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2016 state radio funds allocated; next procurement to begin this summer

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

The Department of Management Services’ Joint Task Force panel detailed on Monday how $7 million allocated for state law enforcement radios last year will be spent, possibly giving a clue into how another $7 million appropriated for SLERS during the 2016 Legislative Session may be allocated as well.

The funding item has been the topic of a heated intra-industry fight between two major state government vendors.

Brevard County-based Harris Corporation, who holds the lucrative nine-figure contract to produce and service nearly all of Florida’s state police radios, actively lobbied lawmakers for $7 million both this year and in 2015, arguing the funds were necessary to keep the streets safe.

Rep. Jeanette Nunez, head of a House budget committee which deals with police funding, backed that up after a hearing in February, while Sen. Alan Hays, her Senate counterpart, called it a “vendor-driven” issue.

“The agencies are not clamoring for these radios,” said Hays after the same budget meeting.

Ultimately Harris and supportive House lawmakers — including Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Rep. Ritch Workman, both from Brevard — got their way, writing into the budget proviso language that appropriates the line-item for more radios over the objections of senators, who have said the extra money for new Harris-made radios could jeopardize an upcoming competitive bid process for the contract.

So where did the $7 million from FY 2016 go?

A representative from DMS laid out the outlays Monday, saying of the $6.9 million of the extra funds given to the Department:

  • $4.7 million went to the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission for 1120 portable units;
  • $857,733 went to FWC for 200 mobile units;
  • $654,489 went to the Department of Corrections for 150 mobile units; and
  • $633,500 went to the Department of Business & Professional Regulation for 150 mobile units.

Robert Downie, senior attorney from DMS, also provided an update on the status of the competitive procurement process set to help the state negotiate a new contract when Harris’ current contract expires in 2021.

Downie said while the above proviso language deleted a hard deadline for DMS to begin the process on July 31 of this year, the department is still using the date as a goal. He estimated the timeline from then until an award is made — “barring politics or litigation” — should be 14 to 15 months, or around fall of 2017.

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Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to FloridaPolitics.com and before that, The Florida Squeeze, he covers the Legislature as a member of the Florida Capitol Press Corps and has worked as a staffer on several campaigns. He can be reached at ryan@floridapolitics.com.

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