The official start of Legislative Interim Committee meetings began last week. Per usual, the first committee meetings are designed to get reacquainted with state agencies’ finances, effects of new laws and, obviously, the lingering issues of the state. This week was typical in this regard with the impact of Hurricane Irma casting a large shadow over the hearings. The legislative tone was a little weary, but Florida’s first responders were consistently highlighted in a very positive light.
Multiple legislators asked me to send a “thank you” for your efforts during the hurricane. Your sacrifices have not gone unnoticed in the Capitol. The appreciation for your job is at an all time high right now. Let’s all hope the praise translates into a meaningful session for law enforcement, probation and correctional officers and your families.
Much of what we are trying to accomplish this year is targeted at certain niche’ officer populations like Correctional Probation Officers, State Law Enforcement Officers, Troopers, Correctional Officers, FRS employees, and individual municipalities. In each subsequent Capitol Report, I will categorize the topics into segments so you can jump right to your areas of concern, but, in this version, I am addressing everyone collectively.
An awful lot has transpired in a brief amount of time. We have fellow officers without homes and, unfortunately, we have lost others to more senseless violence. Under any other circumstance, a person, or group of people, could be excused for wanting a break from the grind, but none of you have that luxury. Florida’s citizenry depends on you too much even though not everyone shows their appreciation. For what it’s worth, I saw the appreciation in full effect this week from every corner of the Capitol.
The tangible signs of respect were present, too.
There is support for more wage increases for all of our state bargaining units. The Governor and multiple state law enforcement agencies put pay raises at the top of their priority funding lists. Legislation addressing the COLA suspension for all FRS employees is in the bill drafting stage. Three separate bills have been filed to address PTSD compensation concerns for first responders. Of course, other legislative issues are filed like waiving toll fees for unmarked official law enforcement vehicles and enhanced penalties for threats against law enforcement. More issues for first responders will follow in the coming weeks and months. Session starts in January so the pace will pick up rather rapidly.
Hurricane Irma will have an effect on state and local budgets, but I am encouraged by the level of support for you in the Capitol. The PBA team will do our best to ride the wave.
Here’s hoping this early support translates into a successful session.