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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.

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.
  • PBA Lobbyists Meet With Senate President Andy Gardiner

    pba-lobbyist-11062015

    We are in the final week of the THIRD special session of 2015. The Legislature spent the week balancing a redrawing of the Florida Senate districts with interim committee meetings. Our legislative agenda saw a very limited amount of activity this week, but we were able to sit with Senate President Andy Gardiner.

    Our conversation with President Gardiner touched on all of our agenda items. We talked at length about raises for our state employee bargaining unit members along with the creation of a career development plan for all first responders employed by state agencies. The President took time to emphasize his support for increasing the special risk death benefits legislation currently working its way through both chambers. We agreed to keep him in the loop on our issues as they progress through the process. We are grateful for his time and attention especially considering the difficulties surrounding the special session. Our plan is to have a follow up meeting with him and his staff midway through the regular session.

    Now that we have met with both presiding officers, we will schedule meetings with the appropriations chairmen and staff, individual legislators and the executive office.

    Also please note, we met with Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam last week to discuss our legislative agenda. He was gracious with his time and expressed an interest in several of our issues.

    We still have a long ways to go. Many of issues are still in bill drafting so we hope by next committee week to have a list of all of our bills and sponsors.

    We supported HB 93 in Wednesday’s House Criminal Justice committee. This legislation which attempts to create statewide guidelines for use of body cameras is a repeat effort from last session. The bill does not mandate body cameras. It simply sets minimum standards for policy and requires proper training of all personnel prior to implementation in an agency. The bill passed the committee by a 13 – 0 vote.

    Finally, thank you to everyone who took our legislative survey this past week. We received a lot of valuable information and we will use it as a guide to our approach this session.

    Until next time, stay safe.

    Matt Puckett
    Executive Director
    Florida PBA

    The Fallout From Negron’s Senate Presidency Win

    the-capitol-report-11062015

    By Matt Dixon
    Politico Florida

    TALLAHASSEE – A Senate presidency fight that had killed top leadership priorities, played a starring role in derailed legislative sessions, and been the dominant force in the Legislature’s upper chamber for nearly three years has come to an end.

    Sen. Jack Latvala Thursday conceded to Sen. Joe Negron, the member he has duked it out with, often very publicly, for the past few legislative sessions.

    “The leadership race in the Florida Senate is over,” read a press release announcing Negron’s victory. “Senator Latvala has requested that his supporters in the Senate and in open seats support Senator Negron to serve as Senate President in the 2017-18 term.”

    Click here for the complete story.

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