Florida Supreme Court scuttles case on firefighter raises

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday reversed itself and dismissed a challenge to Gov. Rick Scott’s 2015 veto of pay raises for state firefighters.

The court in January said it would take up an appeal by the International Association of Firefighters Local S-20 and heard arguments in August. But in a 4-3 ruling Thursday, the court said its decision to rule in the case had been “improvidently granted” and ordered dismissal.

The firefighters union took the case to the Supreme Court after the 1st District Court of Appeal ruled that Scott's veto of $2,000 pay raises did not violate collective-bargaining rights.

The veto followed a series of events that included a bargaining impasse on a union request for $1,500 pay raises for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, according to the appeals court.

The Legislature resolved the impasse by including $2,000 raises for firefighters in budget fine print known as “proviso” language, which Scott subsequently vetoed.

The 1st District Court of Appeal found that Scott acted within his authority to veto spending items in the state budget --- and that lawmakers could have overridden the veto but did not.

The majority ruling Thursday by Chief Justice Charles Canady and justices Ricky Polston, Jorge Labarga and Alan Lawson did not explain their reasons for dismissing the appeal. But Justice R. Fred Lewis, in a dissenting opinion joined by justices Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince, argued that Scott’s veto violated the firefighters’ collective-bargaining rights.

“(The) use of veto authority, after the impasse has been resolved by the Legislature, allows the governor to act as a judge in his own cause, thereby obstructing due process,” Lewis wrote. “With the governor holding the power to veto the Legislature’s decision resolving the impasse, the fundamental right of public employees to collectively bargain is rendered hollow.”