TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — Yesterday, a measure to strengthen the age of special-risk first responders such as police officers, firefighters and correctional officers sailed through its final committee in the Florida House.
The proposal, now being heard on the House floor, would improve recruitment and retention for public safety agencies using the Florida Retirement System (FRS) and help alleviate the mental health strain on first responders.
Two bills in the legislature (HB 239 and SB 224) would change the retirement eligibility age for Special Risk Class members to 55 years of age. The proposal would also specify 25 years as the number of creditable service years required to retire. In 2011, the legislature increased the age to 60 years and the creditable years of service needed to 30 years.
BIPARTISAN LAW ENFORCEMENT SUPPORT
A South Florida chapter of the International Union of Police Associations (IUPA) supports both bills. Local IUPA Chapter 6020 represents approximately 1,200 members employed by the Broward County Sheriff’s office, the largest sheriff’s department in Florida.
Broward IUPA chapter President Matt Cowart traveled to Tallahassee in February to advocate for restoring benefits to Special Risk members. Cowart says the group is working closely with Senators Hooper and Busatta-Cabrera to ensure the passage of the legislation.
The change in financial impact on the state is minuscule, according to Cowart. But the benefits to Florida’s Special Risk Class members will be vast. Cowart also said the general public’s safety would increase under the new rules by allowing first responders to retire earlier.
A MODEL STATE
Florida continues to be a model state nationwide for public safety due to Governor DeSantis’ and the Florida legislature’s tough-on-crime stance. As a result, first responders are moving to Florida in record numbers because they are finding a community that supports them.
Last week, Governor DeSantis announced that nearly 1,400 bonuses had been issued to law enforcement recruits in Florida, and that hundreds of cops from New York, California, and Pennsylvania have relocated to the Sunshine State.