More Bonus Money Sought for Police Recruiting
TALLAHASSEE --- After distributing over $6.2 million to recruit new law-enforcement officers from across the country since July 1, Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration is seeking $30 million to continue the effort next year.
The proposal is part of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s funding requests for the 2023-2024 fiscal year, which will start in July. Lawmakers will consider the requests during the legislative session that will begin March 7.
Meredith Ivey, acting secretary of the department, told members of the Senate Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Appropriations Committee on Wednesday that 1,245 new officers have been awarded after-tax bonuses of $5,000. Lawmakers approved the bonus program during the 2022 legislative session.
Ivey also said the department, working with law-enforcement agencies across the state, continues “to identify eligible recipients.”
Sen. Tom Wright, R-New Smyrna Beach, suggested lawmakers expand the program to other first responders.
“There’s been some questions of myself, from various agencies, wondering if we might want to consider something for our fire departments that we’re already doing for law enforcement to increase people moving into the state,” Wright said.
The one-time payments were part of broader law-enforcement legislation that DeSantis signed in April.
“We want to incentivize really strong, high-quality people to pursue law enforcement as a vocation in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said in signing the legislation at the Brevard County Sheriff's Office. “That may mean that you leave Seattle or Chicago or some of these places and come to the Brevard County Sheriff's Office. But it could also mean that you're somebody that's in Florida trying to determine what you want to do with your life.”
As the bill moved through the Legislature last year, Democrats unsuccessfully pushed for employment-record reviews of new hires, including reviews of disciplinary actions, complaints or investigations into conduct, and for recruits with military backgrounds to pass psychological examinations.
Among other funding requests for the upcoming session, the Department of Economic Opportunity department is seeking to double to $100 million the amount of money going to the Visit Florida tourism-marketing agency and to maintain $50 million in funding for the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund.
Visit Florida received $50 million for the current fiscal year and $80 million, including $30 million in federal stimulus money, in the 2021-2022 fiscal year.
The Job Growth Grant Fund provides money for regional infrastructure projects and workforce-training programs. DeSantis has the authority to determine how the money is spent.
Among recent approvals, DeSantis in October approved $1.3 million for infrastructure improvements in Marathon that will help in the development of a 110-unit resort spearheaded by the founder of the Bass Pro Shops retail chain.