The 2020 Legislative Session Is Coming To A Close

The ninth week of the 2020 Legislative Session is complete, and the budget is being placed on the legislators’ desks as everyone waits for the “72 Hours Cooling Off Period” before they can vote on it. The new “last day” is Wednesday.

Pay Raises for Florida PBA’s State Bargaining Units:
The pay raises were announced late yesterday afternoon. The Legislature held tight to the pledge to reward all employees with an across the board raise. Considering the state of affairs right now, this is a big deal. Our fear all week has been a diversion of the pay raise funding toward the COVID-19 response . . . it didn’t happen. I thank Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley, Senate President Bill Galvano, Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson, House Appropriations Chairman Travis Cummings, Speaker of the House Jose Oliva, and all of the Legislature for keeping the raises in place.

Peer to Peer Legislation:
Sometimes issues in the legislative process take a twisty path to reach completion. The Peer to Peer Legislation and the Law Enforcement Officers and Correctional Officers’ Bill of Rights are the definition of a twisty path. Over the last two weeks, both pieces of legislation were considered finished for this year. The Senate was balking at the Senate version of the Peer to Peer bill (SB 160) and the House was not moving HB 453. Then a plan came together to join both bills into one. Easier said than done. However, yesterday the plan completed the legislative path with the combined bills passing on the Senate and House floors. The new combined bill HB 573 is off to the Governor.

Here’s what the new combined bill provides. The legislation creates a new peer support system for first responders within an agency. We are experiencing an epidemic of suicides all across the country and this peer support system has shown that, when properly utilized, lives can be saved. We thank Senator Keith Perry and his staff member Kinley Morgan for working closely with our team to make this peer legislation a reality.

If you are experiencing signs of depression, or if you are struggling with a mental health issue please visit JonsChallenge.org.

The legislation also includes our Bill of Rights legislation which places part-time officers into the Law Enforcement Officers and Correctional Officers Bill of Rights, specifies complaints must be investigated within 180 days of receipt regardless of origin, and the small agencies of 35 or less can seek an outside agency to conduct an investigation. This legislation was supported strongly by the PBA, FOP, and the Florida Police Chiefs’s Association. Specifically, I thank Jacksonville FOP President Steve Zona, FOP Lobbyist Lisa Henning, Chief Gary Hester, Executive Director for the Chiefs Amy Mercer, and the Chiefs’ Lobbyist Tim Stanfield.

To make this plan work, we needed several legislators to guide the ship – Senator Ed Hooper, Senator Keith Perry, Senator Rob Bradley, Representative Wyman Duggan, Representative Joe Casello, and Representative Paul Renner. They all deserve praise for making these two issues a reality.

SB 7012 by Senator Lauren Book creates the Suicide Prevention Taskforce to examine suicides by Law Enforcement and Correctional Officers. Our very own Senior Vice President Mick McHale will be our representative on the taskforce.

This session is essentially over. The successes of the session were truly a group effort. We are already making plans to deal with next year’s agenda which, since the incoming Senate President wants to work with us on it, will be heavily focused on fixing pensions.

This is the last Capitol Report for the 2020 Regular Session. There many legislators to thank, but a select few rise to the top consistently each year – Senator Rob Bradley, Senator Ed Hooper, Senator Keith Perry, Senator Ben Albritton, Senator Joe Gruters, Senator Lauren Book, future Senate President Wilton Simpson, Representative Travis Cummings, Representative Wyman Duggan (only in his second year), Representative Matt Willhite, Representative Chuck Clemons, Representative Paul Renner, and future House Speaker Chris Sprowls. These legislators sponsor our legislation and help guide our issues through the process. If you live in the districts of the above mentioned Legislators please show your support by thanking them for all they do for law enforcement and corrections.

Is This The Final Week Of The Legislative Session?

We completed the eighth week of the 2020 Legislative Session. However, this week is not expected to be the last week. The Legislature has been at an impasse on big policy issues and appropriation allocations. The impasse will add some extra time before the session actually ends . . . hopefully, hours and not days.

Here’s where everything “still in play” stands, which is subject to change one hour from now and then change again.

Pay Raises for Florida PBA’s State Bargaining Units:
Budget conference is finally beginning which means the issue of pay raises can be settled. Both chambers have pay raises in their respective budget proposals. The Senate’s plan is far more generous to all of our bargaining units and we have advocated for the Senate plan since it was released. The joint agreement should come into focus over the next several days. We will keep our bargaining unit members posted as developments unfold.

Peer to Peer Legislation:
We are working with a large coalition of law enforcement, corrections and firefighting organizations to create Florida’s first ever “Peer to Peer” support legislation to assist first responders’ with mental health needs. This legislation will provide properly trained peer support in conjunction with other agency resources such as the Employee Assistance Program.

SB 160 by Senator Keith Perry & Representative Joseph Casello (HB 573) are our sponsors.

The bills are not identical which means compromise amendments if anything is to pass. HB 573 is on the House Special Order Calendar this evening. SB 160 is on the Senate Special Order Calendar for Monday.

SB 7012 creating a task force to examine first responder suicides passed the Senate yesterday which places it in House Messages. We are waiting for the House to take action.

If you are experiencing signs of depression, or if you are struggling a mental health issue please visit JonsChallenge.org.

Law Enforcement and Correctional Officers Bill of Rights:
The Senate Bill (SB 884) has been placed on the Senate Calendar for Third Reading. The House Bill (HB 453) is available to receive the Senate Bill on the House floor.

The legislation will include part-time officers into the Law Enforcement Officers and Correctional Officers Bill of Rights, specifies complaints must be investigated within 180 days of receipt regardless of origin, and the small agencies of 35 or less can seek an outside agency to conduct an investigation.

Our sponsors for this legislation are Representative Wymann Duggan (HB 453) and Senator Ed Hooper (SB 884).

Two Weeks Remain In The 2020 Legislative Session

We are down to just two weeks. March 2-5 is the final week for committee meetings. Then we will have marathon floor sessions for a full week. The Budget Conference Committees have yet to meet, but negotiations are certainly underway. We made a strategic decision last year to hire an outside lobby firm, Ballard Partners, to assist us with the “informal” negotiation process. Our point person with the firm is Mat Forrest and he keeps in steady contact with the upper leadership of both chambers. The budget is such an important part of our legislative agenda since we ask for yearly pay raises that we knew we had to strengthen our team with a well connected outside firm. We are very pleased with their professionalism and access.

The Bill of Rights legislation received its final Senate committee hearing in the Senate Appropriations on Thursday. The Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously passed SB 884 by Senator Ed Hooper. The legislation was amended again to provide a smaller agency of 35 officers or less the ability to seek support from an outside agency when a conflict exists within the investigations’ division. The Appropriations Committee also provided funds to cover a projected increase to the Executive Branch’s Inspector General’s investigative staff. The 112 language remains in place with the addition of part time officers and a clarification to the meaning of complaint by specifying that regardless of origin (internal or external) the investigation must be completed in 180 days. The Fraternal Order of Police (specifically Steve Zona and Lisa Henning) have been excellent partners with us on this legislation. We reached agreement on this week’s amendment with the Florida Police Chiefs’ Association and they have been great partners, too. The legislation is headed to the Senate floor.

The Senate Appropriations Committee also unanimously passed SB 7012 by Senator Lauren Book creating a Mental Health task force to examine the plague of law enforcement officer, correctional officer, and firefighter suicides. The Florida PBA along with the Florida Professional Firefighters, the Fraternal Order of Police, Florida Police Chiefs’ Association, Florida Sheriffs’ Association, and Florida Fire Chiefs Association will have a member on the task force. We thank Senators Lauren Book, Ed Hooper, and Ben Albritton for their work on this task force.

Issues we continue to lobby for

Pay Raises for Florida PBA’s State Bargaining Units:
Florida PBA is the exclusive collective bargaining representative the State Law Enforcement Officers, Florida Highway Patrol, Special Agents with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Security Services (Correctional Officers, Correctional Probation Officers, and Institutional Security Specialist) and Lottery Law Enforcement Officers. The Senate and House released separate pay raise proposals at the end of the week. An agreement on wages must be reached before March 13th.

Florida Retirement System:
Request relief from the FRS COLA suspension for Special Risk Members hired prior to July 1, 2011 and to roll back the years of service/age requirements for FRS members hired after July 1, 2011. We will also begin exploring ways to increase the employers’ contribution rate for members in the investment plan.

Our COLA legislation is being sponsored once again by Representative Chuck Clemons (HB 425) and Senator Joe Gruters (SB 858).

Peer to Peer Legislation:
We are working with a large coalition of law enforcement, corrections and firefighting organizations to create Florida’s first ever “Peer to Peer” support legislation to assist first responders’ with mental health needs. This legislation will provide properly trained peer support in conjunction with other agency resources such as the Employee Assistance Program.

SB 160 by Senator Keith Perry & Representative Joseph Casello (HB 573) are our sponsors.

If you are experiencing signs of depression, or if you are struggling a mental health issue please visit JonsChallenge.org.

Law Enforcement and Correctional Officers Bill of Rights:
The PBA and FOP are teaming up to address the Law Enforcement Officers and Correctional Officers Bill of Rights. A court decision split the definition of a complaint into “internal” and “external” which was never the intention of the statute. We are also extending the bill of rights to part-time officers. Our joint proposal will restore the original definition of complaint in the law.

Our sponsors for this legislation are Representative Wymann Duggan (HB 453) and Senator Ed Hooper (SB 884).