Showing posts with label government. Show all posts
Showing posts with label government. Show all posts

Goodbye 3% Pay - FL State Workers Lose Pension Lawsuit

In a major victory for the state, the Florida Supreme Court ruled 5-2 against state workers and allowed the state to retain the 3 percent levy on worker salaries to offset the state's investment into the Florida Retirement System.  Download Retirement ruling
The ruling allows lawmakers to avoid another $2 billion budget hole next year and state workers will see their salary cuts retained indefinitely. The lawsuit, Scott v. Williams, was filed by the Florida Education Association after lawmakers passed, and Gov. Rick Scott signed to tap salaries of 623,000 government worker.
Lawmakers argued at the time that the change was needed to fill a $3.6 billion budget gap and bring Florida in line with 47 states that require their government workers to contribute to their pension plans. The savings was then plowed back into the budget, not into the retirement fund.
The Supreme Court overturned a ruling by Leon County Circuit Court Judge Jackie Fulford, who ruled in 2012 that the pension changes were unconstitutional because they impaired the contractual rights of the FRS employees, took private property without full compensation and impaired employee collective bargaining rights. She ordered the state to halt the practice and reimburse workers with interest.
Attorney General Pam Bondi and Republican legislative leaders immediately challenged the ruling and continued collecting money from employee payments. It is now up to the court to decide but a decision could take months.
If the seven justices had upheld the lower court ruling, state and local governments would have to reimburse active workers in the Florida Retirement System and cover the resulting hole in their budgets. The state has already taken more than $900 million from employees and are expected to take up to $2 billion by June 30, 2013, the end of the state's current fiscal year. State economists have predicted that revenues appear to be meeting expectations and, for the first time in years, legislators may not face another year of belt tightening. 

Vote NO on All 11 Florida Constitution Amendments

Today we received the voter guide for the 11 amendments that will be on the Florida ballot in the newspaper. I wanted to research these and make sure I voted the best way for our state. As it turns out, all of these amendments are harmful to the citizens of Florida and I will vote NO on all amendments. You should too. But if you want to do your own research the amendments are listed HERE.
Amendment 1 would allow Florida to opt out of the federal health care reform. You like being able to keep your sons and daughters on your health insurance until they are 26? The Legislature would stop that. You like receiving your rebate check from insurers that exceed the percentage of profit they are allowed to take? The Legislature and governor would put an end to that!
Amendments 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, and 11 are part of the tea party/GOP effort to destroy government services and the quality of life by reducing revenue. They sound like compassionate efforts (reducing property tax, limiting growth in state revenue, increasing a business tax exemption). We need these property taxes to fund state services.
Amendment 5 is a raw power grab by the Legislature over the courts. It adds the requirement that Supreme Court justices appointed by the governor need to be confirmed by the Senate. It also allows the Legislature to repeal a court rule by a simple majority instead of the two-thirds majority now required. In important cases, the Florida Supreme Court has been a check on the extremism of the Legislature.
Amendment 8 Called the "Religious Freedom" Amendment, it is nothing of the sort. There are no cases of anyone being denied their religious freedom. It is only about allowing religious organizations to receive unlimited tax dollars for anything and everything from church services to schools. As it should do, currently, the Florida Constitution prohibits the direct or indirect use of tax dollars for religion.
Amendment 6, part of the GOP War on Women and yet another attempt to ban all abortions
Amendment 12 is about which student should represent the State University System on its Board of Governors.
These 11 Amendments are part of disturbing trend in Florida to place ultra-radical priorities near-permanently in the Constitution. They are issues more properly left to legislation, if addressed at all. 
Reject them all.

How You Can Help Bicyclists & Walkers

Federal funding for bicycling and walking is in jeopardyWe need you to send a short email today to your members of Congress.
Today, Congressman John Mica of Florida, Chairman of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, outlined his plans for the new transportation bill and called for the elimination of dedicated funding for biking and walking programs, which he suggested, "do not serve a federal purpose."
In the Senate, James Inhofe of Oklahoma is leading a similar attack. Inhofe, a senior member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said that one of his top-three priorities for the next multi-year federal transportation bill is to eliminate "frivolous spending for bike trails."
If Representative Mica and Senator Inhofe get their way, dedicated funding for three crucial programs — Safe Routes to School, Transportation Enhancements, and Recreational Trails — will be eliminated. The cost-effective federal investment in bicycling that is making our nation better will shrink dramatically. We can't allow this to happen.
That's why we are asking you to reach out to the two U.S. Senators and the U.S. Representative who represent you in Congress. Ask them to support ongoing, dedicated funding for biking and walking in the next transportation bill. (You can find your representatives and send your note directly from the website. Click here to review clear, basic, suggested text for your email. Feel free to customize it and/or add a personal story.)
Your simple messages will make a difference. You can help refute Representative Mica's and Senator Inhofe's unreasonable, counterproductive cuts. You can help assure that progress will continue in all 50 states to make bicycling safer and better for people of all ages.

Change Is On The Way

A couple things are going on in my life that are about to change. I'm not too excited about either one, and both changes are out of my control.
One is the Florida State Budget that our new criminal governor Rick Scott is proposing will mean possibly a 5% pay cut (for pension contributions) for both DH and I, or our jobs could be eliminated in the 8% state worker reduction. Hopefully we're not one, or two of the 8700 out of 655,000 workers let go to help "balance the budget". There are a host of other proposals that affect our retirement but that's not my immediate concern since I'm a long way off from retiring (I hope). The sad thing is that the monetary compensation is so low for some staff that a 5% pay cut will put them below the Federal Poverty Guidelines and they'll be eligible for food stamps and other assistance (which will increase demand on state services). I'm hoping some genius in the math department of some University sues the State citing discrimination for these proposals and they get rejected. It happened before HERE.
Anyway, the other change that is coming is the upgrade of the Publix check out registers so they are more defined in coupon acceptance. It has been likened to Target registers, which are such a pain that most serious couponers won't shop there. From some comments on the web in forums, it appears some stores have already made the change. This change will create chaos at the registers when people use coupons that were previously okay to use, but now are refused by the machine. There will be a lot more "go backs" (abandoned carts that staff have to put back product on the shelves) from frustrated shoppers who just walk out. Granted this change will cut back fraudulent coupon use, and the smash and grabbers who clear the shelves of good deals, but it will mean more money comes out of my pocket because I'll be denied using as many coupons as possible.
Now, I know that these changes probably do not affect you, and you make be thinking they are minor and trivial and that there is nothing to do but just deal with it. I usually don't have drama in my life but these impending changes are stressin' me out. I need to deal with it. But How? How do you deal with things you just have to accept and have no input into, and they affect you daily?
Find out tomorrow with my 10 Tips to Handle Change.

Florida Legislature Starts Tuesday

Well, since DH and I are both FL state employees, I thought I'd share the reason for our dour mood for the next 2 months. The FL legislature starts hacking away at a budget plan, trying to take away what little money we make, and cut our free medical insurance benefit, and rid us of our pension plans. HERE'S an interesting article by Bill Cotterell, also pasted below if you don't want to go to the link.
Bill Cotterell: State workers face a rough 60 daysDo you ever feel like people are talking about you?
Not the paranoid who goes to a football game and thinks the players are whispering about him in the huddle or the prickly defensiveness of George Costanza on the old "Seinfeld" show. It's just that sometimes we have an entirely reasonable expectation that we, or whatever we're doing, might be drawing a little more attention than we'd like.
Well, if you're a state employee, your antennae should be abuzz in the next 60 days. Florida legislators are convening the 2010 Session Tuesday, and they have to close a gap, estimated as high as $3 billion, between state revenues and expenses.
Tax increases are out, this being an election year, so there's no realistic hope of new revenues. That leaves expenses to be cut and, this being an election year, there's no more politically popular place to start than with the government payroll.  Some Republican women in the House and Senate got things started last week. Rep. Marlene O'Toole of Lady Lake and Debbie Mayfield of Vero Beach proposed making all state employees pay for health insurance. They said taxpayers could save about $56 million if all employees, from the governor to the Selected Exempt workers, paid $50 a month for single coverage or $180 for family insurance.  There's a major fairness problem with that. About half of the estimated 35,000 employees now getting paid-up health insurance were moved out of Career Service by ex-Gov. Jeb Bush's "Service First" initiatives in 2001 and reclassified into the Selected Exempt Service. The deal was, they gave up Career Service job security and got "free" insurance in return — whether they wanted that deal or not. If they're going to pay premiums now, it would seem that fairness dictates they be moved back to Career Service. The trouble with that is, it's the positions that were reclassified, not the people, so you couldn't logically extend Career Service protection to some SES employees — the ones who were moved in 2001 — and not all of them.  And besides, nothing is forever. If an SES employee took the job in 2006, knowing paid-up insurance was a perk, there was no guarantee that it would be ever thus. Times change, and so do budgets. Also, if the $25,000-a-year administrative assistant in Career Service can pay for insurance, it's hard to say the six-figure judges and department heads shouldn't. Legislators and their staff would be included in the everybody-pays bill.  Politically, for legislators who go back home and run for re-election this summer, it's impossible to justify free insurance for any state employees when constituents are struggling to make ends meet. Across the Capitol, Sen. Ronda Storms of Valrico has proposed a 5-percent pay cut for all employees earning more than $65,000 a year. Her bill includes a provision that employees taking the whack can't get bonuses to make up the cut. That seems like a taunt — "Hey, we're onto that old trick; don't cut your pay 5 percent, then give yourself a $3,250 promotion to break even."  The Storms bill could be a starting point. They could amend it up to $75,000 or $80,000 or lower the cut to 3 percent or 2 percent — or, for that matter, make it 10 percent and drop the threshold to $35,000. Senate Bill 2282 just gets the discussion going. Last year's budget called for a 2-percent pay cut for employees earning more than $45,000 a year. Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed that, but, all things considered, state workers shouldn't count on the governor riding to the rescue again. He didn't propose any layoffs, pay cuts or furloughs in the budget he sent to the Legislature on Jan. 29. But House and Senate committees treated the governor's recommendations as just a starting point — more like a kid's wish list sent to Santa — and lawmakers will send him their own priorities by May Day.  Downstairs, meanwhile, the lady who would be governor has proposed thinning the herd in middle management. Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink figures her agency has about five frontline workers for every manager, and she wants to widen that ratio to about 7-to-1. Spread through all the state agencies, Sink figures, such a standard would save the government nearly $300 million. Her plan doesn't require legislative action and would be accomplished by not replacing SES and Senior Managers when they leave and reorganizing some functions under fewer bosses. But it shows the belt-tightening attitude prevalent in the Capitol in this recession-stricken election year. Speaking of which, that's another active idea down here in Florida — cutting from the budget any authorized positions that have been vacant six months. Never mind that the reason these jobs stay vacant so long is that you can't find qualified people at the salaries the state is willing to pay. State employment is not exactly the scapegoat of budget cuts. With revenue and politics being what they are, the cuts are inevitable and layoffs are looming. Don't take it personally, legislators seem to be saying. It's just a natural consequence of the times.

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