Budget conference: House, Senate halfway aligned on SLERS funding

Police patrol car radio equipment and microphone. Walkie-talkie.
The chambers are out of sync on some hardware purchases but both fund tower rebuild projects.

House and Senate budget writers are out of sync on several small-dollar line items tied to the Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System, but there is agreement on most top-line issues.

The House’s first budget offer, released Monday, includes $800,000 to buy new radio hardware for Liberty County law enforcement and $412,000 for the Okeechobee Emergency SLERS Radio System. The Senate’s first offer, released late Monday, funds neither.

The chambers have agreed on some larger SLERS-related expenditures, including $1.94 million to boost staffing and verification services, $104,378 to address workload increases and $3.5 million to relocate or rebuild some of the towers underpinning the system.

Still, there is disagreement on proviso and back-of-bill language on the broader SLERS network. Notably, the Senate specifically allocates funding to relocate the tower at McCaw in Hillsborough County and the Disalvo in Jefferson County while the House places the funding in reserve, allowing the Department of Management Services greater latitude.

The funding comes amid the ongoing revamp of SLERS, a unified digital radio network used by law enforcement officers and other first responders.

In 2021, lawmakers bucked the competitive bidding process and granted the SLERS contract to Melbourne-based L3Harris.

The rebuild contract was initially awarded to Motorola Solutions. L3Harris, which held the contract for the now-deprecated version of SLERS, challenged the procurement in court while holding hostage the radio towers that power the system. A court affirmed its right to do so because, despite the towers being built by the state, the company formerly known as Harris Corp. held a long-term lease that gave it exclusive control over the towers.

The suit effectively killed the deal between Motorola Solutions and the Department of Management Services, delaying the much-needed SLERS upgrade beyond the planned 2020 ground-breaking date.

Budget conference subcommittees will meet throughout the week to resolve differences in each area. When remaining issues reach an impasse, they will be “bumped” to the full budget conference committee.

Lawmakers must reach an agreement on a final spending plan by May 2 to meet the 72-hour “cooling off” period required by the state constitution before they can vote on the budget to avoid pushing the Regular Session past its scheduled May 5 end date.

Staff Reports


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