We have reached the point in the Legislative Session when you need to be able to articulate your point on a subject in under 60 seconds. A long meeting with a legislator is five minutes . . . ten if you are a local constituent. We are one third of the way through this session, so the timelines are tightening for legislation to receive hearings which means “bills are dying.”

Perhaps you cannot judge it from these weekly briefings, or our public testimony, but we can really expound on all of our issues when given the opportunity. The time for expounding, though, has passed.

Remember a few weeks ago, every Capitol Report article was about the meetings we were having with key Legislators. Those meetings were laying the groundwork for now and into the last two thirds of the session when time is not on our side.

Our early discussions about our priorities have turned into talking points.

We have to transform a weighty topic like the need for agency specific career development plans into a sixty second riff that uses key phrases. These key phrases are what we continue lobbying into the minds of legislators. By the end of session, if we harped on a topic thoroughly, all a legislator should have to do is see one of our lobbyists and our issues should come to mind. Although, that will not prevent us from reminding them again.

Before you read the briefs, please join me in thanking everyone who joined the team in Tallahassee this week – SCO President Jimmy Baiardi, Treasurer John Rivera, VP of Charters Jeff Marano, SunCoast President George Lofton, SunCoast Executive Director Michael Krohn, VP of Legislation Bill Smith, Probation VP Anna Jackson, Probation Representative Crystal Summerlin, Dade President Steadman Stahl, Dade Executive VP John Jenkins, along with Correctional Officers Scott Torres, Danny Witt, Justin Sizemore, Samantha Sibley, Amanda Pepin, and Steve Pepin.

Also, I personally thank Gary Bradford, Ken Kopczynski, Al Shopp, Mario Theodore, Gina Deering, Laura Spraker, Sherry Hannon, Bob Peterson, Mark Bartell, Debbie Tully, Inga Ingolfsson, and Jim Spearing for smoothly maneuvering through all of the moving parts of this particular week. I am proud to be part of such a great team.

Here’s where we are as of today.

Pay raises for State Law Enforcement Officers, Lottery Law Enforcement Officers, FDLE Special Agents, Florida Highway Patrol, Correctional Probation Officers, and Correctional Officers

The Senate released its first budget proposal this morning SB 2500. There are pay raises in the Senate proposal for three groups of our bargaining unit members:

  1. Correctional Probation Officers to receive a $2,500 to the base rate of pay.
  2. Institutional Security Specialists to receive $2,500 to the base rate of pay.
  3. The Florida Highway Patrol will receive a 3% special pay adjustment to the base rate of pay.

The House does not pay raises for any of our bargaining unit members as of yet.

We have a great deal of lobbying left to do before the final budget is approved and sent to the Governor in early May.

Our lobbying tasks ahead – 1) keep what we have and; 2) add in all of the other bargaining unit members not included in this first round.

There are six weeks left.

SB 784 by Senator Joe Gruters and HB 779 by Representative Chuck Clemons
This Legislation 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.

We learned that the study will be complete by April 2, 2019.

SB 920 by Senator Jason Pizzo and HB 1021 by Representative Chris Latvala
The idea is to help speed up the process for an arrest of a DNA match. Current law, requires a search warrant to collect a buccal swab of a person who matches a crime scene sample and an offender profile in CODIS. This step was added because sample collections are performed by humans and humans make mistakes. However, we strongly believe that a warrant for arrest should be an option available to a judge when a CODIS match is found.

SB 920 by Senator Jason Pizzo passed the Monday, Senate Criminal Justice Committee hearing by a unanimous vote (4-0). We are hopeful to receive a hearing on HB 1021 in the House Criminal Justice Committee next week.

SB 76 by Senator Wilton Simpson and HB 45 or 107 by Representatives Emily Slosberg and Jackie Toledo
This Legislation will attempt to make 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.

Criminal Justice
We continue to be involved in the debate around criminal justice reform. The Senate is conducting a full scale review of our sentencing laws to specifically include minimum mandatory sentences for drug offenses, along incarceration models and diversion programs.

Other Issues
We are also working with other special interests groups on an array of issues during this session. You can always contact us if there’s a question about something that we did, or did not cover.