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Scott signs reform of local pensions

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday signed a long-discussed bill (SB 172) aimed at shoring up the finances of local pension plans for police officers and firefighters.

The Senate pushed for the changes last year, but the issue died after becoming tangled in an effort by then-House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, to revamp the state retirement system.

The stand-alone measure easily passed both chambers this year, with supporters pointing to concerns about the financial health of local pension plans.

The bill will essentially repeal existing restrictions in state law on how insurance-premium taxes are spent, so long as local governments and unions can come to agreement.

Insurance premium taxes are a key source of money for the pension plans. If there is no agreement, the taxes will be sifted through a complex formula detailing how much should be spent on existing benefits and how much should be given to workers in a separate retirement account.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, and Sen. Jeremy Ring, D-Margate, will take effect July 1.