TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Following promises by legislative leaders and Gov. Ron DeSantis, Florida is poised to deliver millions of dollars in bonuses and incentives to the state’s current and pending law enforcement officers and their families. Having cleared both chambers of the legislature, it’ll be up to DeSantis to sign.
House Bill 3, approved in the legislature as part o the coming fiscal year’s state budget, adds a raise to all law enforcement officers and agents in the state, as well as offering sign-on bonuses to those recruited from outside of Florida.
Additionally, the bill creates a new scholarship program for law enforcement officer trainees, a reimbursement program for training costs to certified officers who move to Florida to work, and creates a new benefits program for law enforcement officers who adopt children from the state child welfare system, with extra funding for those who adopt special needs children.
Children of law enforcement officers, under the new bill, are also eligible to receive scholarships for private school and veterans are exempted from taking basic skills tests as requirements for starting basic training for law enforcement.
The bonuses and salary increases follow moves to boost salaries for state educators, as well as the bonuses given to all teachers, law enforcement officers, paramedics and first responders delivered the year before.
All told, if you’re a police officer or sheriff’s deputy moving to Florida from out of state, you’ll immediately have the opportunity for a cost saving of up to $2,000 for training and a $5,000 sign-on bonus. When it comes to education and training, both current and former law enforcement officers can count their training and experience from service toward postsecondary credit at Florida’s colleges and universities, the public postsecondary institutions.
The bill also requires officers to receive training in health and wellness principles to complete certification and continued employment training.
Going forward, school district boards are “encouraged” to establish public safety telecommunication training programs and law enforcement explorer programs in their public schools.
Elected sheriffs in Florida will receive an extra $5,000 to their base salary, thanks to HB 3.
For those adopting a child from the state’s child welfare system, officers could get a $10,000 benefit credit. If the child adopted has special needs, that credit grows to $25,000. The children of law enforcement officers will also be eligible for the Family Empowerment Scholarship, should their parents wish them to go to a private school instead of public.
Analysis of the bill by the Florida Legislature says the fiscal impact is indeterminate.
That said, the analysis estimates the cost of $13.6 million per year based on the $5,000 hiring bonus for out-of-state officers moving to Florida, based on what it says is an approximate 2,711 initial law enforcement certifications given annually in a five year period. The appropriations bill, House Bill 5001, set aside $20 million for the signing bonuses required by HB 3. The legislature notes that neither SB 2500 or HB 3 provided an appropriation for the new program.
In addition to $5,000 bonuses for out-of-state hires, the analysis by the legislature said that the same payments could be given to newly employed officers from Florida, “contingent upon” approval and appropriation by the state legislature.
Finally, HB 3 creates Law Enforcement Appreciation Day on May 1 each year. Should the bill be signed into law by Gov. DeSantis, which he has already indicated he will do, the bill would take effect on July 1.