Saturday, May 26, 2018
Politics

House plan to close state pension system to new employees moves forward

TALLAHASSEE — A plan to close Florida's pension system to new government employees passed a key House committee along party lines Friday, with Republicans saying the change would shore up retirement plans for government workers and Democrats crying foul.

The proposal, HB 7011, would force government employees hired after Jan. 1, 2014, away from the state pension system and into 401(k)-style retirement plans.

The measure — which would not affect the nearly 1 million current pension members of the Florida Retirement System — is a top priority of House Speaker Will Weatherford, who says it's necessary to salvage state finances and prevent a future bailout that states such as Illinois are facing.

"If we address our pension structure now, and make minimal changes, we can avoid having to deal with potential massive shortfalls in the later," said the bill's main sponsor, Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford.

But Democrats said there was no reason for an overhaul. Florida's pension fund, the fourth largest in the nation, is funded at about 86.9 percent, above the national average of 75 percent. Many local governments and school districts also participate in the pension system.

"Clearly this is a situation where we have a solution looking for a problem," said House Minority Leader Rep. Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale. "When you have a system that's top 10 in the nation, top five in being funded, we're tinkering with a problem that does not exist."

Aside from ideological differences between Democrats and Republicans, part of the disagreement about a need for change centers around a study that was supposed to provide objective numbers.

The Florida Division of Management Services hired Milliman, a Vienna, Va., actuarial firm, to estimate the projected costs of the changes. Upon its initial release last month, lawmakers learned that the study didn't include important assumptions and did not compare the proposed plan to keeping the pension system as is.

So Milliman had to redo the study. The revised study was supposed to be an "apples-and-apples" study that compared the costs of the pension plan with those of a 401(k)-system.

The results: The state could enjoy significant savings by closing the pension system to new employees — up to nearly $10 billion by 2043.

Milliman actuary Robert Dezube, however, said he wouldn't depict the study as being positive or negative. He said the projections were far from precise and were based more on trends. If they were accurate projections, he'd be doing something else, he joked.

Former director of the Florida Division of Retirement, Sarabeth Snuggs, said she found problems with the revised Milliman study as well.

"This was not an apples-to-apples comparison," said Snuggs, who served as director from 2003-12. She called the proposed changes unnecessary and "strictly a political decision."

The House bill has another committee stop. There is not yet an identical proposal in the Senate.

Comments
North Korea demolishes nuclear test site as journalists watch

North Korea demolishes nuclear test site as journalists watch

PUNGGYE-RI, North Korea — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made good on his promise to demolish his country’s nuclear test site, which was formally closed in a series of huge explosions Thursday as a group of foreign journalists looked on. The explosi...
Published: 05/24/18
Trump violated the Constitution when he blocked his critics on Twitter, a federal judge rules

Trump violated the Constitution when he blocked his critics on Twitter, a federal judge rules

President Donald Trump’s decision to block his Twitter followers for their political views is a violation of the First Amendment, a federal judge ruled Wednesday, saying that Trump’s effort to silence his critics is not permissible under the U.S. Con...
Published: 05/23/18
All those city services that fuel Lightning fever? Team, not taxpayers, foot the bill

All those city services that fuel Lightning fever? Team, not taxpayers, foot the bill

TAMPA — All those public watch parties during the Tampa Bay Lightning’s postseason run? And how about the rally at Joe Chillura Courthouse Square Park with the big white Lightning logo spray-painted on the grass? You need police to prote...
Published: 05/23/18
Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Explain this to me: In the world of partisan politics, how is being an independent thinker a bad thing? When it comes to general elections, we seem to like rogues and mavericks. We want outsiders and swamp scrubbers. Folks appreciate a good finger-...
Published: 05/22/18
‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump lashed out Sunday at "the World’s most expensive Witch Hunt," trashing a new report in the New York Times that said an emissary representing the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates offered help...
Published: 05/20/18
Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan pushed a radical idea on Twitter: Parents should pull their children out of school until elected officials pass stricter gun control laws.His tweet came hours after a shooting rampage at a Houston-area high scho...
Published: 05/20/18
China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

WASHINGTON - China offered to boost its annual purchases of U.S. products by "at least $200 billion" Friday as two days of talks aimed at averting an open breach between the two countries ended in Washington, a top White House adviser said.Larry Kudl...
Published: 05/19/18
Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

TAMPA — A concert organizer is accusing Hillsborough County Commission candidate Elvis Piggott of falsifying a contract and prompting the headline act to pull out of a gospel show.In a lawsuit filed in Hillsborough Circuit Court, Corey Curry claims h...
Published: 05/18/18
Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

WASHINGTON - The Senate voted Thursday to confirm Gina Haspel as the next CIA director after several Democrats were persuaded to support her despite lingering concerns about her role in the brutal interrogation of suspected terrorists captured after ...
Published: 05/17/18
GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

WASHINGTON — Republicans are pushing for a speedy confirmation vote as early as Thursday after the Senate intelligence committee endorsed President Donald Trump’s CIA nominee Gina Haspel to lead the spy agency. But opponents concerned about Haspel’s ...
Published: 05/16/18