Capitol Report – Jan 29, 2021

The second interim committee is in the books. These are strange times in Tallahassee. Most official business is conducted in sparsely populated committee rooms with public comment coming either remotely through a teleprompter and video, or in limited to one minute in-person increments. Luckily, we have been able to meet with several key leaders of the Legislature in “off campus” locations which allows us to have quality conversations with them. However, catching everyone for an in-person meeting will continue to be challenging until the vaccines are widespread. We should expect this new reality to remain through the entirety of the 2021 Legislative Session.
News of the week
The Governor released his budget recommendation. The overall budget was status quo for most of our bargaining unit employees with two major exceptions. 1) The Governor’s recommendation for the Department of Business and Professional Regulation reclassifies nearly three dozen law enforcement positions into non-sworn positions. He also recommends closing the Fort Pierce Office. Our bargaining team is meeting with DBPR management today to discuss this item. 2) His recommendation also moves more correctional officers into 8.5 hour shifts from the current 12 hour shift schedule. This move is made in conjunction with a small raise applied to new hires and officers who are currently in years two and five. If you are not a new hire, or in year two and five…. no raise. The PBA is engaged in multiple legal challenges to previous shift changes at this time. The 8 & 8.5 shift changes have been incredibly unpopular with Correctional Officers so moving forward with more seems unwise.
No other PBA bargaining unit employees are receiving a raise in the Governor’s recommendation. PBA units have proposed 3% across the board for all units at the table with the state. Please remember the Governor’s role is to offer a recommendation and the Legislature’s role is to craft the actual budget. The Legislature will do a deep dive into the revenues and expenses of the state before the 60 day session is over. There is plenty of time left before any of the items in the budget become a reality.
Other notes from the budget – no changes to health insurance premiums and no increase to the employees’ FRS contribution.
The Senate is looking at Florida Retirement System reform again this year. If you have reviewed SB 84 then you see their initial proposal is a hard closure of the pension plan to new hires. However, the Senate is studying several other options. I am going to conduct a zoom call this week with one of our allies in the pension battles. Vice President of Florida Professional Firefighters Rocco Salvatori will join me on a call to discuss all the options included in the Senate’s study. Once, that call is recorded, I will email all of you the audio so that you can listen to our thoughts and remarks on the reform ideas.
Please stay tuned for more information as it becomes available.
Matt Puckett
Executive Director