We completed the fifth week of the 2020 Legislative Session.
Well, it may be easier to list who was not in Tallahassee this week. Joining the lobbying team were President John Kazanjian, Senior Vice President Mick McHale, Vice President Jeff Marano, Vice President Jim Baiardi, Vice President Steve Slade, Treasurer John Rivera, Sergeant at Arms Nick Marolda, Secretary Steadman Stahl, Tampa PBA President Darla Portman, CPO President Tammy Marcus, Gulfcoast President Matt Sellers, Suncoast President Jon Vazquez, Suncoast General Counsel Sasha Lohn, Broward President Rod Skirvin, FDLE President Carl Shedlock, Coastal President Marlon Buggs, Northcentral President Bobby Stafford, Big Bend President Richard Murphy, from Palm Beach – PBA Ernie George, Kevin Igo, Greg Allen, Dan Glisson, Mike Kennedy, Mike Ferrera, James Louis, Chuck Branch, along with PBA Lobbyist Ken Kopczynski, General Counsel Stephanie Webster, and me.
We also had the pleasure of spending time with our old friend David Murrell (former Executive Director and PBA Hall of Famer).
The Legislature completed the next step in the budgeting process. The full House and Senate passed separate budgets yesterday and then got out of town. When the chambers reconvene next week, the leadership will appoint conference committees to begin working on the differences between the two budgets. The Legislature has until March 13th to finalize the 2020-2021 General Appropriations Act.
Our COLA legislation sponsored by Senator Joe Gruters (SB 858) received unanimous support from the Senate Government Oversight & Accountability Committee on Monday. Chairman Ed Hooper was instrumental in getting our study request through the process quickly so the bill could be heard during this year’s session. The legislation does the following:
* Provides a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for Special Risk class retirees by freezing a member’s COLA calculation as of July 1, 2020.
* In order to receive the frozen COLA calculation, a retiree must be a member of the special risk class as of July 1, 2011 and at the time of retirement.
* The study placed the costs associated with implementing the legislation in the 2020-2021 Fiscal year as $10 million for the state and $37 million for the counties.
Our goal with this legislation is to stop the monthly reduction to your COLA accrual. Once, we get the freeze in place, we will begin to put the original COLA back in place for all employees. The reality of effort is that a handful of elected officials made a really rash decision almost ten years ago which, because of the cost for a full restoration, will we take us a long time to undo. We must start somewhere and this legislation is the start.
We also supported the creation of the Public Safety Officers’ Mental Health Taskforce (SB 1586) by Senator Ed Hooper. This taskforce will explore the best practices to eliminate officer suicides which are plaguing the ranks in Florida and the nation. Senior Vice President Mick McHale is our leader for this endeavor.
Please note how often Senator Hooper’s name gets mentioned in this weekly report. He is one the best supporters we have in Tallahassee.
Issues we continue to lobby for:
Pay Raises for Florida PBA’s State Bargaining Units:
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. The Senate and House released separate pay raise proposals at the end of the week. An agreement on wages must be reached before March 13th.
Florida Retirement System:
Request relief from the FRS COLA suspension for Special Risk Members hired prior to July 1, 2011 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 (HB 425) and Senator Joe Gruters (SB 858).
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 conjunction with other agency resources such as the Employee Assistance Program.
SB 160 by Senator Keith Perry & Representative Joseph Casello (HB 573) are our sponsors.
If you are experiencing signs of depression, or if you are struggling a mental health issue please visit JonsChallenge.org
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.
Our sponsors for this legislation are Representative Wymann Duggan (HB 453) and Senator Ed Hooper (SB 884).
Until next time, please stay safe and may God bless you.