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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Florida Supreme Court finds state employee pension law constitutional

17

January

The Florida Supreme Court has overturned a lower court decision that had found unconstitutional the 2011 law requiring employee contributions to their pensions. The state had faced the prospect of having to reimburse thousands of workers, including teachers and other school employees, millions of dollars.

The court wrote:

"We again hold, as we did in Florida Sheriffs, that the preservation of rights statute was not intended to bind future legislatures from prospectively altering benefits for future service performed by all members of the FRS.  We further hold that the 2011 amendments requiring a 3% employee contribution as of July 1, 2011, and continuing thereafter, and the elimination of the COLA for service performed after that date are prospective changes within the authority of the Legislature to make.  

"The preservation of rights statute does not create binding contract rights for existing employees to future retirement benefits based upon the FRS plan that was in place prior to July 1, 2011."

Read the full opinion attached below.

Florida Education Association president Andy Ford said he was not pleased with the decision. "This is disappointing news for those who work to make Florida a better place,” Ford said in a release. "Balancing the state budget on the backs of middle-class working families is the wrong approach for legislative leaders and the governor to take. We’re disappointed that the state’s highest court said this approach was legal. I believe our arguments were correct, even if the justices didn’t agree. We still believe that a promise is a promise."

Senate president Don Gaetz praised the court.

"I commend the Supreme Court for their thoughtful and timely review and appreciate their upholding of the Legislature’s proper role in establishing pension policy and making budgetary decisions on behalf of the people who elect us," he said in a statement. "The changes made to the Florida Retirement System reflect the Legislature’s efforts to maintain a sound retirement system for our hard-working state and local government employees as well as the reality that Florida taxpayers can no longer bear the full cost of this benefit. Today’s ruling validates the Legislature’s sound policy judgment that public employees in Florida, like the public-sector employees in the vast majority of other states, should play a role in funding their retirement packages."

[Last modified: Thursday, January 17, 2013 11:57am]

    

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