Florida Capitol Report’s 2016 Legislative Session Update

The third week of the 2016 Florida legislative session was eventful overall, but we did not have as many priority bills move forward as we originally anticipated.

We had movement on the terroristic threats legislation (SB 436 & HB 257) and the constitutional amendment providing a homestead property tax exemption to permanently disabled first responders (HB 1009).

We attended appropriation subcommittees multiple days throughout the week in order to monitor the roll out of budget proposals for state agencies. Both chambers are expected to place a full appropriations proposal forward by the end of next week.

A compressed committee meeting filled with controversial issues prevented both the state pay raise legislation and the FRS COLA legislation from receiving a hearing. The bills will be rescheduled for next week (Pay Raise SB 478) and the weeks to come.

The are several issues on the early released committee agenda for next week. Most notable is legislation dealing with law enforcement officer body worn cameras (SB 418) and a extension of the public records law exempting agency videos and photos of a killing (SB 7022), along with state employees salaries (SB 478).

Here’s a list of the issues we addressed in committee meetings this past week:

Terroristic Threats – SB 436 by Senator Joe Abbuzzo and HB 257 by Representative Jimmie Smith
This legislation makes it unlawful for a person to threaten to commit a crime of violence with the intent to cause, or with reckless disregard for the risk of causing terror or the evacuation of a building, place of assembly, or facility of public transportation.

A person violating this provision commits a third degree felony punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment and a $5,000 fine.

A person commits a second degree felony punishable by up to 15 years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine if occupants of the building, place of assembly, or facility of public transportation are diverted from their normal or customary operations. It is also a second degree felony, if the threat is against instructional personnel, a law enforcement officer, state attorney or assistant state attorney, firefighter, judge, or elected official or any of their family members.

Florida PBA offered public support for this legislation in both the Senate and House this week. HB 257 is now available to be heard by the full House of Representatives.

Relating to Tax Exemption for Senior, Totally Permanently Disabled First Responders – HB1009 by Representative Larry Metz
This legislation proposes an amendment to the State Constitution to authorize a first responder, who is 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. The original amendment required that the first responder must be 65 or older. However, Representative Metz has removed that provision and now the exemption is available to all totally permanently disabled first responders regardless of age.

Florida PBA publicly supported this good legislation.

That is all for this week. We are looking forward to having a number of PBA members in Tallahassee to assist our lobbying team next week.

Until next week, 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.
  • BCCPA January Legislative Update

    There are several new laws and amended laws on the books for 2016 that all law enforcement officers should be aware of. They include open carrying of a weapon, discharging a firearm in a residential neighborhood, expunction of records of minors, justifiable use or threatened use of defensive force, medical marijuana, forfeiture of contraband and concealed weapon or firearm licenses. A summary of each is below.

    SB 300 – Open Carrying of a Weapon

    Introducer(s): Senator Don Gaetz
    Related Bills(s): HB 163 (In Judiciary, 11/24/15. Next meeting 1/11/15)

    Last Action: Referred to Judiciary Committee, 10/23/15 (Next meeting 1/12/15)
    Effective Date: Upon becoming law

    Bill amends F.S. 790 053, to permit the open carrying of a weapon or firearm by a person licensed to carry a concealed weapon or firearm. As of this date, the FPCA’s proposed amendments have not been incorporated into the bill.

    SB 130 – Discharging a Firearm in Residential Areas

    Introducer(s): Senator Garrett Richter
    Related Bills(s): HB 41 (Passed all House Committees)

    Last Action: Favorable vote in Fiscal Policy. Placed on calendar for 2nd reading on 11/19/15
    Effective Date: Upon becoming law

    Bill amends F.S. 790.15, to prohibit the discharge of a firearm outdoors in an area that the person knows, or reasonably should know, is primarily residential in nature and that has a residential density of one or more dwelling units per acre. A violation is a misdemeanor in the first degree.

    Bill creates the following exemptions:

    • For an individual who is lawfully defending life or property
    • For discharging a firearm under circumstances where the discharge does not pose a reasonable foreseeable risk of life, safety, or property
    • For the accidental discharge of a firearm

    SB 386 – Expunction of Records of Minors

    Introducer(s): Senators Nancy Detert & Darren Soto
    Related Bill(s): HB 147
    Last Action: In Fiscal Policy Committee, 12/7/15
    Effective Date: July 1, 2016

    Bill amends F.S. 943.0515, to change the retention of juvenile offender records from 5 years after the minor reaches 19 years of age to 2 years, provided that certain statutory exceptions do not exist. (Person is 18 years old or older and is charged or convicted of a forcible felony or child has not been classified as a serious or habitual juvenile offender.)

    SB 344 – Justifiable Use or Threatened Use of Defensive Force

    Introducer(s): Senator(s): Rob Bradley
    Co-introducer(s): Senator(s): Charles Dean; Greg Evers; Aaron Bean; & Wilton Simpson

    Related Bill(s): HB 169
    Last Action: Placed on Calendar for 2nd reading on 12/7/15
    Effective Date: Upon becoming law

    Bill amends F.S. 776.032, to remove the burden of proof of self-defense from the individual asserting the defense. Once an individual asserts a prima facie case of self-defense, the State then has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the individual is not entitled to dismissal of the charge on the grounds that he/she acted in self-defense.

    The most recent version of the Bill removes the language which entitled a defendant who prevails during a motion to dismiss, to private attorney’s fees and costs for defending the criminal action.

    SB 440 – Experimental Treatments for Terminal Conditions

    Introducer(s): Senators Rob Bradley & Daren Soto
    Related Bill(s): HB 307
    Last Action: Fiscal Policy Committee, 12/7/15
    Effective Date: 7/1/16

    Bill amends F.S. 499.0295, to permit eligible patients or their representatives to purchase and possess cannabis for medical use. The cannabis must be purchased from an approved dispensing organization as defined by F.S. 381.986 (facility approved by the Dept. of Health).

    SB 852 – Medical Marijuana

    Introducer(s): Senator Jeff Brandes
    Related Bill(s): SB 616 & HB 4021
    Last Action Referred to Regulated Industries and Health Policy Committees, 12/3/15
    Effective Date: 7/1/16

    Bill repeals the “Compassionate Use of Low-THC Cannabis Act and creates F.S. 381.99 (Florida Medical Marijuana Act”). The Bill authorizes a registered patient or a designated caregiver to purchase, acquire, and possess up to the allowed amount of medical marijuana for a patient’s medical use. To qualify for the Act, a registered patient or a designated caregiver must demonstrate that they have been diagnosed with one of the listed infirmities and manifest specific listed symptoms from the infirmity. The Bill also requires that the Dept. of Health notify law enforcement of the expiration or cancellation of an identification card.

    SB 1044 – Forfeiture of Contraband

    Introducer(s): Senators Jeff Brandes & Joe Negron
    Related Bill(s): HB 0883
    Last Action: Referred to Criminal Justice and Fiscal Committees and Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice, 12/17/15
    Effective Date: 7/1/16

    The Bill amends F.S. 932.703, to bestow upon the law enforcement agency “provisional title” to seized property upon a finding of probable cause for the seizure. The Bill then requires that the property owner be convicted of the charges supporting the forfeiture before title to the property passes to the agency. Additionally, the law enforcement agency is financially responsible to the property owner for any damage, storage fees, and any other related applicable costs, if the owner is acquitted of the charges or the charges are nolle prosed or dismissed by the court.

    SB 1140 – Concealed Weapon or Firearm Licenses

    Introducer(s): Senator Dwight Bullard
    Related Bill(s): HB 0935
    Last Action: Filed 12/15/15
    Effective Date: 7/1/16

    Bill requires a concealed weapon or firearm licensee to inform a first responder that they are in possession of a weapon or firearm, and display both the license and proper identification upon demand of the first responder. Failure to provide such notification is a non-criminal infraction which carries a $1,000.00 fine payable to the clerk of court. Additionally, any subsequent violation of this section would mandate a suspension or revocation of one’s license to carry a concealed weapon or firearm.

    BCPBA Endorses Lauren Book For Florida Senate

    The Broward County Police Benevolent Association has announced its support for Lauren Book for election to the Florida State Senate, District 32, in the General Election on Tuesday, November 8, 2016.

    “Lauren has proven to be an incredible and resilient woman,” Broward County PBA President Jeff Marano said. “We are confident she will be a great leader and asset not only to her District 32 constituents, but to all Floridians. Law enforcement relies on public officials and we strive to endorse the very best candidates.”

    Book is an author, educator and internationally respected and renowned child advocate. As founder and CEO of Lauren’s Kids, Book seeks to create a world where the exploitation of children is not tolerated. She has been named a PEOPLE All-Star Among Us, L’Oreal Woman of Worth and is the recipient of a Congressional Medal of Merit for her tireless work to protect childhood.

    Since 2002, Book has advocated for the passage of laws to better support survivors of abuse and protect children from predators, including the enactment of the nation’s toughest mandatory reporting laws, the creation of child safety zones and the elimination of the Statute of Limitations for prosecution of sexual crimes committed against children. Since 2010, Lauren has walked 1,500 miles across the state of Florida annually to raise awareness and empower survivors with the message that “It’s OK to Tell.”

    Book was born and raised in South Florida, where she currently resides and directs Lauren’s Kids. She graduated from the University of Miami with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and creative writing and a master’s degree in community psychology and social change.