers – Sheriff, Property Appraiser, Tax Collector, Supervisor of Election, and Clerk of Court selected by an election of the citizens of the county. If by special act a county chooses to combine the duties of one office into another that must also be decided by a vote of the county citizens.

PBA has taken a interest in this legislation, which if passed will be a constitutional amendment on this year’s general election ballot, because of the abuse of power we have seen out of the Miami – Dade Mayor’s office. The Mayor serves as the sheriff, supervisor of elections and also controls the budget of the county ethics commission and inspector general’s office. We strongly believe that this consolidation of power is too great for any single office holder. We have witnessed numerous incidents where the mayor has used his overwhelming authority for personal gain.

PBA President John Rivera and Executive Director Matt Puckett have testified before committees over the last two weeks in favor of this legislation.

Relating to Tax Exemption for Senior, Totally Permanently Disabled First Responders – SB 1194 by Senator Joe Negron and HB1009 by Representative Larry Metz

This legislation proposes an amendment to the State Constitution to authorize a first responder, who is age 65 or older and totally permanently disabled as a result of an injury sustained in the line of duty, to receive a discount on ad valorem taxes assessed on homestead property.

We have added this proposed constitutional amendment to our legislative agenda and testified twice in favor of the legislation before legislative committees. PBA Lobbyist Ali Davidson offered public testimony in support.

Public Records/Identity of Witness to a Felony – HB 475 by Representative Ed Narain

Provides an exemption from public records requirements for the personal identifying information of witness to a felony for specified period.

This issue was actually the highest polling issue of support from our membership survey back in August. PBA Lobbyist Gary Bradford offered public testimony in favor of the legislation.

State Employee Group Health Plan – PCB HHSC 16-01 by Representative Jason Brodeur

This legislation is incredibly important to our state employee members.

Florida PBA has been working with Representative Brodeur for a few years trying to balance the need for reform with a high quality continued level of care at lower costs. This legislation may be ideal to address those concerns.

One thing that needs to be made clear is the low costs for health care under the current arrangement are running dangerously close to coming to an end. The state has not increased the costs for employees in many years, but the employers’ premiums have been on the rise. Prescription drugs are driving the premiums up by double digits and it is only a matter of time before the legislature is forced to shift a larger portion of the costs to the employees.

The PBA has not and will not simply sit back and do nothing when this issue is a looming financial burden for our membership. The potential solution contained in this legislation is phased in over time. It does not break the system or your paycheck. In fact, if the pilot project and phased approach works according to plan, this will actually help to lower your costs without compromising quality health care.

Please read through the analysis from the Health and Human Services Staff below:

The State Group Insurance Program (program), administered by the Department of Management Services (DMS), is an optional benefit for employees that includes health, life, dental, vision, disability, and other supplemental insurance benefits.

The program offers employees a choice among a health maintenance organization (HMO) plan, prefer provider plan (PPO) plan, and a high-deductible health plan (HDHP) with a health saving account (HSA). However, only one benefit level is offered for each plan type. Additionally, the employee’s premium for the HMO and PPO are the same, even though the HMO provides greater benefits.

PCB HHSC 16-01 adds new products and services to the program by giving DMS broad authority to contract for a wide variety of additional products and services. Employees will be able to purchase new products as optional benefits. DMS is directed to contract with at least one entity that provides comprehensive pricing and inclusive services for surgery and other types of medical procedures. The contract requires cost savings to the program, which will be shared by the state and the enrollee.

Beginning in 2017, DMS is directed to contract with at least one entity that provides online health care price and quality information, including the average price paid for health care services and providers by county. The contract requires the entity to allow enrollees to shop for health care using the information provided to select higher quality, lower cost services and providers. The contract also requires the entity to identify any savings realized by the enrollee, and share those savings with the enrollee.

Beginning in the 2019 plan year, the bill provides that state employees will have health plan choices at four different benefit levels. If the state’s contribution for premium is more than the cost of the plan selected by the employee, then the employee may use the remainder to:

  • Fund a flexible spending arrangement or a health savings account.
  • Purchase additional benefits offered through the state group insurance program.
  • Increase the employee’s salary.

The bill directs DMS to hire an independent benefits consultant (IBC). The IBC will assist DMS in developing a plan for the implementation of the new benefit levels in the program. The plan shall be submitted to the Governor, the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives no later than January 1, 2018.

The IBC will also provide ongoing assessments and analysis for the program. The bill directs DMS to recommend employee contribution rates for standard plans and high deductible health plans for the 2017 plan year reflecting the actuarial benefit difference between the HMO and the PPO plans for both self-insured and fully insured products. The proposed enrollee premium rates for the 2017 plan year must be submitted to the Legislative Budget Commission (LBC) for review and approval.

If the LBC does not approve the proposed rates, the rates provided in the 2016-17 General Appropriations Act will apply.

The bill provides $151,216 in recurring trust fund and $507,546 in nonrecurring trust fund authority to the Department of Management Services, and two full-time equivalent positions to implement the administrative provision of the act. The provisions of the bill are expected to have a positive, but indeterminate, fiscal impact on the state.

Law Enforcement Officer Body Cameras – HB 93 by Representative Shervin Jones

The legislation is identical to the legislation from the 2015 session which requires a law enforcement agency that permits its law enforcement officers to wear body cameras to establish policies & procedures addressing proper use, maintenance, and storage of cameras & data. It requires the agency to ensure that specified personnel are trained and requires that data be retained in accordance with specified requirements. Also requires periodic review of agency body camera practices and exempts recordings from specified provisions relating to interception of wire, electronic, & oral communications under chapter 934 Florida Statutes.

This legislation does not mandate the use of body cameras. PBA supported the legislation during committee this week.

That is all for this week, but next week looks to be equally busy with a bill reinstating a version of the FRS COLA SB 1326 and legislation making threats against law enforcement officers and their families a felony SB 436 already on the early schedule.

Until next week, stay safe.

Florida PBA’s 2016 Legislative Agenda

In preparation for the 2016 Florida Legislative Session, the Florida Police Benevolent Association has identified the following issues and state legislative policies that are supported by the PBA.

The 2016 Florida Legislative Session begins on January 12 and ends on March 11. At the conclusion of the session, legislators will approve new state laws and finalize the state budget before it all goes before the Governor for final approval.

  • Equitable pay increases for the State Law Enforcement Officers, FDLE Special Agents, Lottery and FHP bargaining units represented by Florida PBA.
  • Support for the creation of a career development plan for first responders employed by the State of Florida (Sponsors: Senator John Legg – SB 1580 and Representative David Kerner – HB 621)
  • Support for any and all legislation reinstating the FRS COLA
  • Support for legislation enhancing the Survivor Benefit in Chapter 121 for first responders killed in the line of duty (Sponsors: Senator Jeremy Ring – SB 7012, Representative Mike Hill – HB 87 and Representative Rene Plasencia – HB 917)
  • Support for legislation allowing retired reemployed FRS employees to enroll in the FRS investment plan (Sponsors: Ring – SB 7014 and Representative Dan Raulerson – HB 881)
  • Support for legislation creating uniform guidelines for law enforcement officer body worn cameras (Sponsors: Senator Chris Smith- SB 418 and Representative Shevrin Jones HB 93)
  • Support for legislation establishing if a person makes threats against a law enforcement officer or an officer’s family that person commits the crime of a terroristic threat (Sponsors: Senator Wilton Simpson – SB 436 and Representative Jimmie Smith HB 259)
  • Support for legislation which will protect the identity of a witness to a felony (Sponsors: Senator Charlie Dean – SB 1314 and Representative Ed Narain – HB 475)
  • Support for a constitutional amendment that will require certain county office holders (i.e. Sheriff) must be elected (Sponsors: Senator Travis Hutson – SB 648 and Representative Frank Artiles – HB 165)
  • With reference to other legislation, authorization for the Executive Director to support legislation favorable to the membership or oppose legislation harmful to the membership.
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