Capitol Report – March 13, 2020

We completed the ninth week of the 2020 Legislative Session, but we are not in the final days just yet.  The budget is being placed on the legislators’ desks today then we have to wait for the “72 Hours Cooling Off Period” before they can vote on it.  The new “last day” is next Wednesday.
Joining the lobbying team this week were Senior Vice President Mick McHale, Vice President Jim Baiardi, PBA Lobbyist Gary Bradford, PBA Lobbyist Ken Kopczynski, General Counsel Stephanie Webster, and me.
Pay Raises for Florida PBA’s State Bargaining Units:
The pay raises were announced late yesterday afternoon.  The Legislature held tight to the pledge to reward all employees with an across the board raise.  Considering the state of affairs right now, this is a big deal.  Our fear all week has been a diversion of the pay raise funding toward the COVID-19 response… it didn’t happen.  I thank Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley, Senate President Bill Galvano, Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson, House Appropriations Chairman Travis Cummings, Speaker of the House Jose Oliva, and all of the Legislature for keeping the raises in place.
Peer to Peer Legislation:
Sometimes issues in the legislative process take a twisty path to reach completion.  The Peer to Peer Legislation and the Law Enforcement Officers and Correctional Officers’ Bill of Rights are the definition of a twisty path.  Over the last two weeks, both pieces of legislation were considered finished for this year.  The Senate was balking at the Senate version of the Peer to Peer bill (SB 160) and the House was not moving HB 453.  Then a plan came together to join both bills into one.  Easier said than done.  However, yesterday the plan completed the legislative path with the combined bills passing on the Senate and House floors.  The new combined bill HB 573 is off to the Governor.
Here’s what the new combined bill provides.  The legislation creates a new peer support system for first responders within an agency.  We are experiencing an epidemic of suicides all across the country and this peer support system has shown that, when properly utilized, lives can be saved.  We thank Senator Keith Perry and his staff member Kinley Morgan for working closely with our team to make this peer legislation a reality.
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The legislation also includes our Bill of Rights legislation which places part-time officers into the Law Enforcement Officers and Correctional Officers Bill of Rights, specifies complaints must be investigated within 180 days of receipt regardless of origin, and the small agencies of 35 or less can seek an outside agency to conduct an investigation.  This legislation was supported strongly by the PBA, FOP, and the Florida Police Chiefs’s Association.  Specifically, I thank Jacksonville FOP President Steve Zona, FOP Lobbyist Lisa Henning, Chief Gary Hester, Executive Director for the Chiefs Amy Mercer, and the Chiefs’ Lobbyist Tim Stanfield.
To make this plan work, we needed several legislators to guide the ship – Senator Ed Hooper, Senator Keith Perry, Senator Rob Bradley, Representative Wyman Duggan, Representative Joe Casello, and Representative Paul Renner.  They all deserve praise for making these two issues a reality.
SB 7012 by Senator Lauren Book creates the Suicide Prevention Taskforce to examine suicides by Law Enforcement and Correctional Officers.  Our very own Senior Vice President Mick McHale will be our representative on the taskforce.
This session is essentially over.  I thank everyone who came to Tallahassee to help the team.  The successes of the session were truly a group effort.  We are already making plans to deal with next year’s agenda which, since the incoming Senate President wants to work with us on it, will be heavily focused on fixing pensions.
This is my last Capitol Report for the 2020 Regular Session.  There many legislators to thank, but a select few rise to the top consistently each year – Senator Rob Bradley, Senator Ed Hooper, Senator Keith Perry, Senator Ben Albritton, Senator Joe Gruters, Senator Lauren Book, future Senate President Wilton Simpson, Representative Travis Cummings, Representative Wyman Duggan (only in his second year), Representative Matt Willhite, Representative Chuck Clemons, Representative Paul Renner, and future House Speaker Chris Sprowls.  These legislators sponsor our legislation and help guide our issues through the process. If you live in the districts of the above mentioned Legislators please show your support by thanking them for all they do for law enforcement and corrections.
Until next time, please stay safe and may God bless you.

Matt Puckett
Executive Director

*Exclusive sponsor of the Florida PBA’s Capitol Report.  The opinions expressed and positions articulated on legislative and regulatory matters are those of the Florida PBA and not those of the Lincoln Financial Group.