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A skirmish over severance pay on the House floor

After a passionate speech on the House floor, Rep. Eddy Gonzalez rallied his colleagues around a bill amendment late Thursday night that would prohibit local governments from giving top employees more than 20 weeks' severance pay.

The House had already signed off unanimously on Thursday on SB 88 with the 20 weeks' provision. But then the Senate took up the legislation and approved it -- also unanimously -- with a 6-week limit. So the bill bounced back to the House.

"If we pass this amendment, it has the potential to sink this bill," warned Rep. Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart.

But supporters of the provision said they shouldn't be bullied by the Senate. "It's funny that everybody here voted for it yesterday," Gonzalez noted.

Both sides threw around the case of former Miami-Dade County Manager George Burgess. Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, listed some of the perks Burgess received and said the Legislature needs toput a stop to that. Gonzalez, too, said the manager received too much, but said a severance buffer of up to 20 weeks would give local governments more flexibility. "We're sticking it to lower governments, like we always do," he said.

Gonzalez, a Hialeah Republican, has said he is running in November for mayor of the city.

A petition has been "going around" the House urging Gonzalez to stay, he mentioned in his speech. But, he said of the wrangling on the 20-week provision, "It's things like this that want me to go home to my family."

As members were casting their votes on the amendment, some in the House erupted in cheers of "Ed-dy! Ed-dy!" The final tally: 60-55 for the provision. Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, was on the losing side of the vote.

The final vote on the bill was 113-2. And now it heads back to the Senate.

Posted by Patricia Mazzei at 8:54:01 pm on May 05, 2011