TALLAHASSEE – The Florida House of Representatives on Friday overwhelmingly passed an overhaul of the state’s employee-retirement system, one of House Speaker Will Weatherford‘s top priorities for the 2013 session.
The measure, HB 7011, would move the state from a defined-benefits system to a defined-contribution plan, similar to 401(k) retirement plans in place in most private businesses. Present state workers, even those who leave but return to state employment in the future, would not be affected. Those hired after Jan. 1, 2014 would be.
The 74-42 vote followed a day of questions Thursday and two hours of debate Friday, with Democratic opponents accusing the bill’s backers of abandoning those who spent careers in public service.
“This will hurt … future employees in this system,” state Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee, said on the House floor. “The defined-benefit system is working … A dignified retirement is an achievable goal.”
State Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, the bill’s sponsor, however, denounced what he called “shameful” arguments by opponents that “one side loves our government employees and the other side doesn’t.”
“We need to make changes today,” he said in his closing argument. “One way or another we’ll get to the point where we realize this is unsustainable.”
The bill must now be reconciled with a Senate measure that would close the retirement system to elected officials and employees in senior management positions, rather than all state employees.
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