Capitol Report February 4, 2022

The fourth week of session is complete and we are almost halfway through the 60 days of the official Legislative season. Currently, the once a decade process of redrawing the Legislative and Congressional Districts has reached the point where the House and Senate maps are completed and delivered to the Attorney General for review. The Governor has requested a Supreme Court review of the Congressional map which certainly prolongs the process on that particular map for an indeterminate amount of time. There is every indication that outside legal challenges to the proposed maps will be filed. All of this means that the new maps are close to completion, but potential challenges remain.

As of 2pm today, only the Legislative Appropriations’ Subcommittees have issued budget proposals. These proposals will be included in each chamber’s General Appropriations Act (GAA). Procedurally, the chambers will independently vote on their respective GAAs. The two separate GAAs must match up before a final single GAA can be voted out and sent to the Governor for approval. In the first round, these two GAAs will not match up and the chambers will create budget committees to meet in budget conference to work out the differences for the final GAA product. During conference, a multitude of budget items will be considered for inclusion, or exclusion in the final GAA. In summary, the second half of session will be centered on the budget conference process.

We will provide an update on each chamber’s full proposal early next week after we have a chance to read through the proposals over the weekend.

At this point in the session, we are lobbying for amendments to legislation that is moving through the process. Each piece of legislation discussed below needs a little bit of amendment “love” from the Florida PBA. Our lobbying team has been lobbying for certain amendments since the beginning of session. We anticipate changes (hopefully positive changes) to each legislative item prior to final approval.

Here are the highlights from the week:

A) HJR 1 & HB 1563 by Representative Josie Tomkow 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 are seeking an amendment to include Correctional Probation Officers in the final product.

B) The House Appropriations Committee unanimously approved HB 3 by Representative Tom Leek which 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) Senate Banking & Insurance Committee passed SB 1066 by Senator Danny Burgess which 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) On a much more complicated matter, legislation to include Correctional Officers, Correctional Probation Officers, and 911 Emergency Dispatchers into the existing coverage for First Responder in the Workers’ Compensation statute has taken a few steps forward and a few backwards. There are literally too many moving pieces to this legislation to spell out here. The Florida PBA is supporting the legislation, but we are asking for the inclusion of Correctional Officers, Correctional Probation Officers, and 911 Emergency Dispatchers in the final product. How the legislation looks today will hopefully not be how it looks by the end of session.

E) The House Government Operations Committee unanimously passed HB 1551 by Representative Josie Tomkow which allows volunteers to return to FRS employment after retirement sooner than the current statute requires with a penalty. This legislation is also a work in progress. Florida PBA supports the legislation while also working with the sponsor on further changes to the statute.

As always, please stay safe.

Sincerely,

Matt Puckett