Reform of the Florida Retirement System – a priority for the Speaker of the House - continued moving through the House this week, with a second reading on the floor and a two-hour debate.  HB 7011 (Rep. Brodeur) would close the FRS pension plan (Defined Benefit) as of January 1, 2014, and enroll new employees in 401K-style investment plans (Defined Contribution).  HB 7011 passed in the house with a 74 to 42 vote.  The House projects cost-savings of $3B by 2042 for counties. The Senate’s reforms to the FRS system (SB 1392, Sen. Simpson) would leave the pension plan open and change the default option for new employees to a defined contribution. SB 1392 passed its second of three committees and now heads to Senate Appropriations. 

The Select Committee on Claims Bills passed a revised Proposed Committee Bill, Sen. Bradley’s bill (SB 1216) to preempt local ordinances on wage theft stalled for a second time in committee, and Senator Negron’s priority bill to ensure members of the public are given an opportunity to be heard at public meetings passed the full Senate unanimously. Read more on administration bills…

Elections

HB 7013 (House Ethics & Elections Subcommittee)

  • Summary: An omnibus election administration bill that contains  several major provisions:
  • 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.
    • Outlook: Expected to pass.

SB 600 (S. Latvala)

  • Summary: An omnibus election administration bill that contains several major provisions:
  • Supervisors of Elections: Requires Supervisors to submit an election preparation report to the Secretary of State at least 3 months prior to election.
  • Primary: changes primary from 12 to 10 weeks before the general election.
  • Voting Equipment: Establishes a process by which the Dept. of State can approve/disapprove electronic or electromechanical voting equipment.
  • Early Voting Days/Hours/Sites: Makes changes consistent with HB 7013.
  • Ballot Length: Applies 75-word limit on ballot summaries to constitutional amendments passed by the Legislature but not those rewritten by the Attorney General.
  • Absentee Ballots:  Requires a witness to swear or affirm a voter’s signature; allows overseas ballots to be counted in any race in a general election (not just federal race); specifies that a Supervisor can use signature on precinct registry to verify signature on a Voter’s Certificate; provides for additional instructions on such ballots, and makes it a third degree felony for any person to possess more than two absentee ballots that do not belong to the person or an immediate family member.
  • Solicitation at the Polls: Prohibits a Supervisor from designating a no-solicitation zone or otherwise restricting access outside of the 100 ft. no-solicitation zone to any person, PC, CCE, candidate or other group or organization for the purpose of soliciting voters.
    • Status:  The bill passed its first committee of reference by a party line vote.  Despite the unanimous approval of the early voting changes in the House in HB 7013, some Senate members feel the changes do not go far enough. The bill now heads to Community Affairs committee. 

Ethics

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.
    • Outlook: Leadership priority and expected to pass.

 

EES2 (House Ethics & Elections)

  • Summary:  Comprehensive bill impacting public officials, elected and appointed, at the state and local level. The bill incorporates most of the provisions summarized in SB 2 with the following differences:
  • Financial Disclosure Filings: Does not allow the Commission on Ethics (COE) to levy on property in order to collect financial disclosure fines.
  • Complaints and Investigative Proceedings: Gives COE discretion to dismiss complaints due to “de minimus” violations (SB 2 mandates their dismissal).
  • Lobbying Ban: Limits the two year lobbying ban for legislators to the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate (SB 2 places the restriction on all former legislators).

Status:  Committee bill filed 3/18/13 and passed unanimously 3/19/13.

 

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 in its first committee, the bill was amended in Community Affairs to remove the mandatory benefit language and create a workgroup to study the issue of statewide medical and sick leave benefits. The bill passed out of Health Policy this week on a party line vote 6-3.  It is now headed to Judiciary. 

 

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. The bill is now on second reading on the House calendar.  There is no companion bill in the Senate.

 

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 passed the house with 74 to 42.

 

SB 1392 (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 Governmental Oversight & Accountability on 3/14 and Community Affairs on 3/20.  It heads to Appropriations, its last committee of reference next.

 

SB 7122 (PCB Governmental Oversight and Accountability)

  • Summary: The annual bill that revises the employer contribution rates for FRS.
  • Increases the employer contribution rates for retiree health insurance subsidy from 1.1 to 1.25%.
  • Changes employer contribution rates for each membership class of FRS as follows:
    • Regular – 3.53 % from 3.55%
    • Special Risk – 11% from 11.01%
    • Special Risk Administrative Support – 4.17% from 3.94%
    • Elected Officers (legislators) – 6.52% from 6.51%
    • Elected Officers (judges) – 10.05% from 10.02%
    • Elected Officers (county officers) – 8.44% from 8.36%
    • Senior Management – 4.81% from 4.84%
    • DROP – 4.63 from 4.33%
    • To address unfunded actuarial liabilities of the system, amends the current 2013 employer contribution rates for each membership class of FRS as follows:
      • Regular – 2.19% from 2.02 (*2012 rate was 0.49%)
      • Special Risk – 6.83% from 7.03% (*2012 rate was 2.75%)
      • Special Risk Administrative Support – 30.56% from 27.04% (*2012 rate was 0.83%)
      • Elected Officers (legislators) – 24.85% from 27.18% (*2012 rate was 0.88%)
      • Elected Officers (judges) – 17% from 16.38% (*2012 rate was 0.77%)
      • Elected Officers (county officers) – 23.36% from 23.01% (*2012 rate was 0.73%)
      • Senior Management – 12.27% from 11.25% (*2012 rate was 0.32%)
      • DROP – 7.01% from 6.21% (*2012 rate was 0.00%)
  • Status: Passed out of Government Oversight and Accountability this week and is headed to the floor.

 

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 passed the full Senate this week by a unanimous vote – 40/0.  HB23 has two more committee stops.

 

Wage Theft
HB 1125 (R. Goodson), SB 1216 (S. Bradley)

  • Summary:
  • Creates civil cause of action for wage theft
  • Prohibits counties from adopting or maintaining ordinances and rules for the purposes of addressing unpaid wage claims. 
    • Status:
    • 3 committee referrals in House; passed favorably out of H. Civil Justice on 3/13 with testimony by FAC in opposition.
    • 4 committee referrals in Senate. In Senate Criminal Justice this week, Senator Smith offered an amendment to SB 1216 to address an existing ordinance in Broward County but the bill was temporarily postponed for a second time for lack of time.

 

Claims Bills
Select Committee on Claims Bills

  • Summary:  Among other things, the proposed committee bill provides as follows: 
  • 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:  On March 21, the Select Committee passed a revised PCB, SCCB 13-01, as well as amendments.  The PCB provides changes as follows:
  • Defines “political subdivisions” as counties, municipalities, special tax school districts, special road and bridge districts, hospital districts, all other districts in this state, and corporations primarily acting as instrumentalities or agencies of political subdivisions, including Space Florida
  • Insurance protections afforded only if sovereign purchases insurance to cover three times the cap levels. Self insurers must deposit lesser of amount claimant is willing to accept and policy limits within 45 days of claim.
  • Caps placed at $1 million per person/ $1.5 million per event.
  • Amendments were also adopted which provide:
    • Any attorney lobbying on behalf of a client, a law firm or for themselves, any of which has a pecuniary interest in the claim bill, shall be deemed a lobbyist.
    • Interest on the amount sought begins to accrue once claim bill is filed in the Legislature, and claim bill must be sponsored by a member of the local legislative delegation.  However, such claim bill does not require consideration by the delegation as a whole as would a local bill.   Where the local legislative delegation consists of only a single member of either the House of Representatives or the Senate, a claim bill may be sponsored by a member in an adjoining district.   
    • Jury trial on liability includes issues of breach of duty, causation and comparative fault.
    • A political subdivision that purchases insurance or self-insures at three times the cap levels is only liable for its deductible and not for any judgments in excess of the policy limits.  A party injured by a tort covered by such a policy may not seek payment from beyond the insurance coverage, and any claim for relief submitted to the Legislature shall be treated as a claim bill against the state, and paid from state funds.