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House sponsor quickly withdraws “nuclear bomb” of Florida pension reform

By William Gjebre and Dan Christensen, BrowardBulldog.org

Hammered with “thousands of emails and hundreds of phone calls” from angry police officers across the state, a rookie legislator Thursday withdrew his week-old bill seeking to overhaul Florida’s public retirement plans.

“The purpose of this bill was to get peoples’ attention about what significant, sustainable pension reform can look like,” said Rep. Fredrick Costello, R-Ormond Beach. “I wanted to get the discussion going, and I did.”

Broward Bulldog reported Thursday that HB 303 proposed slashing retirement benefits for state and local government employee.  It would have restricted overtime from being used in pension calculations, and shut down Florida’s Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP).

All state employees – including police, firefighters and teachers – and many  municipal workers would be affected.

But Thursday afternoon, after meeting with lobbyists for the Florida Police Benevolent Association and the Fraternal Order of Police, Costello emailed the House clerk asking that HB 303 be withdrawn.

“I withdrew it as a show of good faith,” Costello said. “They told me they would come back with significant compromises.”

Others who attended, including PBA Deputy Director Matthew Puckett, could not be reached for comment.

But Jack Lokeinsky, president of the FOP Lodge 31 in Fort Lauderdale, said he was “pleased that it was withdrawn.”

“Who is this guy?” he said, referring to Costello, who served eight years as mayor of Ormond Beach before his election to the House last year. “I’m disgusted that he filed a bill despite all the sentiments against it.”

Lokeinsky predicted, however, “we’re in for more” bills aimed at pension reform. “But maybe,” he added, they “won’t be anything like the nuclear bomb” version filed by Costello.

The rank-and-file’s display show of unity notwithstanding, Costello said union leaders arrived for their meeting knowing their public support has eroded in the wake of the state’s fiscal crisis.

“They told me that because we had filed something so far out there, and because they felt the media and the public is ready for change, they understood that something significant needed to happen and that they were ready to come to the table with some compromises,” Costello said.

No specific concessions were offered. When they are Costello and the unions will take them for review by House Government Operations Subcommittee Chair Jimmy Patronis, R-Panama City.

Police weren’t the bill’s only vocal opponents. The web site of the United Teachers of Dade called the bill “one of the most egregious and devastating proposals for members of the Florida Retirement System.” The union urged its members to contact the Miami-Dade delegation and other legislators to point out the negative impact of the bill.

For his part, Costello said he doesn’t necessarily want the brand of drastic reform he wrote into his 57-page bill. Rather, he said, he seeks “to get rid of the abuses” in the retirement system that he says have allowed some to unfairly benefit.

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  • First all costello came out of the blue, he was put up to this and the public and the media can give a hoot. The only thing the state workesr whose salalry is the lowest in the country have is the retirement. Because it’s agreat benifit to have a retirement check coming in. Where is this abuse, are you talking abbut the double dippers, they are all in upper management. They are pulling in two large salaries. The lower rank and file can’t. Police put there life on the line every day, fred “do you put a bullet proof veston to go to work, try it some time”. Four police officers just died in the line of duty, Fred give there families a call and ask if the grass need to be cut. Fire Fred are the ones running into the building that on fire that you just ran out of. School Fred here’s another winner school teacher’s are getting beat up and shot every day. they have a thin line to walk. Then we have Fred Costella a fresheman representative who comes up with a 57 page bill to chanfe Flroidas retirement. Give us all a break and choose your friends wisely Fred, don’t let people put you up to things like this. Your a one term rep.

    “And that the Way it is”

  • I don’t believe for one second that he only filed that bill to open up dialoque. I would play hardball with this fool on every bill he files.

  • You need to look at the Clean House Governer Scott one who stoled money from Medicare and Medicaid from the company he started. I could not believe in my life a person with this record got elected. Now he wants employee contributions to their retirement when most State employee are not making as mujch as he says.
    Next the Voters twice approved the high speed rail between Orlando and Tampa. How can he overide what the people want? Also redistricting . The Rail system I believe will pay for itself because of tourism and create thousands of jobs locally.
    Most tourists are from Europe where the rail is the number 1 way to get around.

    Who is this fellow Scott who only lived here a short time? If I had his billions I would retiree.

  • Ugh! Another paleface bite dust, kemo sabe.

    Some major reasons people work for the low-salary careers covered under FRS are 1) Security, and 2) Benefits. The first is no longer operable, and now they’re going after the second.

    We can’t all be entrepreneurs, you know, someone has to man the inspection stations.

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