The final interim committee week just wrapped up.
Here are my takeaways from the interim committee weeks:
Senate President Wilton Simpson, House of Representatives Speaker Chris Sprowls and their respective legislative staffs have the two chambers ready for the official start of session. Even with a large number of new legislators in the Capitol, the constraints of the Coronavirus, and limited public access, the committee weeks ran smooth. That’s a testament to the leadership of the two presiding officers.
The legislators are a close knit group because of the isolation required by the pandemic. The normally packed Capitol is virtually devoid of people since the public and lobbyists are not able to freely walk the halls. That has allowed the legislators to spend considerably more time together.
The budget will ultimately suck all the air out of the room.
The Florida PBA’s job this session is protect your job and benefits.
Our State Law Enforcement Officers Chapter has been in communication with DBPR about the reclassification changes. We have a lot of the information coming our way to help us make the case that reclassification is not a responsible option. Our next meeting is forth coming and President Scott Hoffman will provide an update afterwards.
The State Corrections Chapter has multiple cases filed against the Florida Department of Corrections. Unfortunately, the courts move slowly. President Jim Baiardi has been making the Legislative rounds which he will discuss in a separate newsletter.
All PBA of state bargaining units are asking the Legislature for 3% pay increases.
The Florida Retirement System is heavily dependent on state revenue. Years ago, Senate President Simpson made his intentions known to that reducing the liability of the pension on taxpayers will be a top priority. His chamber’s plan to close the system to all new employees after July 1, 2022 is currently moving through the Senate.
This week myself and the President of the Firefighters met with Senate President Simpson and Senator Ray Rodrigues to discuss all of the studies attached to the pension bill (SB 84). The current proposal closes to the plan to new hires. That is a non-starter for both associations. However, there are other options being studied and we were invited by the President to discuss those studies and other concerns with changing the FRS.
Our major concern aside from full plan closure is that even with the other options, nothing addresses prior benefit reductions to current FRS employees. During our discussion, we asked the President to make several considerations for the current employees while also looking at maintaining a pension plan for new hires. He agreed to study several of our concerns (a study of any benefit enhancement is constitutionally required).
Some of our concerns:
Current employees hired after July 1, 2011 must work until age 60, or complete 30 years of special risk service. These employees should be given the option to move back to age 55, or complete 25 years of special risk service. This change will save the system money.
Currently, all employees are exercising their DROP option in order avoid losing the ability to participate in DROP, but those employees are often being forced to choose retirement sooner than they wish… or sooner then they can afford. Perhaps we can make changes to DROP that will enhance the benefit. I’m being vague for a reason just understand we are not asking to make the DROP worse.
There are also employees in the investment plan that are unhappy with the reduced contribution after 2012. They feel the contribution was unfairly lowered and want to see the contribution raised, or have an option to buyback into the pension.
Finally, we want the pension plan to remain open to future employees specifically special risk employees.
Senate President Simpson has agreed to study each one of the above options to include keeping a sustainable pension plan for new hires. This is a major development and we are thankful that the President gave us a seat at his table. We have met with him multiple times prior to talk through our thoughts, but this meeting was vital considering the posture of SB 84. Obviously, we were honored to receive the invitation and we look forward to seeing the study results.
On a personal note, I want to thank the whole crew that came up to Tallahassee this week. We held a “Meet and Greet BBQ” for our new Leon County Deputies Chapter and, since they were already in town, we invited Legislators to stop by and say hello. The turnout was really tremendous and we experienced the perfect weather for BBQing. Considering the constraints on public access to the Capitol, opening up the building to Legislative guests really allowed us to discuss our issues in detail. We liked the BBQ so much, we plan to make it a yearly event.
As Rod Skirvin says, “feed them and they will come.”
Special thanks to chef Ray Griffith and his Palm Beach County PBA team of Bobby, Bill, Marty, Mike, and Dan. Also thank you to President Kazanjian, Senior VP McHale, VP Baiardi, VP Slade, Broward President Skirvin, North Central President Stafford, Northwest President Newton and Northwest VP Ward; plus the new team of Javi, Chet and Pat at LCSO, and all the LCSO Deputies that made it by. And last, but not least, thank you to the wonderful Tallahassee Staff who never cease to amaze me with their commitment to our membership. I am blessed to be a part of this truly special group of people.
One final sad statement, we lost another hero on Wednesday. Pinellas County Deputy Sheriff Michael Magli was killed in the line of duty. You can read the article here. He is survived by his wife and two children. May he rest in peace.