The session continued this week with extremely packed committee agendas and days long floor action. The Legislature is, as of this writing, not in agreement on spending allocations for the budget. Although, word from the Capitol late last evening was that the Senate and House were close to achieving consensus and, perhaps, ready to conference this weekend.
We had a good crowd up from Palm Beach and Dade this week: PBA President John Rivera, Palm Beach President John Kazanjian, PBA Treasurer Ernie George, Dade County Executive Board Member Robert Davis, Palm Beach County Executive Board members Kevin Igo and Greg Allen, and Dade County PBA member Darryl Hall. They helped us reach out to several key lawmakers this week as we made our case on our remaining issues.
We publicly supported SB 7022 which will prevent the expiration of a public records' exemption for the depictions of killing of a law enforcement officer. We stood in support of SB 436, a proposal that makes threats against law enforcement officers and their families a felony terroristic threat. The body camera legislation SB 418 cleared its final committee in the Senate this week so both bills are on the chamber floors. We feel strongly that each of these issues will pass the full legislature by session's end.
The House passed its latest version of FRS pension reform (HB 7107). Although we are not supporters of all three provisions within the reform package, we have asked that two of the provisions be included in a compromise (if one can be achieved). We support allowing retirees and those who took a withdrawal from their investment accounts to be allowed to be re-enrolled in the investment plan if that employee is reemployed by an FRS employer. We also support either plan (House or Senate) to increase the FRS death benefits for employees killed in the line of duty. We do not support changing the default from the pension plan to the investment plan for new employees after July 1, 2017. In our opinion, keeping the default to the pension plan is critical to the overall health of the pension system and, therefore, we cannot support a change.
Finally, the budget conferencing process holds a major issue still on the table for the PBA. First and foremost, we have been very encouraged by the legislative leadership's response to our career development plan for State Law Enforcement, Highway Patrol, FDLE Special Agents and Lottery Law Enforcement. Our goal for the career development (a step plan) proposal is to get a resolution into the budget during conference. Let me offer everyone concerned about this issue a few additional thoughts: 1) information about budget conference is always difficult to broadcast because so much happens on weekends and in the late evenings with long breaks in between meetings (follow our emails alerts); 2) the legislature always (always, always, always) decides employee issues like raises and impasse resolution at the end of conference which only heightens the tension; 3) we have spent the last two weeks reintroducing our plan to the legislative leadership and legislative staff who deal directly with our subject matter. Our plan should be very fresh on their minds and we will be there to remind them of the message as conference gets under way. Like I stated last week and countless other times, we are consistently applying the necessary pressure to put this conference issue over the top.