Gov. Rick Scott signs pension reform into law

TALLAHASSEE — State employees will be required to put 3 percent of their salaries toward retirement starting in July.

Gov. Rick Scott signed that bill and 27 others into law Thursday. He also issued five vetoes.

Public employees previously contributed nothing to their retirement plans, leading Democrats, unions and teachers groups to liken the 3 percent requirement to a pay cut after years without raises. Republicans championed reforms to the Florida Retirement System for bringing state workers' benefits in line with the private sector.

The reforms also eliminate cost-of-living increases on retirement benefits earned after July 1.

"It is unfair for public sector employees to have a guarantee that the private sector does not," Scott wrote.

Despite calls from the Everglades Foundation for a veto, Scott also signed a bill that revises Florida's water management system policies. Kirk Fordham, the foundation's chief executive, warned last week that the bill makes big changes to the districts' budgets that were not analyzed through the public process.

Scott signed SB 2142 with at least one reservation — that it "diminished executive authority of the governor" by giving the Legislature influence over the budgets of Florida's five water management districts. Still, signing the bill meant estimated property tax cuts of $210.5 million, which was enough for Scott to look past an affront on his authority, according to his signing statement.

What else passed Scott's pen? A ban on bestiality sponsored for the third year by Sen. Nan Rich, D-Weston. Rich said she never thought getting the measure passed would be so difficult.

It passed this year thanks to more support in the House, she said, though she was disappointed some members were squeamish when taking up the issue or called it unnecessary.

"I'm sorry, this is not frivolous," Rich said. "It's a heinous crime."

Some citrus farmers won't be happy to learn Scott signed SB 2122, a bill that makes big changes to management of the independent Citrus Commission and caps tax rates on boxes of the fruit. More than 100 people contacted Scott's office and begged for a veto, saying the changes were not vetted by the industry.

Scott's signature should delight one of their own: Republican Sen. J.D. Alexander, the powerful budget chairman and Lake Wales citrus farmer who initiated the shakeups.

One of Scott's vetoes targeted a measure that would have allowed counties to create organizations to solicit private donations to pay for additional guardian ad litem support. In his veto letter, Scott said the language was tucked into a budget conforming bill without committee discussion and had "no direct link" to a budgetary issue.

Further, he wrote, only one of the five regional conflict counsels sought the language and had an unnamed benefactor in mind whose "name and affiliation would only be divulged upon signature of the governor, making it impossible to know whether there could be potential for conflict of interest."

Times/Herald staff writer Mary Ellen Klas contributed to this report. Reach Katie Sanders at (850)224-7263 or ksanders@sptimes.com.

Changes to the Florida Retirement System

Contributions

• All employees must contribute 3 percent of their pretax salaries into their retirement accounts beginning July 1, 2011.

• This includes members with either defined benefit or defined contribution plans.

Cost-of-living adjustments

• Between July 1, 2011, and July 1, 2016, Florida Retirement System members will not accumulate years of service credits for their cost-of-living adjustments.

• Members with 20 years of service or less who retire after July 1, 2011, will receive a 2.4 percent adjustment upon retirement.

• Members with more than 20 years of service who retire after July 1, 2011, will receive a reduced adjustment. Example: A member who now has 22 years of service and retires in three years (2014) would receive a 2.6 percent adjustment. If he retires before July 1, 2011, he would receive a 3 percent adjustment.

DROP (Deferred Retirement Option Program)

• If you enter DROP before July 1, 2011, you will earn 6.5 percent interest on the money set aside under DROP.

• Members who enter after July 1 will earn 1.3 percent interest on their DROP money.

New hires

• Employees hired after July 1, 2011, will vest after eight years.

• Employees may receive normal retirement benefits if they retire after 30 years of service and at 57 or age 60 with at least eight years of service.

• The average final compensation will be calculated on the best eight years of salary (currently it is the best five).

Sources: Senate Bill 2100, Florida Police Benevolent Association

Bills vetoed by Gov. Rick Scott

SB 2118: Which would have raised court costs and fees for defendants found guilty or who plead guilty to pay for costs of a statewide crime lab and transfer contracting and oversight of private prisons from Department of Management Services to the Department of Corrections. Scott said that was "contrary to my recommendation to consolidate state agency contracting" in DMS.

SB 2106: The bill repeats the action of another bill, SB 2156, which transfers the Florida Energy and Climate Change Commission to the Department of Agriculture.

SB 1738: Which would have created an Agency for Enterprise Business Services with the Department of Management Services to streamline purchasing and procurement. Scott said in his veto letter that the new agency is duplicative and in conflict with his new Agency for Enterprise Information Technology.

SB 2116: Would have allowed counties to set up organizations to solicit private donations to pay for additional guardian ad litem support. Scott said in his veto letter that the language was not considered in the Criminal Justice Committees in either chamber but as part of a budget conforming bill with "no direct link" to a budgetary issue. The language was also only sought by one of the five regional conflict counsels who had an unnamed benefit whose "name and affiliation would only be divulged upon signature of the governor, making it impossible to know whether there could be potential for conflict of interest."

HB 5305: Would have repealed the Correctional Medical Authority, preserving the ability of the state to supervise and monitor inmate health care through another level of government. The bill was barely passed on the last night of the session and afterward was vigorously opposed by Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey and Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa.

Gov. Rick Scott signs pension reform into law 05/26/11 [Last modified: Thursday, May 26, 2011 11:08pm]

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