The official budget proposals from both chambers have been formally presented to the respective Appropriations Committees.

The intensity of the session is now in high gear.

The Appropriations Committees (Budget) overwhelming approved their proposals and the bills will be sent to the floor of each chamber. By design the two budgets will not match up which forces a conference committee to work out the differences. The final conference committee report (all differences resolved) must be approved by both chambers before the budget can be sent to the Governor. This happens every session and it is the only constitutionally required task of the Legislature.

There are still five weeks of session left to resolve all of our agenda items. Some issues have progressed nicely while others have work left to do.

One issue in particular that did not catch on with the Legislature this session is restoring the age to 55 and years of service to 25 for Special Risk employees hired after July 1, 2011. We need to educate all the new legislators on the original 25 years and age 55 model. Also a legislator, or two must become our champion for this issue so we can truly begin to advance it beyond just the conceptual phase.

Perhaps a different approach to the years of service and DROP will be necessary like creating a “Back DROP” or a “PLOP”, but those concepts will also require more legislative education. Like I discussed in a previous Capitol Report, the local plans have provided different pathways for us to explore.

We had another great team in Tallahassee this week, please join me in thanking them before reading through the briefs – Southwest President Mick McHale, Tampa President Abe Carmack, Corrections President Jimmy Baiardi, FHP President Bill Smith, Probation President Tammy Marcus, Dade President Steadman Stahl, Lobbyist Gary Bradford, Lobbyist Ken Kopczynski and PBA General Counsel Stephanie Webster.

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 budget proposal SB 2500 includes pay raises 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. Institutional Security Specialists are certified Correctional Officers who work for the Department of Children & Families and the Agency for Persons with Disabilities.

3) The Florida Highway Patrol will receive a 3% special pay adjustment to the base rate of pay.

The House budget proposal APC 1 does not include pay raises for any of our bargaining unit members .

Our lobbyists are working to keep the Senate raises for Probation, ISS and FHP, plus include Correctional Officers, FDLE Special Agents and State Law Enforcement Officers in the final conference committee report.

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.

The study is due 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, March 17th Senate Criminal Justice Committee hearing by unanimous vote (4-0).

HB 1021 by Representative Chris Latvala passed the House Criminal Justice Committee on Tuesday, March 25th by unanimous vote.

SB 76 by Senator Wilton Simpson and HB 45 or 107 by Representatives Emily Slosberg and Jackie Toledo
The legislation will make texting while driving, or, perhaps even, distracted driving a primary traffic offense. The question over whether this offense should be texting while driving, or distracted driving is dividing the Legislature.

SB 76 by Senator Wilton Simpson passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, March 24th by unanimous vote.

HB 107 by Representatives Jackie Toledo and Emily Slosberg passed the House Transportation Committee on Tuesday, March 25th by unanimous vote .

HB 1007 by Representative Stan McClain
This legislation will allow peer to peer counseling confidentially for first responders in order to help address the mental health crisis gripping our public safety officers. We give a special thanks to Marion County Sergeant George Wallace for proposing this idea to Representative McClain.

The bill passed the House Civil Justice Committee on Monday, March 25th by unanimous vote.

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.