Rep. Steve Crisafulli Week 8 Legislative Report
By Rep. Steve Crisafulli // April 27, 2014
House Continues to Pass Important Legislation
THE CAPITOL, TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — The Legislature had a fast paced week this week with a full schedule of floor action and budget conference negotiations.
We passed many good bills while working hard to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate budget proposals ahead of the end of the 2014 Legislative Session next week.
HB 7181 – Public Retirement Plans
The House passed HB 7181, which takes important steps to modernize the Florida Retirement System (FRS) and local public pension plans. The bill, part of the Legislature’s Work Plan 2014, makes a number of changes to the FRS that only affect new employees who enroll in the system on or after July 1, 2015. The bill also proposes reasonable changes to city firefighter and police officer pension plans that will help ensure those plans are stable and well-funded.
The vesting period for new employees who enroll in the FRS pension plan is increased from eight years to ten years. This change encourages employees to enter the pension plan only if they intend to stay with an FRS employer for the vast majority of their careers. The bill also changes the default from the pension plan to the investment plan if an employee has not made a selection within 9 months.
However, members of the regular and special risk classes retain a second election and those who default into the investment plan may exercise their second election to move into the pension plan.
New enrollees of the Elected Officers’ Class and Senior Management Service Class will now be required to enroll in the investment plan, but the pension plan will remain open for all other new enrollees. These changes will not affect current participants in the FRS or retirees who already receive a pension.
The bill also addresses local public pension plans. The bill substantially changes how insurance premium tax revenues must be used when funding city firefighter and police officer pension plans and requires all plans to create a defined contribution plan component.
HB 7181 creates a modern retirement system that protects current employees and retirees, reduces the risk to taxpayers, provides more financial certainty for our state, and offers flexible retirement options for new employees.
CS/HB 7083 – School Choice
The House also passed CS/HB 7083 relating to School Choice, which reduces barriers that can delay the opening of new charter schools. The bill requires statewide use of the standard charter and charter renewal contracts developed by the Department of Education.
The bill revises the contents of the application and charter so that issues currently reserved for charter negotiations are decided upon by the sponsor during the application process. The sponsor must review the application and base its decision to approve or deny the application upon the expanded application criteria.
The bill also expands opportunities to bring quality charter schools to Florida. It allows an out-of-state entity that successfully operates a system of charter schools outside of Florida to apply and qualify for high-performing charter school system status. If awarded high-performing status, the entity may utilize the streamlined application process to establish new charter schools in Florida.
CS/HB 7083 will expand school choice in our state, ensuring our children have the opportunity to receive the best education available.
CS/CS/HB 7141 – Human Trafficking
The House also unanimously passed CS/CS/HB 7141 to address the terrible problem of human trafficking in our state. The bill builds on the Safe Harbor Act passed in 2012, which treats survivors of human trafficking – particularly survivors of commercial sexual exploitation – as victims rather than criminals. The bill supports the state’s efforts against human trafficking by:
• Creating new administrative requirements for the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and the community based care lead agencies, which provide child welfare services to ensure they have the infrastructure to respond properly to victims.
• Creating a certification process and standards for classifying “safe houses” and “safe foster homes” for sexually exploited children to ensure appropriate quality.
• Providing DCF with spending authority and personnel to fund and administer services.
CS/HB 59 – Offenses Against Unborn Children
This week the House also passed CS/HB 59 to provide justice to unborn victims of violence. Currently under Florida law, the death of a viable unborn child as the result of DUI manslaughter, vehicular homicide, or through injury to the mother is a separate offense.
Under the bill, any injury to or death of an unborn child will be treated as if the injury or death occurred to the mother of the unborn child. The maximum penalty imposed under this bill is life in prison. The death penalty may not be imposed.
Every life is special and precious. By creating a separate offense, the Florida Legislature took an important step to defend the lives of our youngest victims of violence.
CRIME RATE DROPS
This week, officials announced Florida’s crime rate dropped to a 43 year low in 2013. The crime rate dropped across much of Central Florida, including Orange, Osceola, Volusia and Lake counties.
The total number of crimes in Florida dropped 3.8 percent, and there were 27,000 fewer crimes in 2013 than previous years. This decrease in crime is directly attributable to the incredible work of the brave men and women who serve in law enforcement.
Public safety is one of my top priorities as a legislator, and I believe strongly in equipping our law enforcement officers with the tools they need to protect themselves and our families.