Reform Will Weatherford-Style: Campaign Finance, Education and Pension Overhauls

By: Jim Turner | Posted: November 17, 2012 3:55 AM

Will Weatherford

House Speaker Will Weatherford | Credit: myfloridahouse.gov

As he navigates his first session as House speaker, Rep. Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, will try to imply a “tone” that has him playing the role of “inclusive reformer.”

It's a wise move. He will be working with Democrats who have eliminated the GOP’s supermajority.

Still, he said, the Republican Party continues to hold a vast majority in the House, 76 to 44, and that means the Republicans' continued pursuit of reducing taxes and eliminating business regulations won’t be slowed.

“I know that you’re only speaker for two years and you have a small thimble of influence in this process, and my plan is to use that thimble of influence on issues that matter, and challenges that are real,” Weatherford said while meeting with reporters in the speaker's conference room at the Capitol on Tuesday.

Among the areas he will focus on: campaign finance reform, education reform and state employee retirement plans.

While leaders have been stymied in efforts to revise the bloated state pension system by requiring state employees to start contributing 3 percent of their pay, Weatherford suggests simply putting any new employee into a 401(k)-style retirement system.

“I think we need to do what the private sector did many years ago, which is move to a defined contribution plan for all of our employees,” Weatherford said.

“That means if you’re an employee here you will continue to have the plan that you want and if that is a defined benefit plan, that's OK. But for all new employees, we have to recognize for states to be fiscally responsible long-term and deal with the challenges we have -- and this is one that is staring us in the face. I think we have to deal with it.”

Weatherford, 32, who worked as a legislative assistant to his father-in-law and former Speaker Allan Bense before running for office in 2006, doesn’t expect the loss of the supermajority to impact the overall ability of the GOP to run the Legislature. He also wasn’t surprised that the Democrats were able to pick up five seats in the last election.

“We lost the supermajority when we drew the maps," he said. "I think most people recognized this and I think I stated on the floor at the time that the maps that came out of the House probably would cost the Republicans majority seats.”

Weatherford oversaw the House redistricting effort in 2011-2012 that -- unlike the lines the Senate initially offered for itself -- was found fully in compliance by the Florida Supreme Court with the stringent requirements of the Fair Districts amendments that were expected to eliminate political gerrymandering.

“My job as the chairman of that process was not to maximize Republican representation, it was to follow the law in Amendments 5 and 6 and I knew if we did that, it would cost us seats, but it was the right thing to do,” Weatherford said.

“I still stand by the decision we made. I congratulate our friends on the other side of the aisle, who picked up a few seats. It looks like we’ll have about a 76-44 majority. I think 76 to 44 is still a strong majority.”

Reach Jim Turner at jturner@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 215-9889.

Comments (4)

Al Moncrief
11:16PM NOV 18TH 2012

The Colorado Court of Appeals has reversed and remanded an initial District Court ruling that denied the contractual status of public pension COLAs in Colorado. The Court of Appeals confirmed that Colorado PERA pension COLA benefits are a contractual obligation of the pension plan Colorado PERA and its affiliated public employers. A huge victory for public sector retirees in Colorado! The Colorado Legislature may not breach its contracts and push taxpayer obligations onto the backs of a small group of elderly pensioners.

The lawsuit is continuing. Support pension rights in the U.S. by contributing at saveperacola.com. Friend Save Pera Cola on Facebook!
2:45PM NOV 17TH 2012
And do need to ask, should not Florida be the most perfect state in the Union after 20 years of Republican legislative dominance and 114 years of Republican governors?
2:43PM NOV 17TH 2012
Campaign finance reform- eliminate the abilty to hide where money comes from and require immediate on line access to donors and expenditures, education- stop transferring tax money to charter schools and trying to subsidize religious schools, pension reform- keep the traditional pension plan available. Do get DROP so the high end folks can't play the get more and more and more game.
11:31AM NOV 17TH 2012
Then get ready to start paying private sector wages for your public engineers, scientists, CPAs, and the like . . . . . .

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