On Thursday, the Senate’s Community Affairs Committee heard SB 534, a bill that would subject the state’s 492 municipal pensions to tougher actuarial scrutiny.
Boring stuff, right? Well, not for political junkies in Pinellas County.
You see, the bill’s sponsor is Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg. The bill already cleared one committee, by a 7-2 vote. Brandes has been a tireless champion of it, doing things like sitting in House committee meetings and tweeting his support for the sponsor of the companion bill.
But the bill didn’t get a particularly warm reception at its second Senate committee, especially from one member in particular – Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater.
When Brandes ran for the senate last year, Latvala backed his opponent, Jim Frishe. Then a state representative, Frishe backed Latvala in his bid for senate president in 2016. Brandes said he was neutral, but won heavy financial backing from another senator vying for the presidency in 2016, Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart.
Latvala brought up some concerns about the bill and even convinced one senator who voted for it last week, Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Orange Park, to hold off on his support.
Latvala told Brandes that he had questions about it.
“This really is not hazing,” Latvala told Brandes.
He then shared his concerns about the bill’s new reporting method for pensions, which would make them more in line with corporate bonds with more conservative rates of return.
Latvala said that could greatly exaggerate their liabilities and could shake investor confidence.
“Do you disagree that this could have a potentially adverse affect on local governments’ bond ratings?” Latvala asked.
At another point, Latvala advised Brandes that he should compare the performance of pensions to at least 10 years.
“Don’t you think when we make decisions up here we ought to use numbers that are more than a year at a time?” Latvala asked Brandes.
As Brandes continued to defend the bill, he was interrupted by the chair of the committee, Wilton Simpson, R-New Port Richey. Save it for next week. His bill had been delayed. He had a week to sit down with Bradley and Latvala to work out any issues.