Local Pension Reform Headed To Full Senate

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TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – After a sometimes-tense hearing, the Senate Fiscal Policy Committee on Thursday unanimously approved a bill aimed at shoring up local pension plans for police officers and firefighters.

The bill (SB 172), filed by Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, and Sen. Jeremy Ring, D-Margate, is identical to a measure that passed the Senate last year.

Members of the committee bristled Thursday at opposition from the Florida League of Cities and business groups, at least some of which supported the proposal in 2014.

“It seems like you’re going to be happy with nothing at all until we get rid of pensions,” Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, said of the business groups. The bill would revamp how state insurance-premium tax revenues can be used in local pension plans.

Bradley said such taxes have long helped fund the plans.

Labor groups such as the Fraternal Order of Police, the Police Benevolent Association, the Teamsters and the Florida Professional Firefighters back the measure.

Bradley described local pension plans as a “ticking time bomb” because they are under-funded.”This bill allows the parties to use the insurance-premium tax dollars however they so choose, period,” Bradley said.

Kraig Conn, a lobbyist for the Florida League of Cities, said his group objects to the bill, at least in part, because of potential effects on the collective-bargaining process. He said more control should be turned back to cities to negotiate with unions.

The bill also has been approved by two other committees and is ready to go to the full Senate.

Last year’s bill died when it became tangled with a House attempt to overhaul the Florida Retirement System, which provides pension benefits to state employees and other groups such as teachers. House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, has signaled willingness to consider the local-pension issue on its own this year.

“The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.”

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