District Two Report

Our last FSALC report gave you an overview on our efforts to replace the term “absentee ballot” with “vote by mail ballot” in the State of Florida, and why it is so important. This article will bring you up to date with the latest developments in that effort.

First of all, does everyone know how to look up a bill on the FL House website? If not, get in front of your computer or equivalent mobile device, and follow along with me. You want to start at FLHOUSE.GOV. Along the top of that page, you will see a link to “BILLS.” Click that and a page will pop up with a bunch of fillable search boxes. We will look this bill up by its number, so go to the box that says “BILL NUMBER” and type in 361. Click search and you will get one result: “HB 361 – Vote-by-mail Voting.”

Now that we have found our bill, just click on the bill name and another page will pop up. This page will tell you everything that is going on with the bill. You can see there is a related bill in the FL Senate called “SB 112: Absentee Voting.” You can click on that to see the latest information on that bill. Also interesting is the link to the “Original Filed Version” of the bill text, so give that a click and see what changes to the Florida Statutes are proposed by the bill.

The last thing I want you to take a look at is the “Staff Analysis.” At the time of this article, the most recent analysis was published on 12/02/2015. This analysis is extremely helpful; in fact, much of the information in the remainder of this article was obtained from this analysis.

Most of us know we may request an absentee ballot in Florida for any reason, or no reason at all. This was not always the case. Prior to 2001, a voter was required to show cause in order to vote using an absentee ballot. Many people believe this to still be true, and the moniker “absentee ballot” does nothing to dispel this myth. Imagine if everyone were aware they could simply request their ballot be mailed to their house, they can complete it in the privacy of their own home at their own leisure, and drop it in the mail.

If the usage of vote by mail was increased, more people would exercise their right to vote, but lines at polling locations would probably get shorter. Families who are too busy working to get to the polls, or do not have transportation, can vote at their convenience through the mail. Many do not know they have that right, and think they are committing some type of fraud by requesting an “absentee ballot” when they are not truly absent. A side benefit to all of us would be increased postage revenues for the USPS.

Currently 27 states have some form of “no-excuse absentee voting,” but there is a lack of uniformity in the terminology, even within the State of Florida. Several Florida supervisors of elections websites use the terms “vote by mail” and “absentee” interchangeably, increasing the confusion. This bill will make the term “vote by mail ballot” universal, and eliminate usage of the misleading term “absentee ballot.”

What can you do? It’s easy, I promise. It will take two to five minutes of your time, tops. Remember that website I gave you at the beginning of this article? Just to the right of the “BILLS” link there is a link to “REPRESENTATIVES.” Click on that and then look for a big magnifying glass with the words “FIND YOUR REPRESENTATIVE.” Once you click on the magnifying glass, you will be asked to enter your address. Your representatives will then be displayed, as well as all of their contact information. Give your Florida House representative a call and ask him/her to support HB 361 (Vote-by-mail Voting). Next, call your Florida Senate representative and ask him/her to support SB 112 (Absentee Voting). They need to hear from their constituents how important this is to us.

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District II Report June 24, 2013
Brothers and Sisters,
As usual leave in an assembly like the FSALC State Convention left me with a renewed
focus on our organization. I was excited to see the evolution of the FSALC Web Page.
Brother Kevin Byrne has done a remarkable job in this makeover. The format will only
be as good as its content I hope to use the District II page to communicate to each of you in District II on legislative matters that are important to our membership.
Let me begin with some news that is developing that may soon have an impact on our
retirees.
On June 17th C.W. Bill Young wrote:
You will be pleased to know that I agreed to cosponsor the Social Security Fairness Act
of 2013 and I now look forward to helping it progress through the legislative process
during this 113th Congress. H.R. 1795, as you are probably aware, would repeal the
WEP with respect to computation of the primary insurance amount of an individual. This measure would also repeal GPO provisions applicable to a husband’s and wife’s insurance benefits, a widow’s and widower’s insurance benefits, and a mother’s and father’s insurance benefits with respect to Old-Age and Survivors insurance benefit payments.
H.R. 1795 has been referred to the House Ways and Means Committee where hearings
have not yet been scheduled. In an effort to be of all possible assistance to you, I have
taken the liberty of sharing our mutual support for the Social Security Fairness Act with
my colleagues on the committee. As they continue to review this important bill, you can
be sure that they will keep our views in mind. – Young is the ranking Republican in the
House serving Florida’s 13th Congressional District Members impacted by either the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) or Government Pension Offset (GPO) received reason for increased optimism that the two federal laws days may be numbered.
Following HR 1795 filed in the House, Senator Mark Begich (D-Alaska) has filed S. 896. The bill now has 9 cosponsors from across the political spectrum, including
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and Maine’s Susan Collins.
Republican Senators Lisa Murkowski (AK) and Dean Heller (NV) have joined with
Democrats Barbara Boxer (CA) and Tom Udall (NM) as well as Jack Reed and Sheldon
Whitehouse from Rhode Island. Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) has also signed onto the
bill. In the House, Massachusetts Congressmen Michael Capuano and Joe Kennedy III have now signed onto HR 1795, which now has 78 cosponsors with support continuing to grow. As it now stands, nearly all Massachusetts Congressmen have signed on, as well as the majority of federal representatives from across the New England states.
– Massretirees.com
These two provisions affect all CSRS that retired December 1982 and later, although
these Bills may not be everything that the NALC will be able to support as details are
released, it is important that at least they are being addressed, Not much has been
mentioned on either of these laws since the 109th and 110th Congress. With this many
legislators beginning to address the issue at least we can begin to open dialogue on the
subjects.
Joe Henschen, District II
Click here for more information on the Windfall Elimination Provision and the
Government Pensions Offset .