Advocacy in Full Swing During 2018 Session
As I write this column, the Florida Legislature is meeting in Tallahassee discussing everything from hurricane relief for farmers to social media and, of course, agreeing on a state budget. There are also dozens of bills being considered, including two that are of specific interest to the Florida Deputy Sheriffs Association and our members.
As I mentioned in this space last year, FDSA would be more active in 2018 regarding advocacy for our members, especially in the areas that relate to their safety and the protection of their families. As anticipated, there are three items on which we are concentrating our efforts – two pieces of legislation and a proposition that is being heard by the Constitution Revision Commission.
As your executive director, I am leading a team of deputies and sheriffs who are attending Senate and House committee meetings and visiting legislators individually to ensure they understand the impact these changes will have on you and your families. Showing up at the Capitol with FDSA Board members and other volunteer members in uniform makes a strong statement.
Legislators need to understand the special risks that are a daily reality in the life of a deputy – and all law enforcement officers – and that you deserve to be protected during your time in service and after your retirement.
House Bill 665 and its companion, Senate Bill 772, are related to cost-of-living adjustments for retirees categorized as having worked in a special risk category.
HB 665 -- An act relating to retirement; amending s. 121.101, 2 F.S.; specifying the minimum amount of the factor used to calculate the cost-of-living adjustment of benefits for certain retirees and beneficiaries of the Florida Retirement System; providing a declaration of important state interest; providing an effective date.
Our goal with this bill is to preserve the special risk category for our deputies in retirement. While we respect the work and certain levels of danger inherent in many careers covered by the Florida Retirement System, we believe it is obvious and appropriate for our deputies to remain classified in the special risk category. There are other careers, such as teaching, that obviously do face serious danger on occasion, but at the end of the day, our deputies are seconds away from putting themselves in harm’s way and their lives in danger every single day. They deserve this protection and we will fight to ensure they keep it.
House Bill 251 and its companion, Senate Bill 406, impacts a deputy’s ability to pursue certain kinds of work after they retire from law enforcement.
HB 251 -- An act relating to reemployment after retirement; amending s. 121.091, F.S.; authorizing a retiree of the Florida Retirement System to be reemployed under certain circumstances; providing an effective date.
With this proposed legislation, we are focused on allowing deputies to go back to work after retirement. Currently, they cannot do that in many circumstances. As you well know, it is very common for a young man or woman to join a sheriff’s office at an early age and put in 25 years. That leaves many people in their mid-40s retired but far from ready to leave the workforce. We believe that spending two or three decades in a high-stress, high-danger profession serving the public good earns that person a retirement benefit. However, we also believe that these talented and experienced retired deputies have much to offer the workforce and community and should not be penalized for receiving benefits related to their previous career.
Finally, we are advocating for change to the Florida Constitution as proposed by the Constitution Revision Commission regarding special disbursements for first responders killed in the line of duty.
Proposition 49 -- a new section in Article X of the State Constitution to establish the rights to certain death benefits to the survivors of specified first responders and military members.
The proposed constitutional change specifically outlines the death benefits for first responders and military members. We believe this is a vital issue and are continuing to fight for the protection and long-term well-being of the survivors of those lost in service to this state. Serving in law enforcement involved the entire family, and their needs must be protected.
It is our privilege to represent you in Tallahassee and throughout the state all year, but you play an important role as well. We encourage you to learn about the issues and get involved. Contacting your representatives by phone or email can make a significant impact. Your voice is important and deserves to be heard. If you are not sure how to contact your state representatives, click on this link: https://www.flsenate.gov/Senators/Find and type in your address.
Together, we are making a difference.