A priority for Speaker of the House Will Weatherford continued its march through the House of Representatives this week and is headed to the floor. HB 7011 (Rep. Brodeur), which reforms the Florida Retirement System (FRS), passed out of the House State Affairs committee on Thursday with amendments to include death and disability benefits for special risk workers. The bill seeks to provide cost-savings to the state and local governments and stabilize Florida’s retirement fund by closing the FRS pension (Defined Benefit) plan as of January 1, 2014, and enrolling new employees in 401K-style investment (Defined Contribution) plans. The Senate’s overhaul of the FRS system (SB 1392, Sen. Simpson), which would leave the pension plan open and change the default option for new employees to a defined contribution, moved on through committee.

Bills to preempt local ordinances on Family and Medical Leave benefits (SB 792, Sen. Simmons), as well as living wage (HB 655, Rep. Precourt), passed out of their referenced committees with the House bill now headed to the floor. FAC’s Lisa Hurley gave compelling testimony in the House State Affairs Committee on behalf of home rule.

Read more on administration bills…

HB 7013 (House Ethics & Elections Subcommittee)

  • Summary:
  • Early Voting Days/Hours: Extends period from 8 days minimum up to 14 days; increases hours from 96 to a maximum of 168 hours and allows for voting the Sunday before the general election at the discretion of Supervisor of Elections
  • Early Voting Sites: Expands authorized sites to include civic and convention centers, fairgrounds, stadiums, courthouses and commission buildings
  • Ballot Length: Applies 75-word limit on ballot summaries to constitutional amendments passed by the Legislature but not those rewritten by Attorney General
    • Status:  The full House approved the bill on the first day of Session. The Senate is now workshopping the issue.

SB 2 (Senate Ethics and Elections Committee)

  • SummaryComprehensive bill impacting public officials, elected and appointed, at the state and local level:
  • Ethics Training:  Mandatory annual 4 hours of ethics training (Sunshine Law, Public Records, Code of Ethics) for “constitutional officers” 
  • Dual Public Employment: Prohibits an elected official from accepting public employment that he or she knows, or reasonably should know, was established or offered to gain influence or advantage based on the elected official’s status; similar restrictions for accepting promotions in existing public employment.
  • Financial Disclosure Filings: Gives Commission on Ethics (COE) greater ability to collect financial disclosure fines, including garnishment of wages and increasing statute of limitations from 5 to 20 years.
  • Complaints and Investigative Proceedings: Authorizes the COE to initiate investigations based on a referral from the Governor, FDLE, or a State/US Attorney.
    • Status:  This bill was unanimously approved by the full Senate on the first day of Session. The House is now workshopping the bill.

Campaign Finance Activities
HB 569 (R. Schenck)

  • Summary:
  • Committees of Continuous Existence (CCEs): Eliminates CCEs by September 30, 2013 and requires submission of any outstanding reports after revocation
  • Campaign Contributions: Increases limits to candidates from $500 to $5,000 for candidates for statewide office and $3,000 for candidates for local offices effective 7/1/13 and allows unlimited contributions to Political Committees.  Candidates allowed to retain up to $50,000 in surplus campaign funds for use in next election for same office
  • Disclosures to DOE, Supervisor of Elections or Clerk: Submission of monthly contribution and expenditure reports until 60th day before primary (7 days after qualifying ends); Submission of weekly reports thereafter with last report due on the 4th day before the general election
  • Creation of a Statewide Campaign Finance Database
    • Status: A strike all was adopted in State Affairs this week that: lowered the proposed $10,000 limit on campaign contributions to candidates for statewide office seekers to $5,000 and $3,000 to candidates for judge and local government; increases the amounts of surplus funds that may be transferred to office accounts; lowered the proposed limit of $100,000 an elected could retain for campaign funds for the next election cycle to $50,000; eliminates the requirement that state or local candidate who qualified by petition process pay an election assessment out of surplus funds; and limits surplus funds given to an affiliated party committee or political party to $50,000. The bill is now headed to the House floor.

Regulation of Family or Medical Leave Benefits
SB 726 (S. Simmons)

  • Summary: Mandates employers provide certain medical and sick leave benefits to eligible employees not presently covered by the FMLA; seeks to prohibit counties from requiring benefits that go beyond those outlined in the bill. 
  • Status: After being temporarily passed last week, the bill was amended in Community Affairs this week to remove the mandatory benefit language and created a workgroup to study the issue of statewide medical and sick leave benefits. The bill has two more committees and is now headed to Health Policy.

Political Subdivisions
HB 655 (R. Precourt)

  • Summary:
  • Seeks to prohibit counties from requiring or otherwise regulating employee benefits (defined as family and medical leave benefits and wages) offered by its contractors.
  • Deletes provision in s. 218.77, F.S., allowing counties to mandate a minimum wage.
    • Status: In State Affairs on Thursday, March 7 the bill was amended to repeal all local ordinances mandating a living wage in June 2016. It was its last committee of reference and is now on the House floor.

Florida Retirement System
HB 7011 (R. Brodeur)

  • Summary:
  • FRS is the primary retirement plan for employees of the state, county, district school boards, community colleges and universities (county employees comprise approx. 22% of FRS). Currently there are two plan options: Defined Benefit (pension) or Defined Contribution (investment).
  • Legislation seeks to close the Defined Benefit plan to new hires with Proposed Changes to FRS Effective January 1, 2014:
    • Closes the DB plan (pension) to new enrollees
    • Requires all new enrollees to participate in the DC plan (investment)
    • Closes Senior Management Service Optional Annuity Program to new participants
    • Prohibits elected officials from joining the Senior Management Service Class in lieu of participation in the Elected Officers’ Class
    • Does not impact the ability of any current FRS enrollee to select participation in the DB (pension) or the DC (investment) plan.
  • Status:  The bill passed the House Appropriations committee 13-9 on 3/8/13. The bill was then heard in State Affairs on 3/14/13 with an amendment to reinstate current law with regard to availability of disability benefits. The bill now requires employers to purchase term life insurance for all Special Risk Class employees equal to ten times a person’s salary.  According to House staff, the proposed reforms will save counties $3.1 billion by 2042. This estimate does not include the costs associated with disability and death benefits, which are still outstanding. The bill is now headed to the House floor.

SB1392 (S. Simpson)

  • Summary: Unlike HB7011, the bill does not close the DB plan entirely to new employees but rather changes the default election from the DB to the DC plan.  The DB will however be closed to newly enrolled (on or after January 1, 2014) Elected Officers Class and Senior Management Service Class members, the bill increases service disability retirement vesting in DB from 8 to 10 years; reduces employee contribution to DC plan from 3 to 2% to incentivize enrollment in DC plan (but increases employer contributions to make up difference) and closes the Senior Management Service Optional Annuity Program.
  • Status: This bill takes a more conservative approach to FRS reform than HB 7011.  Although the overall actuarial impact of the legislation is not yet known, it passed Government Oversight and Accountability this week and is headed to Community Affairs, which is its second of three committee stops.

Public Meetings
SB 50 (S. Negron)/HB 23 (R. Rodrigues)

  • Summary:
  • Requires members of the public be given an opportunity to be heard at public meetings
  • Provides rules for allowing public testimony
  • Provides remedies for violation of statute
    • Status: Both bills were amended to add definition of a “ministerial act” in committee the week of March 4, 2013.  SB 50 was read for the second time on the floor this week and will be up for a vote the week of March 18, 2013. HB23 has two more committee stops.

Select Committee on Claims (Workshop)

  • Summary:  Among other things, the proposed committee bill: 
  • Lobbyists
    • Must disclose interest and the principal to the President and Speaker
    • Cannot represent more than one client without written consent from each client
    • Cannot argue adverse to previous client without consent from each client
    • Claim bills
      • Removes the four year statute of limitations
      • Actions
        • Must be trial by jury as to liability, with judge determining damages
        • Past damages awarded must be made in 30 days (after appeals exhausted)
        • Future damages paid into trust and distributed annually. 
        • Local government can fund trust through annuity.  
        • Unspent funds revert back (except lost wages).
        • Local government can make periodic payments (if no hardship)
        • Applies caps of $3-$4.5M to counties and $200K/300K to state; limits are adjusted annually.
        • Florida Fair Claims Act
          • If Insurance purchased to cover statutory caps, local government liable only for deductible.  Injured party can only seek amount of insurance coverage and may not file claim bill
          • Injured party can pursue judgment beyond cap if insurer “acts in bad faith” 
  • Status: First workshop held this week. Stakeholder meeting to be held 3/14/13. There is no Senate companion.