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.
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).