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.