A bill to give local governments more flexibility and to use insurance premium dollars to fill their pension shortfalls was approved by the House State Affairs Committee on a partisan vote.
Officials from cities across the state lauded the measure as a workable compromise that gives them the ability to control their pension costs -- and get legislators out of the effort -- while union officials warned that it was a vast improvement from a previous version, but falls short of a fair compromise.
"It does not take away any benefits available right now,'' said Rep. Debbie Mayfield, R-Vero Beach. "If that happens, it is because of collective bargaining."
Under the measure, a complete re-write of HB 7241, allows local governments to negotiate whether public employees can keep their overtime compensation, unused sick and annual leave during collective bargaining. But they can also access insurance premium tax in those negotiations and no longer face the legislatively-imposed mandates how how to spend it.
But unions warned that the bill will lead to increased employee contributions with no increased benefits and fails to fix the pension shortfalls.
"When we started this debate it was all about local governments falling apart,'' said David Murrell of the Police Benevolent Association. "I don’t see anything that addresses that head on.''
The House proposal must still get approval from the full House and conform with a Senate bill that is different.