Capitol Report February 18, 2022

Week six continued the trend of seeing our important issues move through committees and on the chambers’ respective floors. The state budget was front and center this week. On Thursday, the full Senate took up the House’s budget proposal and amended that spending plan with it’s own version which now requires a budget conference to iron out the final budget. There’s a $3.3 Billion difference between the two plans, but the pay proposals and other law enforcement specific spending items are much closer. We anticipate budget conferencing to begin shortly.

There are three weeks left.

Please read through the list below for summaries of the issues:

A) HJR 1 & HB 1563 by Representative Josie Tomkow and SJR 1746 & SB 1748 by Senator Jason Brodeur are the constitutional amendment proposal and implementation legislation which will provide an additional $50,000 homestead exemption to classroom teachers, law enforcement officers, correctional officers, firefighters, child welfare services professionals, active duty members of the United States Armed Forces, and members of the Florida National Guard. The exemption will be assessed on the value greater than $100,000 and up to $150,000 of the occupant’s homesteaded property. The exemption will only apply to active “critical public service workers”.

PBA supports this legislation and we continue to seek an amendment to include Correctional Probation Officers in the final product.

B) The Florida House of Representatives approved HB 3 by Representative Tom Leek then sent it over with the General Appropriations Act to include it with all the legislation in budget conference. The legislation creates the following (taken directly from the staff analysis):

  • Creates the Florida Law Enforcement Recruitment Bonus Program to provide one-time bonus payments to newly employed law enforcement officers in Florida;
  • Creates the Florida Law Enforcement Academy Scholarship Program to cover tuition, fees, and up to $1,000 of eligible education expenses for trainees enrolled in a law enforcement officer basic recruit training program;
  • Creates a reimbursement program to pay for up to $1,000 of equivalency training costs for certified law enforcement officers who relocate to Florida or members of the special operations forces who become full-time law enforcement officers;
  • Provides law enforcement officers who adopt a child from within the state child welfare system with a $25,000 benefit for adopting a child with special needs or a $10,000 benefit for adopting a child without special needs;
  • Makes dependent children of law enforcement officers eligible to receive a Family Empowerment Scholarship to attend a private school;
  • Increases the base salary for each county sheriff by $5,000;
  • Exempts veterans and applicants with an associate degree or higher from taking the basic skills test as a prerequisite to entering a law enforcement officer basic recruit training program;
  • Requires that law enforcement officers receive training in health and wellness principles as part of their initial certification training and continued employment training;
  • Allows law enforcement officers or former law enforcement officers to receive postsecondary credit at Florida public postsecondary educational institutions for training and experience acquired while serving;
  • Encourages each district school board to establish public safety telecommunication training programs and law enforcement explorer programs in public schools; and
  • Designates May 1 of each year as β€œLaw Enforcement Appreciation Day.”

Florida PBA supports this legislation and we are seeking amendments to include Correctional Officers and Correctional Probation Officers into the provisions.

C) HB 689 by Representative Mike Giallombardo & SB 1066 by Senator Danny Burgess expands on the time limitation for Workers’ Compensation Coverage of PTSD for First Responders. Currently, an officer has 90 days from the date of the event or manifestation of the disorder (whichever is later) to provide the employer with a notice of injury, or death. However, an officer has 52 weeks from the date of the event to file a workers’ compensation claim.

The legislation provides that the time for notice of injury or death a claim of PTSD is 90 days from the qualifying event that supports the claim or the diagnosis, rather than the manifestation, of the disorder (whichever is later). The bill also provides that the PTSD workers’ compensation claim is prohibited if not properly noticed within one year of the qualifying event, or the diagnosis of the disorder (whichever is later).

The Florida PBA supports the legislation.

D) SB 664 by Senator Jennifer Bradley & HB 425 by Representative Jason Fischer adds correctional officers, probation officers, and all part time officers into the Florida’s First Responder’s PTSD coverage.

PBA supports this legislation.

E) SB 1810 by Senator Keith Perry & HB 1551 by Representative Josie Tomkow allows volunteers to return to FRS employment after retirement sooner than the current statute requires.

Florida PBA supports the legislation.

F) SB 7046 & HB 5007 extend FRS DROP by three years for law enforcement officers to help retain veteran officers at every FRS participating agency in the state. The legislation also increases the employer contribution to all active investment plan participants by an additional three percent. In order to be eligible for the DROP extension the law enforcement officer must be participating in the DROP prior to July 1, 2028.

PBA supports this legislation.

That’s all for this week. As always, please stay safe.

Sincerely,

Matt Puckett