This was a busy week in the Florida House. Here is a brief summary of some notable legislation heard by House committees this week.
HB 7011 – Florida Retirement System
HB 7011 would create 401(k)-style retirement plans for all new state employees beginning in 2014. Pension reform is critically important to the long-term financial health of our state. A recent Pew Report found that states had a staggering $757 billion deficit in their retirement systems. We cannot allow Florida to ever find itself in the precarious position that other states such as Illinois, Rhode Island, Connecticut, among many others, are finding themselves in. Those states have failed to make full pension contributions, they have cut benefits for retirees, and they have taken other painful steps that hurt retirees, state employees, and taxpayers in an attempt to fix their unsustainable pension systems.
HB 7011 takes important steps to strengthen Florida’s retirement system for the future so that we don’t ever find ourselves in the same position as the states I mentioned above. Actuarial projections show this plan will save taxpayers $12 million by 2016, and almost $10 billion over the next 30 years.
HB 7065 – Everglades Improvement and Management
The Everglades Forever Act (EFA) is the primary Florida law pertaining to the management, protection, and restoration of the Everglades. This bill amends the Everglades Forever Act to help move the final phase of Everglades restoration forward. This bill passed unanimously out of the State Affairs Committee, which I chair.
HB 867 – Parent Empowerment in Education
The House Choice & Innovation Subcommittee passed HB 867 on Thursday. This legislation would allow the parents of students at a failing school to petition their local school board to implement turnaround options at the school. Turnaround options could include converting the school to a district-managed turnaround school or even a charter school.
HB 13 – Use of Wireless Communications Devices while Driving
passed its first committee of reference earlier this week and would make it illegal to text while driving and creates penalties for those who violate the law. Texting while driving would be considered a secondary offense under this legislation.
On Monday, the House’s Select Committee on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) voted against drafting legislation that would authorize the expansion of Medicaid in Florida under the federal healthcare law. I believe that there should be a safety net for Floridians in need; however, I share the committee’s view, and I do not support the expansion of Medicaid because I am not convinced that such an expansion is in the long-term best interest of Florida’s financial stability.