Ex-Justice: Lawmakers Trump Workers in Pension Fight

In pension fight, Cantero files brief on behalf of Gov. Scott.

Published: Tuesday, June 12, 2012 at 11:55 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, June 12, 2012 at 11:55 p.m.

TALLAHASSEE | The Legislature's power of the purse trumps public employees' state constitutional right to collective bargaining, a former Florida Supreme Court justice argues in papers filed with his colleagues.

Ex-Justice Raoul Cantero filed the brief Monday on behalf of Republican Gov. Rick Scott and other state officials. They are appealing a Tallahassee trial judge's ruling that struck down a new requirement for workers to contribute 3 percent of their pay to the $126 billion Florida Retirement System.

The GOP-controlled Legislature passed the law sought by Scott last year without submitting the issue to collective bargaining. The law affects state and county workers, teachers and some municipal employees.

"The Legislature's decision to modify the FRS system was fully within its prerogatives because the right of public employees to collective bargaining does not override the Legislature's appropriations power," Cantero wrote.

He argued that power lets lawmakers establish "terms of employment such as workers compensation, drug testing, minimum qualifications, benefits and employee rights, to name a few."

A federal judge in April blocked Scott's attempt to impose random drug testing on state workers for an unrelated reason — violating the U.S. Constitution's ban on unreasonable government searches. The Legislature also put the drug testing requirement into law but enforcement is on hold pending an appeal in the executive order case.

Public employee unions that challenged the retirement law have until June 28 to respond. Oral argument is set for Sept. 5.

A union lawyer did not immediately respond to a telephone message seeking comment Tuesday.

The budgetary authority argument was one of several Cantero made in his brief. It is one of several high-profile cases Cantero has handled, including redistricting and school funding for the Florida Senate, since resigning from the high court in 2008.

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