The Florida Capitol Report

This week was the second of six interim committee weeks for the Florida Legislature. As previously stated, these meetings are designed to get a early start on the major issues of the upcoming session.

This week’s lobbying team was led by Senior Vice President Mick McHale, Correctional Probation Officers’ President Tammy Marcus, State Correctional Officers’ President Jim Baiardi, Gary Bradford, Ken Kopczynski along with me.

Here are the issues we are lobbying for this session:

Pay Raises for Florida PBA’s State Bargaining Units:
We are not publicly releasing our proposals yet, because we just started contract negotiations. All of our pay raise proposals will be announced in next few weeks. Just a reminder, Florida PBA is the exclusive collective bargaining representative the State Law Enforcement Officers, Florida Highway Patrol, Special Agents with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Security Services (Correctional Officers, Correctional Probation Officers, and Institutional Security Specialist) and Lottery Law Enforcement Officers.

Florida Retirement System:
Request relief from the FRS COLA suspension and to roll back the years of service/age requirements for FRS members hired after July 1, 2011. We will also begin exploring ways to increase the employers’ contribution rate for members in the investment plan.

Our COLA legislation is being sponsored once again by Representative Chuck Clemons and Senator Joe Gruters.

Peer to Peer Legislation:
We are working with a large coalition of law enforcement, corrections and firefighting organizations to create Florida’s first ever “Peer to Peer” support legislation to assist first responders’ with mental health needs. This legislation will provide properly trained peer support in lieu of the Employee Assistance Programs.

SB 160 by Senator Keith Perry is on next week’s Children & Families Committee agenda.

Law Enforcement and Correctional Officers Bill of Rights:
The PBA and FOP are teaming up to address the Law Enforcement Officers and Correctional Officers Bill of Rights. A court decision split the definition of a complaint into “internal” and “external” which was never the intention of the statute. We are also extending the bill of rights to part-time officers. Our joint proposal will restore the original definition of complaint in the law.

There are certainly more issues to discuss, but these items listed above are part of our main agenda.

One issue not on our list, but important to us is preventing a home owners’ association from sanctioning you for parking your patrol car in your driveway. In fact, Senior Vice President Mick McHale spoke in favor of legislation at a press conference on Wednesday to allow your patrol vehicle to be parked in front of your home regardless of whether your home owner association’s covenant prevents this practice.

The third interim committee meeting week starts on Monday. We will continue to move our agenda items forward. Thank you for reading this very brief summary and please stay tuned for more details in future reports.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Broward County Partners with Coconut Creek Police to Launch Bigs in Blue

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Broward County, on an initiative from Broward County PBA President Rod Skirvin, announced a partnership with the Coconut Creek Police Department to launch Bigs in Blue, a one-to-one mentoring program which pairs youth with police officers. Bigs in Blue helps children develop into confident adults while building stronger bonds between law enforcement and the families they serve.

Fifteen Coconut Creek Police officers – including Chief of Police Albert Arenal – have signed up as Big Brother or Big Sister mentors for this innovative program. Chief Arenal, a Little Brother in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program in Charlotte County during his formative years, understands firsthand the importance of empowering children through professionally supported, mentoring relationships.

“Growing up in a single parent home, my mother recognized that I needed a positive male role model in my life, and my Big Brother fit that part perfectly. He took me fishing, we went to the movies, he gave me the support that I needed during those critical adolescent years of my life,” Chief Arenal said.

Because of his Big Brother’s productive role in his life, Chief Arenal encouraged his officers to step up and be a part of this life-changing program.

“In addition to mentoring youth with an important role model, the Chief and his officers also understand that Bigs in Blue helps kids recognize that police officers are not to be feared,” said Ana M. Cedeño, president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Broward County. “They’re simply regular individuals whose job it is to keep our community safe. The end result is a stronger bond between police and the public, which ultimately will strengthen our communities.”

This takeaway underpins the Broward County launch of Bigs in Blue, which is a result of the leadership of Florida State Representative Michael Gottlieb, co-chair of the initiative with Keith Williams, an attorney with Saul Ewing & Arnstein and a board member of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Broward County. Rep. Gottlieb connected Big Brothers Big Sisters of Broward County to local police leadership, including Chief Arenal and the Coconut Creek Police Department, generating a strong commitment to this important program.

“We are at this point today because of the leadership of Rep. Gottlieb,” added Cedeño. “We’re so grateful for his vision for Bigs in BlueSM and incredibly thankful to Chief Arenal and all of the officers at Coconut Creek Police Department for standing with us to empower youth and defend their potential.”

In addition to Chief Arenal, Coconut Creek police officers in the process of being paired with Big Brothers Big Sisters youth include:

  • Sergeant Dan Eberly III
  • Officer Rocco Favata
  • Sergeant Frank Fuentes
  • Officer Kennard Garvey
  • Sergeant Barb Hendrickx
  • Sergeant Jenna Kriplean
  • Public Information Officer Scotty Leamon
  • Officer Chris Lewis
  • Detective Cody McKinney
  • Sergeant Francis McManus
  • Officer Andrew Reynolds
  • Detective Larry Scates
  • Broward PBA President Rod Skirvin
  • Officer Cheri Stabile

Bigs in Blue, the first national initiative aimed at recruiting local law enforcement to serve as mentors to youth in their local community, was launched by Big Brothers Big Sisters of America in 2016. It has since spread to 100 local agencies across the country. In Florida, more than 3,000 kids currently are paired with law enforcement mentors.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Broward County is dedicated to creating and supporting one-to-one mentoring relationships that ignite the power and promise of youth. Its larger vision is for all youth to achieve their full potential. For more information, visit www.bbbsbroward.org or call (954) 584-9990.

Broward County PBA Awards Annual Scholarships

The Broward County Police Benevolent Association presented awards to the winners of its annual college scholarship essay contest at its quarterly Board of Directors’ meeting held on July 10, 2019.

The organization awarded top scholarships for the 2019-2020 academic year to five students of the organization’s law enforcement members. The essay topic for the applicants was, “When it comes to active shootings in our schools, the elected officials still seem to have more questions than answers. If you were the superintendent of a school system, would you treat threats against a school as a criminal justice issue or a mental health issue, and what safety procedures and/or policies would you implement that would make our schools safer for everyone, without infringing on individual rights?”

This year’s first place winner is Caroline Volpe of Boca Raton. Caroline received a $1,200 scholarship, which will be applied toward her education at Florida State University. The first place scholarship award is sponsored by Matthew Oppedisano of the Wellington, Florida-based Law Enforcement Retirement Advisory Service.

The second place winner was Nicolas Marino of Hollywood. Nicolas received a $600 scholarship, donated by Richard Applefeld, and will be applied toward his education at Florida State University.

The remaining winners each received scholarships in the amount $500 from the Broward County PBA.

The third place recipient was Courtney Donato of Fort Lauderdale. Courtney will be attending Florida Atlantic University. Elias Klein of Eau Claire, Wisc., earned the fourth place award, and will be continuing his education at Lawrence University. The fifth place winner was Jason Shimpeno of Pembroke Pines. Jason will be attending the University of South Florida.

The Broward County PBA Annual Scholarship Award was founded in 2003 as part of The HOPE Fund’s mission to assist the children of law enforcement members in their effort to attend college. To be eligible for the scholarship, participants must be the son or daughter of a Broward County PBA member in good standing and plan to be a part-time or full-time student at an accredited two- or four-year institution of higher learning.

2018 Broward County PBA Officers of the Year

The 2018 Broward County PBA Officers of the Year are:

Thomas P. Honan, Broward District Schools
Matthew J. Goodnow, Broward Sheriff’s Office
Christopher Neves, Broward Sheriff’s Office
Gerald Wengert, Broward Sheriff’s Office
Michael Leonard, Coconut Creek
Jennifer Higgins, Hallandale Beach
Andrew Kirchoff, Hillsboro Beach
Paul Scheel, Hollywood
Dillon Russell, Lauderhill
Michael Tomasi, Lighthouse Point
Rachel Druzbik and Samuel Phanor, Margate
Joseph M. Calicchio, Miramar
Luis E. Bermudez, Pembroke Pines
William H. Koch, Sea Ranch Lakes
Craig Cardinale, Sunrise
Fernando Arias, Wilton Manors

Governor DeSantis Reiterates His Support Of Law Enforcement

The Florida PBA met with Governor Ron DeSantis this week to discuss our budget priorities. The Governor and his staff were gracious with their time. His message was clear, he fully supports Florida’s law enforcement officers, correctional officers, and correctional probation officers.

Our legislative priorities are safe on his watch. Now, we just have to get all of our items to his desk.

Also please join me in thanking a great group of Correctional Probation Officers led by Anatrisha Jackson, Lisa Barker, Aaron Rivas, Chris Morrissey, Kerrie Lewis, and Dan Kubach; who along with PBA lobbyists Gary Bradford and Ken Kopczynski lobbied the Capitol.

There are two weeks left. Please read the summaries below –

Pay raises for State Law Enforcement Officers, Lottery Law Enforcement Officers, FDLE Special Agents, Florida Highway Patrol, Correctional Probation Officers, and Correctional Officers
The budget conference committee will decide the final pay raise outcomes, besides meeting with Governor DeSantis – the PBA team met with several key House and Senate leaders to include Senator Rob Bradley (Budget Chairman), Senator Wilton Simpson (Majority Leader), Representative Travis Cummings (Budget Chairman), Representative Chris Sprowls (Rules Chairman), and Representative Paul Renner (Judiciary Chairman) about securing pay raise funding.

There have been no changes in the status of any pay raise proposals. The hunt for additional money to fund all officers is ongoing.

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.

The legislation gives a judge the option to issue a warrant for arrest, or search warrant for a comparative DNA sample.

HB 1021 by Representative Chris Latvala unanimously passed the House of Representatives (114 – 0).

SB 920 by Senator Jason Pizzo unanimously passed the Senate Rules and has been placed on the Senate Special Order calendar for next Tuesday.

SB 76 by Senator Wilton Simpson and HB 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.

Both bills completed the committee process this week and have been placed on each chambers’ Special Order calendar for next Tuesday.

The bills are very different. The Senate bill addresses distracted driving as a whole while the house bill only addresses texting while driving. The bills must match in order for final passage.

SB 784 by Senator Joe Gruters and HB 779 by Representative Chuck Clemons
The legislation was amended last week fit the impact study results for a 2% COLA floor for all special risk members hired prior to July 1, 2011 and then retire as a special risk member after July 1, 2011. The language will not lower your COLA calculation if you are currently receiving more than 2% in retirement.

Based on the study, a 2% COLA floor will require a $113 million impact to this year’s budget although most of the impact is on counties with the state’s impact set at $24 million.

We finally have a real costs estimate associated with the legislation. Now, we have to convince the Legislature to fund it.

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.