The halfway mark of the 2018 Legislative Session has arrived.
The major event of the week was the separate passages of the 2018-19 spending plans. As a state, Florida is now operating in the $80 billion range and, with these two proposals, we will be reaching and then eclipsing $87 Billion. Hard to believe.
The House and Senate have several areas of disagreement between the two spending plans. K-12 Education, Higher Education, Environmental, Health Care and Corrections are all areas where the plans diverge widely. The showdown over K-12 Education could prove to be quite a battle during the session’s second half. Monstrous battles over big spending items can suck the air out of the room. This leaves other issues as after thoughts. Our lobbying job will require constant contact with the legislative deciders in order to keep our issues “in play.”
Let’s review what remains “in play” at the halfway point of the session.
From a spending plan standpoint, PBA bargaining units are in at least one budget proposal … in some cases both proposals. That means pay raises are “in play” for the negotiations between the House and Senate.
The COLA legislation passed through a single Senate committee and it was workshopped in a House committee. That probably puts the issue “in play” to get funding for a special impact study which is a constitutional requirement for any benefit enhancement. If this COLA study occurs, we may have the opportunity to add in estimating the costs to reverse the age and years of service requirements for FRS employees hired after July 1, 2011. Getting an actuary to study the costs of both ideas in one study is “in play.”
The PTSD legislation has been heard in committees of both the House and the Senate thereby placing this issue in a position to pass by the end of session.
Both local pension bills are ready to be heard on the House floor. The process for local bills happens later in the session when the chambers follow a consent procedure. This procedure allows them to roll through multiple local bills in a short amount of time. The local pension bills seem to be on track to pass.
The electronic threats bill and the toll exemption for unmarked LEO vehicles are “in play” to pass this session, too. We had to amend the toll exemption bill onto another item (SB 1012) to get the issue moving in the Senate, but that is not uncommon.
Politics and legislating any issue can often be a struggle. Lobbying can be intense. It takes a strategy. PBA has put in a strategic plan for every issue that was mentioned up above and for several that are not being mentioned.
One key component of our strategy is to help elect supporters/allies of Law Enforcement, Correctional and Probation Officers and their families to important positions within our state. To facilitate building up our allies, PBA leaders met with multiple statewide candidates this week and outlined to them the hopes, dreams and struggles for officers and their families. We were impressed by each candidate.
There are 28 days left.
Thank you to everyone who lobbied with us this week:
Florida PBA President John Rivera, Senior Vice President Dick Brickman, Treasurer Ernie George, Vice President John “Kaz” Kazanjian, Vice President Mick McHale and Sergeant at Arms Jeff Marano
Broward County PBA Vice President Rod Shirvin
FHP Chapter President Bill Smith
Correctional Probation Officers Trusteeship Tony Highsmith