Lawmakers have formally delivered to Gov. Ron DeSantis legislation bolstering officer recruitment and retention, and solidifying Florida as the most “law enforcement-friendly state.”
The bill (HB 3), passed 114-3 in the House and unanimously in the Senate, would provide recruits a bundle of perks. Among them is a one-time $5,000 bonus for first-time officers and a $1,000 reimbursement program for out-of-state officers who relocate to Florida. It would also bump the base pay for county sheriffs by $5,000.
DeSantis — an early 2024 presidential contender — floated the law enforcement recruitment package in September, decrying the “defund the police” movement. The Senate didn’t draft an accompanying version of the House bill but included its law enforcement priorities within its budget proposal.
The goal, he told reporters then, is to remove professional barriers and attract out-of-state officers into Florida.
The delivery, made Thursday, comes the same day DeSantis and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis made two public appearances to roll out $1,000 first responder bonuses for the second year in a row. The bonuses come as a thank you to law enforcement officers, emergency medical technicians, firefighters and paramedics for their work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The recruitment bill’s passage came after lawmakers accepted an amendment by Clearwater Republican Sen. Ed Hooper, which empowers sheriffs to adjust their budget without the blessing of county commissioners. St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes and several Democrats unsuccessfully fought against it, saying the amendment provides sheriffs unmatched, unchecked power.
The bill also calls for the creation of a police scholarship program. The Florida Law Enforcement Academy Scholarship would cover up to $1,000 of tuition, fees and other police academy-related expenses.
It further provides private school scholarships to the children of police officers and allows schools to provide college credits to cops based on their training and experience.
DeSantis has until April 15 to act on the bill. If it becomes law, the measure would take effect July 1.
Jason Delgado and Renzo Downey contributed to this report.