The Capitol Report For The Week Up March 6-10

The Legislature was off to the races after the normal pomp and circumstance of opening day flashed by with very little fanfare. Legislative committee meetings started earlier and ran later than normal for a first week which keeps with the unusual pace from interim committees. The lobbying corps and legislators may be uptight about the workload at this point in the session, but, one thing is for sure, bills are moving.

PBA had multiple bills up during the first part of the week which gave us time to conduct important meetings on Thursday and Friday. If you have been keeping up with our weekly reports (and I encourage you to do so, because this report is a weekly running thread not an exhaustive “here’s everything you need to know” outline), then you know our lobbying team feels good about how we keep checking off our weekly goals.

So let’s discuss where we are after week one and the direction we are heading.

State Employee Pay Raises
All indications point to legislative budget allocations being released next week. Therefore, it was imperative to get our proposal to the Legislature early and we did. We have issued PBA’s wage proposal to all of the appropriations (budget) staff and the legislative leadership.

Our proposal includes an across the board ($10,000) wage increase, an increase of $10,000 to starting salaries, the creation of a career development plan (step plan), expansion of CAD and increases to the salary incentive program. We testified before the Joint Legislative Collective Bargaining Committee in February and outlined our plan which is designed to move all PBA bargaining units (Corrections, Probation, Highway Patrol, State Law Enforcement, FDLE Special Agents and Lottery) into a completely new broad band level. It is aggressive, especially compared to other state employee units, but we believe it is necessary.

The Governor released his proposal, too. He included raises for all of the PBA bargaining units and no other state employees.

Once the Legislative proposals are released, we will understand the full range of potential options on the table. This means we will have at least four different proposals on the table. Do not be surprised if at least one proposal is a “no raise” proposal. That is how bargaining works. We have until late April to resolve this issue.

State Employee Health Insurance
State Group Health Insurance is an interesting subject for a number of reasons. First, the PBA proposed no increases to the premiums and no change to the current offerings. Second, the Governor’s proposal does not increase premiums for single coverage and family coverage, but it eliminates the spousal program which affects roughly 1,500 of our members. Finally, there is a legislative proposal that could potentially add many more options for the membership to bargain over.

Our top priority for this session is to keep the premium costs under control and keep the spousal program in place.

However, we should be working to bring in more options to bargain over in future years. We have no leverage at the table on this issue. Our position could be dramatically improved if we could “wheel and deal” on multiple coverage options.

The Legislature has not raised premiums on the active employees for twelve years (how much longer do we honestly believe that will last?), but the retirees have taken a yearly hit. Although active employees have not seen a premium increase, the state has absorbed double digit increases to its share of the health insurance premium each year. Simply hoping for no increases to the employee premiums is not a great strategy. We need to be able to bargain on more options to keep the costs reasonable while maintaining high quality coverage.

We are supporting HB 7007 by Representative Jason Brodeur which gives the state and its employees many more options to bargain over in the coming years.

PBA Executive Director Matt Puckett testified in support of this legislation on Wednesday.

Florida Retirement System
There are multiple bills to keep tabs on this session, but nothing of real consequence moved this week. We are waiting for the actuarial studies on the reinstatement of the COLA to be completed. Stay tuned.

Local Pension Plans
HB 533 by Representative Janet Cruz concerning changes to the Tampa pension plan received a hearing in the House’s Local, Federal & Veteran Affairs Committee. It passed unanimously. The plan is a special act requiring legislative approval to the changes from the latest round of collective bargaining. PBA Lobbyist Gary Bradford attended the meeting to monitor the bill’s progress.

Body Camera Review
SB 624 by Senator Greg Steube received a hearing this week in the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. The bill will allow a law enforcement officer to review the footage from his or her camera prior to writing a report, or making a statement about an incident arising from his or her official duties. PBA Executive Director Matt Puckett testified in support of the legislation while also receiving some very pointed questions about the bill’s intentions. There are a couple of legislators who believe allowing an officer to review the footage opens the door to misuse and, perhaps, abuse. The bill passed the committee unanimously, but it was a controversial hearing. Stay tuned.

The “Sheriffs Should be Elected” Bill
HJR 721 by Representative Jason Fischer also received a hearing this week in the House’s Local, Federal & Veteran Affairs Committee. In a nutshell, this legislation will place a constitutional amendment on the ballot requiring that all sheriffs must be elected. Only Dade County has an appointed public safety director instead of elected sheriff. PBA President John Rivera testified in support of the legislation which was opposed by Dade and Broward Counties. The bill passed the committee unanimously.

Public Records Exemption for a Witness to a Murder
Both bills ( SB 550 and HB 111) received hearings this week. The legislation will exempt from the public record a murder witness’ personal information from the public’s view for two years. PBA testified in support of the legislation. Both bills passed.

Please join me in thanking Nikki Sears, Paul Villaverde, PBA President John Rivera, Rod Skirvin, Broward County PBA President Jeff Marano, Tom Tiberio, Jim Baiardi and Brittany Wellborn for joining us in Tallahassee this week.

Legislative Activity For The Week Of February 20-24

We finished the last week of interim committee meetings before the official start of the 2017 Legislative Session.

PBA lobbyists had a busy week testifying before multiple committees in support of our legislative agenda. PBA President John Rivera was also in Tallahassee to support a potential charter referendum which could transform the Miami-Dade County government. All in all, we believe our entire agenda is strategically positioned heading into the session.

SB 134 by Senator Frank Artiles will allow a charter referendum to be placed on the ballot in Miami-Dade County to ask voters to consider changing the Director of Public Safety to an elected sheriff. Currently, Miami-Dade County is the only county in the state that does not have an elected sheriff and PBA believes that it is time for a change. PBA President and Miami-Dade County PBA President John Rivera testified in support of the legislation. The bill passed the Senate Community Affairs Committee.

HB 305 by Representative Shawn Harrison adds a new guideline to Chapter 943.1718 F.S., authorizing law enforcement officers to review body camera footage prior writing a report, or issuing a statement on an incident he, or she was involved in. PBA Lobbyist Gary Bradford testified in support of the legislation. The bill passed the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee.

All five of the PBA state bargaining units were before the Joint Committee on Collective Bargaining which allows the state and the union to present the unresolved positions (PAY RAISES and Career Development Plan) to a committee of Senators and Representatives of the Legislature. PBA Executive Director Matt Puckett testified on our issues before this committee. The committee does not take a vote, but will issue a letter for the consideration of the presiding legislative officers outlining the unresolved issues at impasse.

Additional issues receiving PBA public support:
SB 154 and HB 39 by Senator Perry Thurston and Representative Evan Jenne will require FDLE to create Autism Awareness Training as part of standard training for law enforcement officers.

SB 550 by Senator Randolph Bracy will exempt the name of a witness to a murder from the public records for two years.

We will have a one week break before the 60 days of session begins. In our estimation, PBA has checked every box we attempted to check prior to the start of session. We look forward to a productive session.

Legislative Activity For The Week Of February 13-17

Another week of interim committees meant another week of meetings with legislative leaders and staff to lobby our priorities.

Our team met with Senator Jack Latvala, who is our Career Development Plan (SB 168) sponsor and the Senate Budget Chairman, to discuss the status of the bill and our pay raise proposal. The Senator is adamant that a raise will be a part of the final General Appropriations Act (budget). He is firmly committed to seeing the issue through to the end and he has the backing of Senate President Joe Negron.

The PBA will continue to inform the entire Legislature of our plan. We are asking for a $10,000 across the board raise, the implementation of a Career Development Plan and increases to the Salary Incentive Program through state matching dollars. Yes, our proposal is aggressive and expensive, but it is also extremely necessary.

We are scheduled to testify before the Joint Select Committee on Collective Bargaining to discuss our wage proposal next Thursday, February 23.

The Florida PBA and the Florida Professional Fire Fighters submitted a draft of potential COLA study options to the Florida Senate. Our proposed options will allow the return of the COLA to all current and retired employees affected by the 2011 COLA suspension. We suggest if the legislature is not inclined to immediately and fully reinstate the COLA at the 3% level that it should at least create a COLA at 2% minimum (employees eligible to receive more than 2% will still receive it), or it can delay the implementation of the full 3% for a set amount of time either according to age, or length of retirement. Once, the actuary performs the study, we will have a much better handle on the direction the Legislature desires to travel.

Our body camera footage review bill (HB 305) by Representative Shawn Harrison was not on the House Criminal Justice Committee agenda like we initially thought it would be. However, it is on next week’s agenda which is occurs on Wednesday, February 22. This legislation will allow an officer to review footage of an incident taken from his/her body camera prior writing a report or issuing a statement.

Finally, a rather old issue (seven years) is back again. Legislation to add options to the State Group Health Insurance (PCB HHS 01-17) by Representative Jason Brodeur was heard in the Health & Human Services committee this week. This legislation will expand the health care offerings to state employees with the statutorily stated goal of raising quality and lowering your premiums. The Florida PBA has been a long time supporter of this legislative idea. We believe more choice allows for better bargaining power for our state employee members.

The state insurance plan is estimated to run deficits in the coming years so getting ahead of the market forces with this slowly phased in approach makes sense to our team. The legislation requires a detailed and lengthy study of the new offerings along with executive and legislative review and approval before the new services are added to the menu of options. It does not require an employee to make a change if the employee is satisfied with their current plan.

This legislation is about choice and, to the PBA, it is about bargaining options to help you maintain, raise your quality of health care while maintaining or lowering your premiums. The premiums haven’t been increased since 2005 and we all know that won’t last forever. We agree with this measured approach to adding more options and look forward to working with the Legislature on making this change occur.

Legislative Activity For The Week Of February 6-10

This week was the kind of week only a policy wonk could love. PBA lobbyists had many (many) meetings with legislators and legislative staff. These meeting are the key to establishing a base of support for our lobbying positions. Our goals this week were to meet with appropriations (budget) and policy staff, along with securing co-sponsors and general supporters for our legislative priorities.

At week’s end, I can happily state we checked every box.

Gary Bradford and Mick McHale met with Chairman Ross Spano to confirm that our body camera review (HB 305) legislation by Representative Shawn Harrison will be on next week’s Criminal Justice Committee agenda. Once that was indeed confirmed, they set out to meet with every member of the committee and secure co-sponsors. They also met with staff to work through any concerns the analysts had with our language. We are ready for our hearing next week…

Ken Kopczynski and I met with the budget staff in both Legislative chambers to discuss our pay raise proposals. We set out to demonstrate the differences between what we asked for and the Governor’s proposal. Obviously, the Governor gets all the attention with his proposal. Our task was to present our plan with associated costs in order to provide them with a proper contrast. The budget process literally takes all session to unfold, which means we will have to meet with the staff and the Legislators multiple times to keep our proposals in the forefront of their minds. As of today, no one has disagreed with our proposal for across the board raises. Now they haven’t exactly agreed with our request of $10,000 across the board…

We are still working on language to present to the Legislature for an actuarial impact study on FRS COLA restoration. We have teamed up with our partners at the Florida Professional Firefighters to provide multiple options for the Legislature to review. We plan to have our language finalized no later than next early week…

PBA lobbyists publicly supported SB 154 by Senator Perry Thurston and HB 39 by Representative Evan Jenne creating standardized Autism awareness training for Law Enforcement Officers.

We also publicly supported HB 111 by Representative Cynthia Stafford creating a public records exemption for the identity of a witness to a murder.

That is it for this week. We basically had a lot of meetings and if you are interested in meeting details and you want to hear more about it please contact the Florida PBA.

As always, please stay safe.


Matt Puckett
Executive Director
Florida PBA

Legislative Activity For The Week Of January 23-27

This week PBA leaders met with Senate President Joe Negron and the Speaker of the House of Representatives Chief of Staff Mat Bahl to discuss our legislative priorities for the 2017 Session. Our primary discussions centered on pay raises for state officers and restoring the FRS COLA.

Both leaders indicated they will give strong consideration to funding for employees’ pay raises and authorizing FRS studies in the upcoming fiscal year. At this early point in the legislative budget process, that’s about all we can ask for.

We will follow up with the leaders again in late February.

Review of Body Camera Footage
HB 305 by Representative Shawn Harrison has been referenced to House Criminal Justice and House Judiciary.

The legislation will allow an officer to review footage from a body worn camera prior to writing a report, or making a statement on an officer involved incident. Although several jurisdictions already have the policy in standard operation procedures; there are outliers. We strongly believe not having this policy in place severely hampers an officer’s ability to fully utilize body cameras as a tool. Whether you like body cameras, or not, preventing this provision in an agency’s SOP puts the officer, the agency and, perhaps justice itself, in jeopardy.

Senator Greg Steube has the companion bill in Senate bill drafting.

Career Development Plan for Public Safety Officers
For the second year, the PBA will lobby for the creation of a Public Safety Officers’ Career Development Plan. The legislation requires each agency to establish a Career Development Plan for state law enforcement officers, state correctional officers, state correctional probation officers and state forestry firefighters. All of these officers are among the lowest paid in the state and nation. This legislation will set the agencies on a path to creating a sustainable salary plan that helps to recruit and retain public safety professionals. The details of this legislation will most certainly shift and adjust as it moves through the process. The end result will be a plan that provides salary increases to officers objectively based on their experience and ability.

Our sponsors are Senate Budget Chairman Jack Latvala (SB 168) and Representative Bobby Payne (HB 247).

Please join me in thanking the following PBA leaders for joining us in Tallahassee this week: John Rivera, Ernie George, John Kazanjian, and Mick McHale.