The Intensity Of The Legislative Session Is Now In High Gear

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.

Six Weeks Remaining & Things Are Getting Serious

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.

The Legislative Session Continues, And The PBA Has Been Very Busy

Two years ago (right after passage of the omnibus pension bill), a fellow labor friend and I were discussing what the changes in the bill meant to the larger scheme of things. Specifically, we wondered if exempting newly hired special risk employees from defaulting into the investment plan (which we were able to do) was the “beginning of the end” or the “end of the beginning”. The answer remains to be seen, but may slowly be coming into focus.

There are two competing thoughts on this subject. The first believes we are all in this together and exemptions between the employee classes (like defaulting into the investment plan for non-special risk new hires) will eventually catch up with everyone. The other believes special risk employees can separate from the rest of the employee classes and continue to thrive. The municipal systems have done this for years.

We will likely learn which school of thought is correct over the next decade.

How we negotiate through this forth coming period will determine much of the outcome, but a portion (perhaps a sizable portion) will be decided by the luck of the economy. The old compensation systems are falling out of favor with the public. Salaries, pensions and retiree health insurance are the biggest costs to any agency and during a recession the public can be persuaded, because of envy, to turn against you. When a bad economy strikes, the target on your compensation grows larger.

To avoid the backlash, we must think of better ways to pay for the benefits and the methods of delivery. The systems are undergoing changes because of demographics and attrition. There are a large number of innovative road maps at the local level and from other states to show us how to precede; therefore, we must be willing to try out new ideas.

And that’s exactly what we will do. This year, in our opinion, is another step on a new path. A lot of our ideas are at the moment, just that… ideas, but as we explore and work with our allies much of what we want to accomplish will materialize into legislation.

If you have an idea that you think we should hear please email me, or local representative.

Please join me in thanking everyone who joined the lobbying team in Tallahassee this week – President John Kazanjian, Broward County President Rod Skirvin, SCO President Jimmy Baiardi, CPO Treasurer Tony Highsmith, Palm Beach County Treasurer Lou Penque, Dade County Executive Vice President John Jenkins, Dade County Treasurer Nazim Ishmael, Dade County Representative Darryl Hall, Dade County Executive Director Steve Shiver along with Correctional Officers Scott Torres, Samantha Sibley, Amanda Pepin, Steven Pepin, Adam Maxwell and Sean Crawford

Here’s where we are as of today… in no particular order.

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

We continue to negotiation with the Department of Management Services over our contract re-openers with all of our state bargaining units. On Monday, we testified before the Joint Select Committee on Collective Bargaining please skip to 1:16:46 to watch our testimony, or you can watch the whole meeting.

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. Our study request was submitted to the Division of Retirement. We are now waiting for the results to come back to us. Remember this legislation is designed to stop the bleeding.

SB 920 by Senator Jason Pizzo and HB 1021 by Representatives 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 will receive a hearing on Monday, March 18 in the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.

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 the PBA if there’s a question about something that we did, or did not cover.

The 2019 Legislative Session Is Officially Underway

On Tuesday, March 5, the 2019 Legislative Session officially began.

From our perspective, this session is our chance to change course on several fronts. The previous eight years setback law enforcement and corrections considerably. Now, Florida has a new Governor in Ron DeSantis, along with a new Cabinet, who hold a pro law enforcement and corrections outlook.

The most obvious setback everyone experienced was the reduction to your pension. Florida PBA has been on a “claw back” mission since 2012 to restore pension benefits across the board at both the local and state levels. We cannot get everything restored at once, but we must stop the bleeding and begin to repair what was broken. When we talk about restoring pension benefits, we include the FRS investment plan participants, too.

Here’s a less obvious setback that legislation cannot fix, but building stronger relationships with Florida’s top leadership can. There is a politically correct ideology that pushes extremely harsh discipline, along with aggressive micro-management and deflection of blame to subordinates. Officers under this ideological leadership do not feel like upper administrators have their backs and that they make all of their decisions base on how the media may react to a situation. The worst part of this ideology is the false impression given to people outside of the agency. From the outside, all seems fine, but internally the rank and file are suffering. The task of unmasking this behavior can be daunting, but having strong support of law enforcement and corrections from Governor Ron DeSantis and other top leaders like Lt Governor Jeanette Nunez, Attorney General Ashley Moody and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis can help change this negative atmosphere. Thankfully, this ideology is not everywhere and if it is not happening to you, consider it the blessing of good leadership.

More money has always been our top priority, but even with the recent salary increases in certain locations, there are still many officers who are grossly underpaid for their public service and sacrifice. Florida’s economy is growing, but the salaries of those who protect this state (which, by the way, greatly contributes to our positive economic growth) have not kept pace.

So that ‘s what this session means to us. Our chance to reset what has gone astray, rebuild what was taken, and provide what has been withheld.

Here’s where we are as of today… in no particular order.

Pay raises for State Law Enforcement Officers, Lottery Law Enforcement Officers, FDLE Special Agents, Florida Highway Patrol, Correctional Probation Officers, and Correctional Officers are a yearly priority for the Florida PBA. The Legislature does not fund multiple year pay proposals. Therefore, we must request yearly increases. This year we may have an option to create internal career development plans with existing agency monies to help alleviate some of the pay burdens. We are negotiating a proposal to allow each agency the ability to create its own unique career plan if the dollars exist. PBA is also pursuing across the board raises and other pay enhancements for all of our state employee bargaining units. The pay decisions are part of the General Appropriations Act which is not decided until the first week in May.

SB 784 by Senator Joe Gruters and HB 779 by Representative Chuck Clemons 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. Our study request was submitted to the Division of Retirement this week. We have no idea what this proposal will cost and, under Florida constitution, the legislation cannot become law without the study.

SB 920 by Senator Jason Pizzo and HB 1021 by Representatives Chris Latvala is a work in progress, but we had a lot of positive discussion on the legislation this week. The idea is to help speed up the process for an arrest of a DNA match. Current law, requires a search warrant to a collect buccal swab of a person who matches the crime scene sample and the offender profile in CODIS. This step is 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 76 by Senator Wilton Simpson and HB 45 or 107 by Representatives Emily Slosberg and Jackie Toledo 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. This week our Florida Highway Patrol Chapter President and Vice President of Legislation Bill Smith was able to place an amendment on the Senate bill which requires the vehicle to be in motion in order for any violation to occur. We thank Senators Travis Hutson and Wilton Simpson for working with us on the amendment.

We are involved in the debate around criminal justice reform which continues to advance in the Senate. 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. This debate centers on ideology clashing with data.

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

Until next time please stay safe and may God bless you.

Interim Committee Period Ends; 2019 Legislative Session Begins March 5

The interim committee week period prior to the start of session ended on February 22, and the official start to the 2019 Legislative Session begins Tuesday, March 5. The Legislature will take next week off before the 60 day stretch begins.

Our lobbying team hit all of our objectives during the interim period.

Our pay raise requests for all of the Florida PBA state employee bargaining units have been discussed with House and Senate Appropriations’ leadership. We are still in the process of making the formal request through the collective bargaining process. However, that process is merely perfunctory since all pay decision are handled by the Legislature. Meaning even if the PBA and the Executive Branch agreed to a pay plan (we are currently not in agreement), the final decision rests with the Legislature’s 2019-2020 General Appropriations Act.

SB 784 by Senator Joe Gruters and HB 779 by Representative Chuck Clemons 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. Our study request was presented to legislative staff this week and we now must wait for a formal submission of the study from the Legislative committee chairman. Yes, I am being vague and that is by design. This study has been derailed for two years so caution is needed.

Our Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) DNA database legislation has been assigned bill numbers in both chambers SB 920 by Senator Jason Pizzo and HB 1021 by Representatives Chris Latvala. This bill proposal will removed the required probable cause for a search warrant to seek a buccal swab from an offender who already matched crime scene DNA with the offender profile in the CODIS. Instead, the bills may be used to find probable cause for the issuance of a warrant for arrest of the offender following a match of crime scene DNA to the offender profile in CODIS. The elimination of the search warrant requirement will speed up the apprehension of the offender.

SB 76 by Senator Wilton Simpson and HB 107 by Representatives Emily Slosberg and Jackie Toledo will attempt to making 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. Last year, we felt like the proposal was stopped over claims of potential racial profiling by police officers. Not only will this legislation save lives, but our engagement in the debate will help us build stronger relationships with legislators who may have a level of discomfort with police. These legislators are potential future allies. However, there are no doubt a handful of legislators who simply do not like the police and no amount of constructive dialogue will change their position.

There are other issues we have been working on, or around, during this interim period. Our team has been busy since January and we are ready to go with the regular session.