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Budget chiefs sign off on state worker pay raises

Saturday, April 27th, 2013 by Dara Kam

After six years without a raise, state workers will have a little more money in their pockets under salary increases signed off on by House and Senate leaders Saturday evening.

Under the plan, state employees who earn less than $40,000 will get a $1,400-a-year pay hike. Those earning more than $40,000 will see $1,000 increases. The average state worker salary in 2010 was about $48,000, but that includes highly paid employees such as university presidents and agency heads.

Senate budget chief Joe Negron, R-Stuart, said the $1,400 raises, about 3 percent, will go to the bulk of the state’s nearly 100,000 workers, who he said earn less than $40,000 a year.

The deal also includes one-time bonuses based on merit and performance of between $500 and $600 for about 35 percent of state workers, Negron said.

“Both sides wanted to recognize the fact that our coworkers in state government not only here in the Capitol but all throughout Florida work hard every day. We appreciate their contribution to state government to our fellow citizens,” Negron said at a Saturday evening meeting with his House counterpart Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland.

State workers last got a pay bump in 2007 with $1,000 bonuses. Their last salary increase was a 3 percent hike the previous year.

The latest deal inched lawmakers closer towards closing out negotiations over the $74 billion budget before the session ends on Friday. Gov. Rick Scott’s spending plan had included merit-based raises only. And lawmakers still haven’t conceded to his demand for $2,500 across-the-board hikes for teachers.

Negron also did a turn-around on what was considered to be a settled item regarding license tags. Last night, the House and Senate agreed to put out to bid a contract for the tags which have been manufactured by PRIDE, a private company that uses inmates, for the past three decades. The House had wanted Prison Rehabilitative Industries and Diversified Enterprises Inc. to keep the contract.

But Saturday morning, Negron said the Senate changed its mind thanks to intense lobbying by some of his colleagues.

“One of the benefits of the conference process is it enables all of us to take a final look at each of these issues and get input from members of the conference both from those who are able to be here in person and also those who are able to talk to us by phone,” Negron said.

He said “a number of senators” called to say that PRIDE has “a long and distinguished track record of working with inmates helping them to gain employment skills, life skills and other things they will need when they complete their sentence to become productive members of society who can get and keep jobs.”

Negron didn’t elaborate about the availability of post-incarceration license tag-producing jobs.

Negron and McKeel were expected to meet late Saturday evening to discuss water and beach renourishment projects.

UPDATE: Gov. Scott’s state worker drug testing unconstitutional, federal judge rules

Thursday, April 26th, 2012 by Dara Kam

UPDATE: Gov. Rick Scott said he will appeal a federal judge’s ruling that random, suspicionless drug testing of state workers is unconstitutional.

“As I have repeatedly explained, I believe that drug testing state employees is a common sense means of ensuring a safe, efficient and productive workforce. That is why so many private employers drug test, and why the public and Florida’s taxpayers overwhelmingly support this policy. I respectfully disagree with the court’s ruling and will pursue the case on appeal,” Scott said in a statement.

Gov. Rick Scott’s random drug testing of state workers is unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled today.

Miami U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro Thursday morning ruling that random, suspicionless testing of some 85,000 workers violates the Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable searches and seizures also raises doubts about a new state law quietly signed by Scott this spring allowing the governor’s agency heads to require urine tests of new and existing workers.

“To be reasonable under the Fourth Amendment, a search ordinarily must be based on individualized suspicion of wrongdoing,” Ungaro wrote in her order issued this morning, citing previous U.S. Supreme Court orders which decided that urine tests are considered government searches.

Scott issued an executive order requiring random drug testing of new hires and all state workers after he took office last year. But he suspended the tests in June after labor unions and the ACLU challenged the order, objecting that the tests are a violation of the constitutional right to protection from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government. Instead, Scott limited his order for all but corrections officers pending the outcome of the Miami case.

Lawyers for AFSCME, the union representing government workers, and the ACLU argued that drug tests should only be ordered if a worker is suspected of a substance abuse problem or for employees in high-risk jobs. Previous Supreme Court decisions upheld drug testing in those jobs, Ungaro noted, or in cases involving school children.

Ungaro rejected Scott’s lawyers’ arguments and data showing that about 1 percent of workers at certain agencies who underwent the drug screens tested positive. And she was not persuaded by the governor’s arguments that private sector drug testing shows widespread drug use among workers. She also did not agree that prospective or current state workers could seek employment elsewhere if they object to the tests. New hires, but not current state workers switching jobs, could be required to take the tests, Ungaro ruled.

“All of the upheld drug-testing policies were tailored to address a specific, serious problem. In contrast, the rationale for the Governor’s policy consists of broad prognostications concerning taxpayer savings, improved public service, and reductions in health and safety risks that result from a drug-free workplace,” Ungaro wrote.

Lawyers for the union and the ACLU, who had expected Ungaro to rule as she did, nevertheless applauded the decision.

“With her order today, Judge Ungaro has protected the privacy and personal dignity of tens of thousands of Florida’s best and brightest – our state workforce,” said Alma Gonzalez, Special Counsel of AFSCME Council 79, which brought the suit. “There never was any evidence that state employees used drugs more than any other group so this was a case of using hard working state employees to score political points.”

Scott’s lawyers argued that the drug tests were necessary to combat drug abuse and ensure a more efficient workforce.

But individual rights to privacy trumped the government’s interest in those issues, Ungaro found.

“The fundamental flaw of the EO is that it infringes privacy interests in pursuit of a public interest which, in contrast to the concrete and carefully defined concerns in Skinner, Nat’l Treasury, and Vernonia, is insubstantial and largely speculative,” Ungaro wrote, referring to cases in which the Supreme Court upheld the tests.

And she also did not agree with Scott’s arguments that the drug tests were a part of Florida’s “transparent” government.

“The Governor’s reasoning is hardly transparent and frankly obscure. He offers no plausible rationale explaining why the fact that a state employee’s work product and financial status are publically accessible leads to the conclusion that the employee’s expectation of privacy in his or her bodily functions and fluids is then diminished. And in any event, no court has relied upon a policy of transparent government, embodied in laws such as those cited by the Governor, as sufficient to overcome a public employee’s reasonable expectation of privacy in the contents of his or her urine. This Court sees no reason to be the first,” she wrote.

The new law, a priority of Scott’s which goes into effect on July 1, allows Scott’s agency heads to order the drug tests for up to 10 percent of their workers four times a year. Lawmakers did not include any additional funding for the urine tests, which run from $5 to $40, in the measure (HB 1205) in the state’s $70 billion budget, prompting some critics to question which services agencies will cut to absorb the costs. Workers can be fired if the drug screen is confirmed positive.

UPDATE: Gov. Scott will hold off on state worker drug tests

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Hours after Gov. Rick Scott said agencies under his control would begin drug-testing state workers, his administration issued a memo “clarifying” that the tests won’t begin until a legal battle is resolved.

Jesse Panuccio, Scott’s acting general counsel, sent a memo to agency heads Tuesday evening saying Scott’s June 10 decision to require drug testing only of Department of Corrections employees would remain in place until a lawsuit filed last year by the ACLU and state workers union is resolved.

“Because the legal case remains unresolved, the practical and logistical issues involved with implementing drug testing across all agencies remain the same,” Panuccio’s memo said.

Earlier Tuesday, when reporters asked Scott about the new law, which he signed Monday and which goes into effect on July 1, and whether he would require agency heads to begin ordering the state’s 100,000-plus employees to submit to random drug tests, he said, “Absolutely.”

Asked if Panuccio’s memo meant Scott was backing off what he said earlier, one of his spokesmen, Lane Wright, said, “In a nutshell, we’re not changing anything right now. We know that the litigation is pending. So we’re not jumping in and changing course right away. But the law provides that discretion so it allows that to happen but that’s not what we’re deciding to do at this point.”

Scott, however, appears to be drug testing employees in his inner circle. Secretary of State Ken Detzner told reporters on Tuesday that he submitted to the urinalysis after being appointed by Scott three weeks ago. His test, Detzner said, was clean.

Scott said he implemented the drug screens of executive office workers after he took office.

Scott orders agency heads to implement drug-testing law

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012 by Dara Kam

State agency heads will begin ordering the state’s 100,000-plus workforce to submit to random, suspicionless drug tests, Gov. Rick Scott said today, the day after he signed into law a measure allowing the drug screens.

Florida’s first-in-the-nation law gives agency heads, appointed by Scott, the discretion to order the urine tests for up to 10 percent of their employees four times a year.

But Scott told reporters this morning it’s not a question of “if” the agency chiefs will require the drug screens.

“Absolutely,” Scott said when asked if he would require his appointees to implement the new law, which goes into effect on July 1. “It’s a bill that I signed and we’ll comply with the bill.”

Scott said he has required the drug tests of governor’s office employees since he took office last year. Secretary of State Ken Detzner, appointed by Scott last month, told reporters this morning he had submitted a urine sample before taking the job – and passed.

Scott issued an executive order mandating the drug tests last year, but backed away from his plan after he was sued by the ACLU and the union representing government workers.

Scott in June limited his order for all but corrections officers pending the outcome of the case in which a federal judge in Miami heard oral arguments late last month.

That case is still pending, but Scott said he’s not going to wait for a decision before moving forward with the drug screens.

“First off, the law passed. And I believe in it. I want to have a qualified workforce. I think all citizens of Florida deserve that and that’s why I signed the bill,” Scott said.

The ACLU and Democratic lawmakers contend the law violates the constitution’s guarantee of unreasonable search and seizure by the government. And some lawmakers, including Republican Sen. Joe Negron of Stuart, objected that workers who drink alcohol the night before could have a positive test result even if they have not been drinking at work. Negron was the sole Republican senator to vote against the measure; three Republican House members also opposed it.

ACLU of Florida executive director Howard Simon called the new law an invitation to litigation.

“Gov. Scott signed this law in clear defiance of constitutional principles. It’s amazing that the Governor and the Legislature would move ahead with a law that so clearly violates the Constitutional protections against invasive government searches without suspicion – especially while a legal challenge on precisely the same issue is pending in the federal court,” Simon said in a press release. “The Governor’s preoccupation with pushing the limits of government searches is a costly legal gambit for taxpayers and makes a mockery of established Constitutional law. But it says a great deal that, after being such a cheerleader for invasive drug testing, the Governor signed this bill so quietly – almost in secret.”

Lawmakers did not include any money for the drug screens – which could cost between $50,000 and $400,000, assuming 10 percent of the state’s 114,000 workers would be required to take the tests – in the $70 billion budget they passed earlier this month.

Scott said he has not yet decided how to pay for the tests, and rejected objections from libertarians like Negron that the policy was over-reaching.

“I think the way to think about this is this is the goal – to make sure we have a qualified workforce. And that’s the focus of this. It’s’ not a focus on what government’s role should be,” Scott said.

Gov. Scott quietly signs state worker drug testing into law

Monday, March 19th, 2012 by Dara Kam

In less than three months, the state’s 100,000-plus workforce will be subject to random, suspicionless drug testing making Florida the first in the nation to impose the policy.

Gov. Rick Scott signed the state worker drug-testing measure (HB 1205) into law today without fanfare or comment.

The new law, a priority of Scott’s which goes into effect on July 1, allows Scott’s agency heads to order the drug tests for up to 10 percent of their workers four times a year. Lawmakers did not include any additional funding for the urine tests, which run from $5 to $40, in the measure (HB 1205) in the state’s $70 billion budget, prompting some critics to question which services agencies will cut to absorb the costs. Workers can be fired if the drug screen is confirmed positive.

As is always done when Scott signs a bill into law, his office issued a release about the drug testing measure late Monday evening. His letter to Secretary of State Ken Detzner transmitting his approval did not include any comment on the plan although it has been a priority of Scott’s since he assumed office last year.

Scott issued an executive order mandating the drug tests last year, but backed away from his plan after he was sued by the ACLU and the union representing government workers. Scott in June limited his order for all but corrections officers pending the outcome of the case in which a federal judge in Miami heard oral arguments late last month.

The ACLU and Democratic lawmakers contend the law violates the constitution’s guarantee of unreasonable search and seizure by the government. And some lawmakers, including Republican Sen. Joe Negron of Stuart, objected that workers who drink alcohol the night before could have a positive test result even if they have not been drinking at work. Negron was the sole Republican senator to vote against the measure; three Republican House members also opposed it.

Scott last year also pushed the legislature to pass a law requiring that food stamp and emergency cash assistance applicants pass drug tests before receiving benefits. In October, a federal judge temporarily put that requirement on hold, ruling the drug screens were unconstitutional.

Drug testing state workers soon to become law

Friday, March 9th, 2012 by Dara Kam

State workers would have to submit to random drug tests after the Senate signed off on a bill pushed by Gov. Rick Scott, certain to sign it into law once it reaches his desk.

The Senate overwhelmingly approved the measure (HB 1205) by a nonpartisan 26-14 vote, rejecting concerns that suspicionless, random drug testing of government workers is unconstitutional, intrusive and demeaning to the state’s 100,000-plus workforce, most of whom have gone without a pay raise for six years.

“There’s been no predicate laid whatsoever on why we need to have this bill,” said Sen. Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican and self-described libertarian, adding that he has been in the legislature for more than a decade.

“I haven’t been running across drug-addled employees who are unable to do their jobs,” he said.

And the measure is overly intrusive, Negron said, because “your urine and your blood are extremely personal body fluids.”

But the bill sponsor Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, argued that public and private sector workers should be subjected to the same requirements and that the screening could help prevent addiction.

And, he said, not requiring the tests could be dangerous.

“What you’re going to create then is a haven for abusers,” Hays said. “Then drug abusers will know they’re safe if they come to work for the state of Florida.”

Scott’s legal team has helped the bill’s House and Senate sponsors persuade lawmakers that the drug screening will be upheld even as they defend the policy in court. The governor is being sued over a drug-testing policy he imposed on state workers last year. After the ACLU and the state workers’ union sued the state, Scott in June quietly reversed his order for all but corrections officers pending the outcome of the case.

Miami U.S. District judge Ursula Ungaro, who heard the case against Scott last week, expressed serious doubts about the governor’s order and “had trouble understanding the circumstances under which the order would be valid.”

The measure would allow Scott’s agency heads to decide whether they want to institute the policy and require that they use money already in their budgets to cover the costs of the tests, which range from $5 to $40.

State worker drug testing bill headed to Senate floor

Friday, March 2nd, 2012 by Dara Kam

Hours after the House signed off on a measure that would require state workers to submit to drug tests, the Senate Budget Committee sent an identical measure to the floor for a full vote.

With Scott’s legislative affairs director Jon Costello in the room, the Senate Budget Committee approved the measure with a 12-6 vote this afternoon.
Sen. Joe Negron, a Stuart lawyer, cast the sole Republican “no” vote on the measure.

The measure is indicative of “more and more intrusive activities of our government,” Negron said after the meeting.

“It’s gotten out of hand. The government is just getting more and more into our personal business,” he said.

The proposal (SB 1358) would allow agency heads to fire state workers who fail their first drug test and does away with a requirement that workers who have drug problems receive employee assistance.

Democrats in both chambers have objected that the bill does not include lawmakers in the drug screening. Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, and House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, already have the authority to order members of their chambers to submit to the drug tests, but neither leader has done so.

Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, said he sponsored the bill at Scott’s request to rectify the problem created by the lawsuit.

“Unfortunately in today’s society, this is a bill that I feel is very wise public policy,” he said.

But Ron Bilbao of the Florida ACLU said the bill remains unconstitutional, noting that Miami U.S. District judge Ursula Ungaro, who heard the case against Scott last week, expressed serious doubts about the governor’s order and “had trouble understanding the circumstances under which the order would be valid.”

House passes random drug tests for state workers

Friday, March 2nd, 2012 by Dara Kam

State workers would have to agree to and submit to random, suspicionless drug tests under a measure approved along party lines by the GOP-dominated Florida House.

The bill, a priority of Gov. Rick Scott’s, would allow state agencies to order the tests of up to 10 percent of workers four times a year. Agency heads would have to use the money already in their budgets to cover the costs of the tests for the state’s 114,000 workforce.

Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, tried to amend the bill to require that the governor, members of the Florida Cabinet and the 160 members of the state House and Senate also be required to submit to the urine tests. The bill’s sponsor Jimmie Smith, R-Inverness, dismissed the amendment, set aside over Pafford’s objection, as “political theater.”

But, calling the House an “elitist body,” Pafford chided his colleagues, saying “Shame on you,” for being unwilling to go on the board with a vote on his amendment.

Drug testing government workers is a violation of the constitution’s guarantee of unreasonable search and seizure by the government, Democratic lawmakers argued.

Last week, a federal judge heard oral arguments in a lawsuit over a challenge to a drug-testing policy imposed on state workers by Scott last year. After the ACLU and the state workers union sued the state, Scott in June quietly reversed his order for all but corrections officers pending the outcome of the case.

Scott last year also pushed the legislature to pass a law requiring that food stamp and emergency cash assistance applicants pass drug tests before receiving benefits. In October, a federal judge temporarily put that requirement on hold, ruling the drug screens were unconstitutional.

Rep. Perry Thurston, a lawyer, argued that Smith’s measure goes after the wrong population.

“You pick on people who you can bully around. Tell the lawyers of the Florida Bar as a condition of practicing law you’ve got to submit to suspicionless drug testing. That’s where you change society,” Thurston, D-Plantation, said.

Other Democrats called the proposal (HB 1205) a solution in search of a problem. Only two of 500 Department of Transportion – .004 percent – tested positive for drugs in recent screenings, Rep. Rick Kriseman, D-St. Petersburg, said.

But a fired-up Smith insisted his proposal (HB 1205) is necessary to combat drug abuse and said it would make Florida a model for the nation.

“People are dying. And then you make an assumption because these are state workers this doesn’t affect their lives,” Smith said. “The state of Florida by taking this vote becomes a laboratory that…eventually leads the way of the entire nation. You will be having the courage, making the difference, for this entire country.”

Smith made his final pitch before the 79-37 vote: “The word is on the street. People are starting to realize it. Drugs are bad.”

A Senate companion bill is scheduled for a vote in the budget committee this afternoon.

Bondi pranks urine-seeking Daily Show prankster

Thursday, December 8th, 2011 by Dara Kam

A reporter with Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” came up empty-handed when he asked Gov. Rick Scott for a urine sample yesterday.

But Attorney General Pam Bondi was ready when Aasif Mandvi demanded the same of her Thursday afternoon. The former FOX News legal analyst handed Mandvi a small plastic cup labeled with her name containing an amber liquid.

“Wow. That’s very interesting. Well, that’s very interesting that you should say that. Because as attorney general, I’m always prepared,” Bondi told Mandvi after he asked her to fill a pee cup. The exchange took place inside the basement Cabinet meeting room in the Capitol after Bondi participated in an anti-casino press conference.

“You have a sample of your urine?” an apparently surprised Mandvi responded. “How do we know it’s your urine? How do we know it’s not just apple juice?”

“Thank you. Have a great day. Have a great day. My name’s on the top,” Bondi said before heading back to her office.

Outside the conference room, Mandvi uncapped the clear plastic container and discovered the AG had pranked him.

“Yeah. It’s apple juice. She gave me apple juice instead of urine,” Mandvi told a gaggle of Capitol reporters. “So I guess she’s saying that her drug habit is more important than the Florida tax payer…knowing where their money goes.”

Bondi spokeswoman Jennifer Meale said Bondi’s staff knew the Comedy Central crew were crawling the Capitol.

“We certainly tuned in to Gov. Scott’s press conference yesterday announcing the budget and when we knew Comedy Central was here we anticipated they would be interested in attending our press conference as well and planned accordingly,” Meale said.

On Wednesday, Mandvi interrupted Scott’s budget unveiling in the same meeting room to ask him to take a drug test. Mandvi was referring to drug testing Scott wants to require of all state employees and welfare recipients.

Scott didn’t comply with Mandvi’s request, but a few House members did, including Palm Beach County’s Joseph Abruzzo, D-Wellington, according to The Daily Show crew. Other lawmakers who provided urine samples include Democratic Reps. Darryl Rouson of St. Petersburg and Scott Randolph of Orlando and Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami.

Both of the drug-testing laws are being challenged in court. Scott’s administration is defending the law requiring state workers to get tested and appealing a federal judge’s injunction against drug testing of welfare applicants.

UPDATE: Rick Scott willing to go to Supreme Court over drug testing state workers

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011 by Dara Kam

Gov. Rick Scott is willing to take the fight over drug testing state workers all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, his spokeswoman said today in response to a lawsuit filed by the ACLU.

The civil rights organization filed the lawsuit challenging Scott’s executive order mandating drug testing of all state workers, arguing it is a violation of the constitution’s protection from unreasonable searches by government.

“The Governor is confident the courts will see that this policy makes sense and is legally sound, and he’ll take the law suit to the Supreme Court if that’s what it takes to implement a common sense policy that is appropriate and fair to tax payers. If it makes good business sense for private sector companies to drug test their employees, why wouldn’t it make good business sense for the state?” Scott spokeswoman Amy Graham said in an e-mail.

ACLU sues Rick Scott over state worker drug-testing

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011 by Dara Kam

The ACLU is challenging in federal court Gov. Rick Scott’s executive order forcing all state workers to undergo drug testing.

The civil rights organization filed the lawsuit in federal court in Miami yesterday accusing Scott of violating the constitution’s guarantee to be free from unreasonable searches by the government. The lawsuit also asks federal judge Ursula Ungaro to issue an injunction immediately stopping all drug-testing of the state’s 250,000 state workers.

ACLU of Florida executive director Howard Simon called Scott’s order “profoundly un-American” because it is conflicts with the Fourth Amendment put into the Bill of Rights in response to warrantless searches by King George’s troops during the American Revolution.

“It could not be more invasive of privacy,” Simon told reporters during a conference call this afternoon.

In 2004, the courts struck down a Florida Department of Juvenile Justice random drug testing policy. The court found that drug testing of state workers without reasonable suspicion was unconstitutional and awarded the plaintiff in that case $150,000.

Yesterday, Scott signed into law a measure requiring welfare recipients to undergo drug screening. That new law is unrelated to the executive order and to the case filed yesterday.

The lawsuit is the first in what is expected to be a slew of challenges to state laws passed by the legislature during the session that ended last month regarding abortion, elections and freedom of speech.

“It’s a tsunami of anti-civil liberties legislation,” Simon said.

Senate approves state worker pension plan contribution

Thursday, April 7th, 2011 by Dara Kam

State workers would have to contribute between 2 and 6 percent of their annual salaries to their pension plans under an angst-ridden measure approved by the Florida Senate by a 26-13 vote this afternoon.

“I wish we didn’t have to go there. but I think it’s the responsible thing to do when you look at the broad set of issues,” Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, apologized before the vote.

The chamber also approved an amendment requiring lawmakers and statewide elected officials to kick in slightly more. They’d have to pay in 7 percent of their annual earnings above $50,000 towards their retirement plans.

Firefighters launch TV ad slamming lawmakers over pension

Friday, March 11th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Firefighters rescuing politicians out to give them a pay cut?

That’s part of the message in a TV ad running in the Tallahassee market launched this week by the Florida Professional Firefighters association.

“We’re fighting back – just like we fight to protect you,” a basso announcer says as firefighters combat blazes and rescue car crash victims.

The firefighters are among the unions fighting Gov. Rick Scott’s proposal that they contribute 5% of their salaries towards their retirement. That would split their pensions costs with state and local governments that now pay 100% of workers’ pensions.

A Senate committee approved a watered-down pension-reform measure yesterday. Workers who earn less than $40,000 would not have to pay anything toward their retirement; workers whose salaries top $40,000 would pay 2 percent of their paychecks up to $75,000, when the contribution rate would jump to 4 percent.

Scott says pension contribution phase-in a no-go

Monday, February 14th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Gov. Rick Scott rejected some GOP lawmakers proposal to phase-in a revamp of the state’s pension system.

Scott’s proposed having state workers kick in 5 percent of their salaries to their pension plans, splitting the 10 percent the state now pays for. That would amount to a 5 percent salary cut for the state’s public school employees, who make up nearly half of the Florida Retirement System.

Senate Education Appropriations Committee Chairman David Simmons said he wants to see the pension reform eased in over more than one year so that beginning teachers won’t get a pay cut while the state’s still struggling to come out of a recession.

Scott says nope.

“It’s only fair. The private sector, they fund their retirement benefits so the public sector ought to be doing the same thing,” Scott said. Asked if he was willing to negotiate on the phase-in, Scott’s response was terse: “No.”

Budget update: Mental health and substance abuse cuts could create a ‘forensics crisis,’ DCF chief says

Monday, April 26th, 2010 by Dara Kam

House and Senate budget chiefs are closing in on a final budget, with lawmakers backing off a plan to cut state workers’ salaries and agreeing to a ban on funding for human stem cell research.

For the first time, lawmakers and other high-ranking state workers would have to pay a nominal fee for their health insurance, from $100 a year.

(more…)

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