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Latvala spars with Weatherford on pension issue

Having already clashed on the ethics bill, Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, and Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, are at odds again on another piece of legislation.

Weatherford has been championing HB 7011 as one of his top priorities. It would prohibit state workers, teachers and  county employees from enrolling in the Florida $132 billion pension system. Weatherford wants them instead to enroll in 401(k)-style investment plans that he says will help stave off a financial crisis with an unfunded pension years from now.

While Weatherford’s bill easily passed the House, along party lines, the Senate has yet to take it up. In fact, the chamber has drafted rival legislation, from Weatherford’s friend and business associate, Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, that is a more moderate than Weatherford’s bill. It would only encourage workers to enroll in 401(k)s, not require them. Yet its progress has stalled as well. A Senate floor vote on it was delayed again Thursday.

Weatherford said he prefers the HB 7011, sponsored by Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, but says he’s only requesting the Senate vote on it. He said he thinks it will pass, and isn’t asking for a vote to keep score of who supports it and who doesn’t.

But Latvala says otherwise. On Thursday, he told the Times/Herald that Weatherford is insisting on a vote despite knowing it won't pass.

“He brings it up every time I talk with him,” Latvala said. “I’ve told him he doesn’t have the votes. At this point, if he wants a floor vote, let him have it. It won’t pass.”

Asked why Weatherford wants it despite a doomed fate, Latvala said: “He just wants to know who’s with him and who’s against him,” he said.

Latvala said Weatherford’s demands are breaching legislative protocol.

“We have our bills, they have theirs,” Latvala said. “We pass our bills, they have ours. It would be fairly unprecedented for him to do this. We don’t do things like that around here.”