The Florida House passed a bill Friday that would overhaul the state and local pension systems, setting up a rematch between the Senate and Speaker Will Weatherford, who has one last shot at realizing one of his top priorities.
HB 7181 passed 74-44, along party lines, that would shrink the number of people enrolled in the state's $135 billion investment plan and steer new hires to private investment plans. For two years, Weatherford has been pushing for a reform of the state's retirement system, a cause championed by his core base: The Florida Chamber of Commerce and Americans for Prosperity, the group founded by the libertarian billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.
The Senate defeated Weatherford's attempt last year at pension reform, 22-18, and after prospects for a similar reform dimmed this session, Weatherford married the state pension bill with a more popular bill, one dealing with local pensions, in an attempt to pick off some Senate holdouts.
Democrats and union groups who oppose Weatherford's attempts support the local pension reform, which would permit municipalities to reduce plan benefits in an attempt to shore up the finances of the plans. The state system, they argue, is fine and doesn't need any more tinkering after years in which lawmakers have reduced benefits for state employees and teachers.
"We have two bills combined because one bill could not stand on its own merit," said Rep. Victor Torres, D-Orlando.