We wrapped up the second legislative interim committee week in preparation for the 2018 Legislative Session. Our lobbying team spent much of the week gathering information from key staff members, legislators and other special interest groups. The budget outlook is still murky as a result of Hurricane Irma, yet the outlook is far from bleak . . . at least in my opinion.
Our legislative agenda is still taking shape, but, as I wrote in the last update, multiple issues are already in the process.
Priority funding for all of our state bargaining units continues to our primary budgetary consideration. We are lobbying for pay raises for State Law Enforcement Officers, Florida Highway Patrol, Lottery, FDLE Special Agents, and the Security Services Unit (including Correctional Officers, Probation Officers and Institutional Security Specialists). The Governor and agencies have put forward a spending proposal for State Law Enforcement, Highway Patrol and FDLE. The PBA bargaining teams are scheduled to begin bargaining with the Department of Management Services over those proposals on November 6. The Governor is asking for flexibility to fund the specific pay needs of each agency. Great idea. We are encouraged by what we have seen so far, but details need to be sorted over. Expect to see a list of each proposal following the November 6th bargaining session. PBA may put forward a pay proposal at a later negotiation unless an agreement is reached on the individual agency plans.
The PBA Security Services bargaining team has already put forward a pay proposal and we are scheduled for a second negotiation in mid-November. The team is asking for a 3% across the board increase with a 2% longevity step for every Security Services Unit officer (including Correctional Officers, Probation Officers and Institutional Security Specialists) with more than five years of state service. An additional $2,500 pay request for Probation Officers and Institutional Security Specialist is included to reach equity with FDC Correctional Officers. Probation Officers and Institutional Security Specialist were not included in last year’s pay raise for FDC Correctional Officers.
Anatrisha Jackson from our Correctional Probation Officers’ Trustee Board joined us in Tallahassee on Tuesday and Wednesday. She met with several legislators and staff to educate them on the probation officers’ role within the criminal justice system and why a pay raise is needed to keep officers at the agency.
We are also working closely with the Florida Professional Firefighters to secure sponsors for legislation restoring, or restructuring, the Florida Retirement System Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA). The COLA was suspended on July 1, 2011 and with each passing month the COLA accrual rate continues to drop. We are eager to address this problem and we remain hopeful that the full Legislature can support us.
Senator Lauren Book (SB 376), Senator Victor Torres (SB 126) and Representative Matt Willhite (HB 227) have filed legislation to reform worker’s compensation coverage for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Current law requires that coverage be provided when the mental or nervous system injury results from a physical line of duty bodily injury. As we all understand, PTSD often occurs without an accompanying physical injury. We are working with the Professional Firefighters and the Fraternal Order of Police to reform the existing law to expand the coverage requirements and help first responders who are suffering.
PBA will also lobby to change toll road requirements for unmarked official law enforcement vehicles. Today, an unmarked law enforcement vehicle is not exempt from paying the tolls while many other exemptions exist. Representative Shawn Harrison (HB 141), Senator Dana Young (SB 356) and Senator Denise Grimsley (SB 336) are sponsoring legislation to add these vehicles to the list of toll road exemptions.
Finally, PBA Lobbyist Gary Bradford provided public support for HB 165 by Representative Stan McClain. This legislation put forward by the Florida Police Chiefs Association will designate electronically communicated threats to kill or do bodily harm as a second degree felony.