Capitol Report January 28, 2022

The third week of session is over. Here are the highlights from the week:

A) 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”.

The Florida PBA supports this legislation, but we are also lobbying to include Correctional Probation Officers. Our goal is to have the Correctional Probation Officers added into all versions of the legislation before the proposals reach the floors of the House and Senate. Additionally, the counties and cities are asking for our assistance in providing funding for the loss of tax revenue this proposal will create if/when the exemption is implemented. Many of our members reside “fiscally constrained counties” where fundamental government services are under severe strains to provide necessary coverage. We are involved in discussions with these entities to provide “offsets” from the state to cover any shortages that result from the passage of this legislation.

HJR 1 and HB 1563 by Representative Josie Tomkow will be heard in the House Ways & Means Committee next week.

B) The House Insurance & Banking Committee unanimously approved HB 689 by Representative Mike Giallombardo 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 a notice of injury or death to make 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).

HB 689 has two more committee stops before it is available for a House floor vote. SB 1066 by Senator Danny Burgess is the companion legislation. Florida PBA supports the legislation.

C) SB 1736 by Senator Ed Hooper and HB 453 by Representative Wyman Duggan updates the presumption for the heart and lung statute by requiring an employing agency to maintain records of the initial physical examination for up to five years after separation. Currently, an officer making a workers’ compensation claim for a heart related injury must prove the injury or illness did not exist prior to employment. The statute requires a copy of the initial physical examination in order to verify the illness or injury was not preexisting. Several agencies have failed to maintain copies of the initial physical examination which has led to numerous heart and lung claim denials. This legislation seeks to remedy the records lapse by requiring an agency to maintain the physical examination for up to five after separation from the agency. If the agency fails to maintain the records, the officer is presumed to have met the initial requirement that no heart or lung related injury or illness existed at hiring. Both bills passed committees this week. Florida PBA supports the legislation.

As always, please stay safe.


Matt Puckett