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Teachers sue Florida, Cops want to help

Well this is gonna be ugly.

The Florida Education Association is telling Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature that they are breaking the law by forcing teachers to contribute 3 percent of their pay to pay for their pensions.

So, of course, the FEA is going to court to stop what it calls an illegal "pay cut" for Florida's teachers.

Whether it is a "contribution" to their future pensions, or a "paycut," many teachers are unhappy. And they are not alone, the Florida Police Benevolent Association filed a motion to join the teacher suit.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott and GOP legislative leaders believe that the state is doing the right thing by requiring state employees to contribute to their pension fund.

Most Florida voters agree. They see little reason why public employees should not pay something for their own retirement plans.

And with state, county, school and local budgets straining to make ends meet, there is no public appetite for these pensions - especially since most private sector employees no longer have pensions.

From the FEA press release:

"This pay cut was used by legislative leadership to make up a budget shortfall on the backs of teachers, law-enforcement officers, firefighters and other state workers,” said FEA President Andy Ford. “It is essentially an income tax levied only on workers belonging to the Florida Retirement System. It’s unfair – and it breaks promises made to these employees when they chose to work to improve our state.

“While the state of Florida may make the policy decision to ask future employees to contribute to their retirement, it may not unilaterally change the covenant it made with current employees,” Ford said.

The lawsuit alleges that Florida law expressly provides that the Florida Retirement System is one in which employees do not have to contribute part of their salaries and describes that as a contractual obligation of the State. The suit claims that the Legislature’s action unconstitutionally impairs those
contractual rights.

The FRS collects retirement money for more that 900 state and local government employers in the state, covering 655,000 active employee members and providing benefits to 219,000 retired members. It has been a non-contributory plan since 1974.

The lawsuit names Gov. Rick Scott, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, Attorney General Pam Bondi and John Miles, secretary of the Department of Management Services, as defendants in the lawsuit. Scott, Atwater and Bondi are the members of the State Board of Administration that is responsible for overseeing the Florida Retirement System Trust Fund and Miles runs the agency that oversees the fund.

Attorney Ron Meyer will be requesting the court to segregate the money it collects from the 3 percent pay cuts and place it in an interest bearing account until the lawsuit is fully settled. If the court agrees with the claims, teachers, school employees and other public workers would receive their money back with interest.

Ford said he was fully aware that FEA risked incurring the wrath of Senate President Mike Haridopolos, House Speaker Dean Cannon and other top legislative leaders and that retribution toward the union and its members could be in the offing.

“This past legislative session, FEA was fully in the crosshairs of legislative leaders with SB 736, which will upend the teaching profession, massive budget cuts to public education and a spate of bills designed to put our union, and other public-sector unions, out of business,” Ford said. “But the importance of doing the right thing and protecting the constitutional rights of our members
trumps the fears of legislative payback.”


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Art by Chicago Artist Brian J. Crowley creator of Hamster Rage.


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