Florida Senate Majority Office on Facebook

The “Florida Senate Majority Office” has a page on Facebook. They ran a poll asking, “Do you think government employees should contribute to their retirement funds, similar to the private sector?”, which is how I became aware of them. The way that’s worded, I’m sure they were expecting a runaway “Yes” response, but the “No”s are currently ahead. It’s possible people are becoming aware that that is just code for “cut total compensation to public employees”, not pension reform. The state started paying all retirement in the mid-70s because it is cheaper that way: the state doesn’t have to hand over an employee contribution that doesn’t exist if the employee doesn’t stay until “vesting” in the program. That’s right, the current system of complete state pay-in for retirement is not meant as a special benefit for public employees, but rather as a way to be cheap with a whole swath of them. Employee pay-in will make the vesting waiting period less effective as a means of saving the state money. The savings currently considered actually are in the across-the-board reduction in total compensation. The whole thing could be done better, from a “save the money” point of view, by simply reducing all public employee salaries by a certain percentage. That would automatically reduce the state pay-in for retirement, too. But I think that the political calculation is that “pension reform” is an easier label to sell than an absolutely obvious pay cut, even if they amount to the same thing, reducing total compensation.

Anyway, the Facebook page looks to be a good way to keep up with what the Florida GOP is doing. Among other items, Senator Altman is sponsoring a Senate Joint Resolution aimed at removing strong language from the state constitution that forbids direct or indirect funding of religious entities with state funds. It is SJR 1218, and it removes the previous prohibition on funding religious entities while asserting positively that an individual may use state funds by giving them to religious entities. The opportunities for slapstick appear to be about to increase.

In the “that’s scary” column would be the news about SCR 4, a resolution for Florida to advance a balanced budget amendment to the US constitution. What’s scary about that? The way they propose doing it, that’s what. They want to hold a national constitutional convention in order to add a balanced budget amendment. A constitutional convention could certainly add such an amendment, but it need not stop with that. The convention could rewrite any or all of the constitution at their discretion, and looking at what’s been going down in our state and national legislatures doesn’t look like any sort of discretion to me. A balanced budget provision is at least popular and arguable, but some of the other stuff our legislators have been spending their time on is not. Which makes me think that calling a constitutional convention isn’t actually for the purpose of adding a balanced budget amendment (they could just propose and advocate that in the normal, single-issue amendment process), but for doing whatever else it is that isn’t put on the table for us to see beforehand. Very scary indeed.

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Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.