September 7, 2012
TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Supreme Court today held oral arguments in FEA’s lawsuit challenging the changes made by Governor Rick Scott and the Legislature to Florida’s retirement system.
Last year, the Florida Education Association filed a lawsuit seeking to stop the 3 percent tax on teachers, school employees and other workers imposed by the Florida Legislature and signed by Scott. The trial judge ruled in FEA’s favor and directed that employees be paid back the money that has been taken from them. Scott and the Legislature appealed the decision, which is now before the Supreme Court for final decision.
FEA attorney Ron Meyer, the lead attorney in bringing the challenge, argued to the court that there were three separate constitutional provisions that prohibit the state from taking away employees’ right to a non-contributory retirement system containing a cost-of-living provision. The state’s position is that the changes made are prospective in nature and may be made without violating the Constitution.
It will now be up to the Supreme Court to determine whether the state’s covenant with its public workers will be honored. There is no fixed time for the court to rule.
FEA President Andy Ford noted that Florida law has provided for nearly four decades that pension rights are contractual rights that may not be ignored or abridged. “The idea that changes to the pension rules for current employees may be made in the middle of the game, obliterates basic concepts of fairness,” said Ford. “We believe that the Supreme Court will agree with the trial judge that such changes are not only unfair, but that they are unconstitutional, as well.”
The Florida Education Association is the state’s largest association of professional employees, with more than 140,000 members. FEA represents pre K-12 teachers, higher education faculty, educational support professionals, students at our colleges and universities preparing to become teachers and retired education employees.