Interim Committee Period Ends; 2019 Legislative Session Begins March 5

The interim committee week period prior to the start of session ended on February 22, and the official start to the 2019 Legislative Session begins Tuesday, March 5. The Legislature will take next week off before the 60 day stretch begins.

Our lobbying team hit all of our objectives during the interim period.

Our pay raise requests for all of the Florida PBA state employee bargaining units have been discussed with House and Senate Appropriations’ leadership. We are still in the process of making the formal request through the collective bargaining process. However, that process is merely perfunctory since all pay decision are handled by the Legislature. Meaning even if the PBA and the Executive Branch agreed to a pay plan (we are currently not in agreement), the final decision rests with the Legislature’s 2019-2020 General Appropriations Act.

SB 784 by Senator Joe Gruters and HB 779 by Representative Chuck Clemons will create a COLA floor of no less than 2% for all Special Risk Employees hired prior to July 1, 2011. The legislation requires a special impact study in order to become law. Our study request was presented to legislative staff this week and we now must wait for a formal submission of the study from the Legislative committee chairman. Yes, I am being vague and that is by design. This study has been derailed for two years so caution is needed.

Our Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) DNA database legislation has been assigned bill numbers in both chambers SB 920 by Senator Jason Pizzo and HB 1021 by Representatives Chris Latvala. This bill proposal will removed the required probable cause for a search warrant to seek a buccal swab from an offender who already matched crime scene DNA with the offender profile in the CODIS. Instead, the bills may be used to find probable cause for the issuance of a warrant for arrest of the offender following a match of crime scene DNA to the offender profile in CODIS. The elimination of the search warrant requirement will speed up the apprehension of the offender.

SB 76 by Senator Wilton Simpson and HB 107 by Representatives Emily Slosberg and Jackie Toledo will attempt to making distracted driving, or, at a minimum, texting while driving a primary traffic offense. Our organization has been involved with this legislation for multiple years now. Last year, we felt like the proposal was stopped over claims of potential racial profiling by police officers. Not only will this legislation save lives, but our engagement in the debate will help us build stronger relationships with legislators who may have a level of discomfort with police. These legislators are potential future allies. However, there are no doubt a handful of legislators who simply do not like the police and no amount of constructive dialogue will change their position.

There are other issues we have been working on, or around, during this interim period. Our team has been busy since January and we are ready to go with the regular session.

Week Two Of The February Interim Committee Weeks Is Complete

Meetings are still the top order of business for our lobbying team. We had quite a few this week highlighted by a chance to sit and discuss our budget requests with both chambers’ appropriations chairmen (Senator Rob Bradley and Representative Travis Cummings). Two great friends of the Florida PBA who really understand our issues. Our priority was simple – PBA’s state bargaining unit employees need a raise.

A small team consisting of me, Executive Committee Vice President of Services Jim Baiardi, Business Director Al Shopp, General Counsel Stephanie Dobson Webster met with new Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Mark Inch and Deputy Secretary Ricky Dixon. We used the time together to discuss our priorities and hear about his plan to steer the department forward. We came away with a positive feeling about his core principles and beliefs. Let’s all move forward with him and his team to raise the morale and the salaries.

Both Florida Retirement System Cost of Living Adjustment bills are officially filed now. SB 784 by Senator Joe Gruters and HB 779 by Representative Chuck Clemons will create a COLA floor of no less than 2% for all Special Risk Employees hired prior to July 1, 2011.

Our study request is scheduled to be discuss with legislative committee staff next week. Our proposed study request will look at a return of the COLA for all employees regardless of hire date and a retroactive return of the age and years of service requirements for all employees hired after July 1, 2011. This change will have a positive effect for every member including FRS investment plan members. As noted last week, the normal costs to the system will increase with any COLA and age enhancements which will increase the contribution into your investment account.

Our CODIS DNA proposal continues to gain support among legislators. Look for bills to appear over the next two weeks. The new language will allow a probable cause for arrest of an offender following a match of crime scene DNA to the offender profile in CODIS.

Florida PBA President John Kazanjian, VP of Services Jim Baiardi, VP of Legislative Services William Smith, General Counsel Stephanie Dobson Webster and I visited chapter meetings on Monday and Tuesday in the Central Florida PBA and Northwest Florida PBA Chapters. We appreciate the hospitality and the feedback we received from the members of Ocoee, Leesburg, Escambia County and Santa Rosa County, along with our Correctional Probation Officer Chapter.

Also big thanks to PBA lobbyists Gary Bradford and Ken Kopczynski for their hard work this week.