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 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.

Governor Proposes $30 Million For State Law Enforcement Pay

Governor Proposes $30 Million For State Law Enforcement Pay

Gov. Rick Scott will ask the Legislature to set aside $30 million in next year’s state budget to give the state’s law enforcement officers another pay raise.

Scott will announce his $30 million proposal Wednesday at the Florida Highway Patrol post in Jacksonville. In a statement, he said the money could be used to recruit new officers, but each agency would determine how to distribute the money.

Scott’s request is more than double the $12.7 million the Legislature agreed to set aside for state law enforcement officers in this year’s $83 billion budget. The money gave 5 percent pay increases for the nearly 4,000 sworn state law enforcement officers in the state.

The pay increase would help state agencies struggling to keep trained officers on the job. For years, FHP has faced high turnover due to newly trained troopers finding more lucrative jobs at county or municipal police agencies.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran said although Scott’s request would face the same legislative process as other requests, this year’s 5 percent raise was widely supported by his chamber.

The raises would also mean a bigger base budget, but Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, said repeatedly training new officers was also a hefty annual expense.

“We’re losing law enforcement officers to higher paying positions elsewhere,” Corcoran said. “If we continue that, it costs more in training.”

If approved, sworn law enforcement officers at all state agencies could be eligible, including the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the state Department of Agriculture.

The top official from the labor union representing state law enforcement said Scott’s plan is unique but welcomed. Matt Puckett, director of the Florida Police Benevolent Association, said the “out of the box” plan would be an easy lift.

“We can’t wait to sit down and work on this,” Puckett said. “We don’t think it would be difficult to get done.”

Puckett said the FDLE has come up with its own pay increase plans in the past, and those plans may be replicated for other agencies if lawmakers approve Scott’s proposal.

“Each agency is unique so it will be up to how the governor wants to distribute the money,” Puckett said. “Like with FHP, you’ve got high turnover, a need for more traffic homicide investigators and other areas.”

Scott’s announcement comes less than a month after this year’s state budget took effect on July 1. Lawmakers are already scheduled to begin gathering in the Capitol for committee meetings in September.

The Legislature will address Scott’s request during the 2018 legislative session, which begins in January.

Governor Scott Signs Two PBA Bills Into Law

On Tuesday, May 9, 2017, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed the PBA’s body camera review legislation and witness to a murder legislation into law.

HB 305 (sponsored by Senator Greg Steube and Representative Shawn Harrison) permits an officer who wears a body camera to review the footage prior to making a statement, or writing a report on an incident. The effective date is July 1, 2017.

HB 111 (sponsored by Senator Randolph Bracy and Representative Cynthia Stafford) prevents the identification of a murder witness from being available through a public record request for two years. The effective date is July 1, 2017.

We thank the Governor and our sponsors for their support.

As always, please stay safe.