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.