Legislative Activity For The Week Of February 20-24

We finished the last week of interim committee meetings before the official start of the 2017 Legislative Session.

PBA lobbyists had a busy week testifying before multiple committees in support of our legislative agenda. PBA President John Rivera was also in Tallahassee to support a potential charter referendum which could transform the Miami-Dade County government. All in all, we believe our entire agenda is strategically positioned heading into the session.

SB 134 by Senator Frank Artiles will allow a charter referendum to be placed on the ballot in Miami-Dade County to ask voters to consider changing the Director of Public Safety to an elected sheriff. Currently, Miami-Dade County is the only county in the state that does not have an elected sheriff and PBA believes that it is time for a change. PBA President and Miami-Dade County PBA President John Rivera testified in support of the legislation. The bill passed the Senate Community Affairs Committee.

HB 305 by Representative Shawn Harrison adds a new guideline to Chapter 943.1718 F.S., authorizing law enforcement officers to review body camera footage prior writing a report, or issuing a statement on an incident he, or she was involved in. PBA Lobbyist Gary Bradford testified in support of the legislation. The bill passed the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee.

All five of the PBA state bargaining units were before the Joint Committee on Collective Bargaining which allows the state and the union to present the unresolved positions (PAY RAISES and Career Development Plan) to a committee of Senators and Representatives of the Legislature. PBA Executive Director Matt Puckett testified on our issues before this committee. The committee does not take a vote, but will issue a letter for the consideration of the presiding legislative officers outlining the unresolved issues at impasse.

Additional issues receiving PBA public support:
SB 154 and HB 39 by Senator Perry Thurston and Representative Evan Jenne will require FDLE to create Autism Awareness Training as part of standard training for law enforcement officers.

SB 550 by Senator Randolph Bracy will exempt the name of a witness to a murder from the public records for two years.

We will have a one week break before the 60 days of session begins. In our estimation, PBA has checked every box we attempted to check prior to the start of session. We look forward to a productive session.

Legislative Activity For The Week Of February 13-17

Another week of interim committees meant another week of meetings with legislative leaders and staff to lobby our priorities.

Our team met with Senator Jack Latvala, who is our Career Development Plan (SB 168) sponsor and the Senate Budget Chairman, to discuss the status of the bill and our pay raise proposal. The Senator is adamant that a raise will be a part of the final General Appropriations Act (budget). He is firmly committed to seeing the issue through to the end and he has the backing of Senate President Joe Negron.

The PBA will continue to inform the entire Legislature of our plan. We are asking for a $10,000 across the board raise, the implementation of a Career Development Plan and increases to the Salary Incentive Program through state matching dollars. Yes, our proposal is aggressive and expensive, but it is also extremely necessary.

We are scheduled to testify before the Joint Select Committee on Collective Bargaining to discuss our wage proposal next Thursday, February 23.

The Florida PBA and the Florida Professional Fire Fighters submitted a draft of potential COLA study options to the Florida Senate. Our proposed options will allow the return of the COLA to all current and retired employees affected by the 2011 COLA suspension. We suggest if the legislature is not inclined to immediately and fully reinstate the COLA at the 3% level that it should at least create a COLA at 2% minimum (employees eligible to receive more than 2% will still receive it), or it can delay the implementation of the full 3% for a set amount of time either according to age, or length of retirement. Once, the actuary performs the study, we will have a much better handle on the direction the Legislature desires to travel.

Our body camera footage review bill (HB 305) by Representative Shawn Harrison was not on the House Criminal Justice Committee agenda like we initially thought it would be. However, it is on next week’s agenda which is occurs on Wednesday, February 22. This legislation will allow an officer to review footage of an incident taken from his/her body camera prior writing a report or issuing a statement.

Finally, a rather old issue (seven years) is back again. Legislation to add options to the State Group Health Insurance (PCB HHS 01-17) by Representative Jason Brodeur was heard in the Health & Human Services committee this week. This legislation will expand the health care offerings to state employees with the statutorily stated goal of raising quality and lowering your premiums. The Florida PBA has been a long time supporter of this legislative idea. We believe more choice allows for better bargaining power for our state employee members.

The state insurance plan is estimated to run deficits in the coming years so getting ahead of the market forces with this slowly phased in approach makes sense to our team. The legislation requires a detailed and lengthy study of the new offerings along with executive and legislative review and approval before the new services are added to the menu of options. It does not require an employee to make a change if the employee is satisfied with their current plan.

This legislation is about choice and, to the PBA, it is about bargaining options to help you maintain, raise your quality of health care while maintaining or lowering your premiums. The premiums haven’t been increased since 2005 and we all know that won’t last forever. We agree with this measured approach to adding more options and look forward to working with the Legislature on making this change occur.

Legislative Activity For The Week Of February 6-10

This week was the kind of week only a policy wonk could love. PBA lobbyists had many (many) meetings with legislators and legislative staff. These meeting are the key to establishing a base of support for our lobbying positions. Our goals this week were to meet with appropriations (budget) and policy staff, along with securing co-sponsors and general supporters for our legislative priorities.

At week’s end, I can happily state we checked every box.

Gary Bradford and Mick McHale met with Chairman Ross Spano to confirm that our body camera review (HB 305) legislation by Representative Shawn Harrison will be on next week’s Criminal Justice Committee agenda. Once that was indeed confirmed, they set out to meet with every member of the committee and secure co-sponsors. They also met with staff to work through any concerns the analysts had with our language. We are ready for our hearing next week…

Ken Kopczynski and I met with the budget staff in both Legislative chambers to discuss our pay raise proposals. We set out to demonstrate the differences between what we asked for and the Governor’s proposal. Obviously, the Governor gets all the attention with his proposal. Our task was to present our plan with associated costs in order to provide them with a proper contrast. The budget process literally takes all session to unfold, which means we will have to meet with the staff and the Legislators multiple times to keep our proposals in the forefront of their minds. As of today, no one has disagreed with our proposal for across the board raises. Now they haven’t exactly agreed with our request of $10,000 across the board…

We are still working on language to present to the Legislature for an actuarial impact study on FRS COLA restoration. We have teamed up with our partners at the Florida Professional Firefighters to provide multiple options for the Legislature to review. We plan to have our language finalized no later than next early week…

PBA lobbyists publicly supported SB 154 by Senator Perry Thurston and HB 39 by Representative Evan Jenne creating standardized Autism awareness training for Law Enforcement Officers.

We also publicly supported HB 111 by Representative Cynthia Stafford creating a public records exemption for the identity of a witness to a murder.

That is it for this week. We basically had a lot of meetings and if you are interested in meeting details and you want to hear more about it please contact the Florida PBA.

As always, please stay safe.

Sincerely,

Matt Puckett
Executive Director
Florida PBA