FL Pension Changes Rooted in ALEC Model Legislation

FL Pension Changes Rooted in ALEC Model Legislation

Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford

Overhauling the state pension system is a priority for Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-ALEC. (Photo courtesy of the Florida Legislature.)
A new plan that would overhaul the state’s pension system can be traced back to the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, The Palm Beach Post reported this week.

State lawmakers are changing the current state pension plan by eliminating it for any new hires. Instead, new state employees would choose from private plans, which are already offered to state workers.

Hundreds of thousands of teachers, police officers and firefighters currently use the state retirement program. However, plans to change the system have been made a top priority by legislative leaders including Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-ALEC (Wesley Chapel). The plan has moved through the GOP-led state House quickly, but members still need to broker a deal to get the more politically moderate Florida Senate on board.

The Post reported this week that the plans also come from an interesting place.

According to the Post:

Critics trace the campaign back two years — to New Orleans, where dozens of Florida lawmakers gathered for a conference hosted by a controversial advocacy group that helps corporations and conservative interest groups write bills for legislatures across the country.

Jonathan Williams, a policy director for the American Legislative Exchange Council, told The Palm Beach Post that the organization’s three days of meetings in August 2011 helped affirm the need among many legislators to take a hard look at public employee benefits.

“The momentum for pension reform is stronger today because many governments are still seeing the effects of the recession on investment returns,” Williams said. “It’s going to be a long time before things improve. Florida legislators are aware of this.”

Following contentious debate, pitting union-allied Democrats against ruling Republicans, the House last week approved legislation (CS/HB 7011) that would close the Florida Retirement System’s traditional pension to new employees.

Workers hired after Jan. 1 could join only 401(k)-styled investment plans, which opponents say would leave the retirement funds of lower-income public workers subject to wild swings of the stock market.

ALEC is a mostly corporate?funded group that pushes corporate-friendly laws. ALEC has been behind a slew of anti-worker, anti-environmental and anti-regulation bills in the past few years. The group was also behind many of the more restrictive voting laws that caused problem in several states in the last election.

According to a 2012 report by Progress Florida, about a dozen bills have been introduced in the Florida Legislature that have based on ALEC’s model legislation. Some, such as Florida’s controversial “stand your ground” law, are on the books right now. Most Republicans in the state legislature are also dues-paying ALEC members.

This article is written by Ashley Lopez and is published at http://fcir.org/2013/03/27/florida-pension-changes-rooted-in-alec-model-legislation/

Florida Center for Investigative Reporting


Ohio Bleeding

Paula Garfield is a 30-year veteran teacher of special education for Columbus city schools.  She was recently elected as an Ohio Education Association Delegate, and received the Columbus Education Association’s Outstanding Member of the Year award.  She was highly involved with We Are Ohio, and is a guest speaker for Ohio Women’s Democratic Caucus, War on Women, and others.  This is Paula’s blog, and it is a beautifully eloquent posting.  Paula is a member of our Facebook group–Resist The Privatization of America, where she posted this article. 

Thank you Paula.

With 24 days until the Presidential election, I spent a total of 26 hours of my weekend travelling across the State in Ohio, speaking at 3 events regarding Educators for President Obama: Women, laborers, middle class, elderly, minorities, college students,  teachers, firefighters, police, unions, pensions, postal service: we all have the same attackers. Their tactics consist of the war on women, replacing public schools with private for profit schools,replacing free public schools with the Kasich (K-suck) voucher system  attacking and dismantling of free public appropriate education, destroying planned parenthood, holding jobs for ransom.

The same Republicans try to make sure that measures don’t get by the House of Representatives and thus cannot get to the Senate .Since the Republican Party controls the House, it serves the Corporations  and not “We the People,” who elected them to represent us.

I talked about Right to Work -for less-, Voter ID Laws and other means of voter suppression across the USA in Republican governed states as I canvassed on Sunday. I knocked on doors for all Congress Reps in my voting area, delivered signs, got the appropriate forms to those  who have relocated to Columbus, Ohio.  I answered questions from a Canadian, who works here in the area, who was in disbelief about what is happening to America in comparison to Canada’s rights, freedoms.

I am just now sitting down, after finding all my lawn signs for my makeshift Democratic ballot, destroyed…some burned, some shredded.I am cleaning up what the wind scattered across my complex. I am just off the phone trying to hook up voters with signs in the district/area with field leader contacts across the state, and staring at 122 emails, all of which I must answer from people wanting to know what they can do to help because some have awakened, and have realized the impact on them, their children, their futures, their homes, their lives.

There is a great deal more covered in Paula’s article, Ohio Bleeding.  I highly recommend clicking here to read all of it.

Hobet Mine Shutdown, a Photo Diary

I was invited to photograph the protest and shutdown of the Hobet Mine in Boone and Lincoln Counties in West Virginia last week. The organizers knew me from my participation in the Blair Mountain March last year. This is the biggest mountaintop removal mine in the US, I am told. I was not aware of the location selected until we got there.

This protest was to shut down a mine somewhere in West Virginia, the location of which was unannounced. There were two ways to participate, by coming to a training the day of the protest at the Kanawha State Forest and then meeting up with the rest of the protesters, those that had been at the base camp the previous few days, or by training at that base camp and then leaving in the morning to go to the State Forest to then meet up with the single day group.

I was with the group at the base camp. The morning at camp started with the few that were going to the State Park to give the trainings in non violent protest methods. They left a couple of hours before the rest of us left. We were to hit the mine site around the same time the newly trained protesters did.

Just before 10:00 am, we took of to go to the mine to meet the other protesters. We snaked out on a 6 mile long dirt road to the pavement. Where the road we were on comes out was a stop sign and a gas station. The convoy out was reported by a person at the gas station.

Click on an image for a larger version, all photos are covered by the Creative Commons copyright, Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike




That was the start of what ended up being a three hour drive to the as yet undisclosed location. I took a few photos on the way.




I was in one of the last cars in the convoy, and so was one of the last to see that the other protesters were not there. I later realized, when the other never showed up, that they were a diversion to tie up both the Police and counter protesters at the State Forest, a couple of hours drive away. It worked very well, we were there uninterrupted for quite a while.




The first of the protesters I came upon was a group readying for a tree sitting. The road leading to them had been blocked by some of the protesters with a couple of obstacles found nearby to slow the response going farther up the hill.




As I went up the hill, I saw a stream substitute. GWB changed a word or two in the laws governing reclamation to allow soil, streams ground cover and god only knows what else be replaced with substitutes. This is an example of a stream substitute:


As I went farther into the mine site, the scope of the destruction became greater in scale.




The first piece of equipment the protesters occupied was a rock hauler. A giant stop sign was brought in and deployed, to enable the operators of these gigantic pieces of equipment to see them.




Once stopped, the protesters had a crew ready with banners and locking devices to board the rock hauler.




The banner drop was cause for jubilation.




While this was happening, a line of protesters were down the hill to slow any attempts to stop the protest from continuing. Once the equipment was secured, the line moved uphill to use the rock hauler as part of the blockade. By this time, a number of protesters had locked themselves to the rock hauler.





Another rock hauler is high above on a man made hill with ground cover substitute adding some greenery. Just up the road is more equipment and a lot of miners. They did not seem happy for the tree hugger (their term for the protesters) induced break.



On a distant denuded ridge, the destruction continued.




Once that rock hauler was secured the remaining protesters continued up hill. There was a lot more equipment there, and more angry miners.





Again, as I went farther into the mine, the vast scale of destruction became more staggering.




Even these gigantic rock haulers become dwarfed in this desolation.


And more “reclaimed” land…



While in the distance, a Bucyrus Erie dragline is hard at work, tearing open the Earth. Seen is the tip of the 300 foot long boom in the first two photos, the third is the pit the dragline is in.




That was as far as I went into the maw of the monster. The few protesters still ahead of me turned around and returned to equipment they had already passed. I followed. Shown is Dustin Steele and two others, locked to another piece of equipment. Dustin was later reported to have been brutalized by Law Enforcement.


Then it started to get crowded, both by employees of the mine and the Police.



Those of us not wishing to be arrested left when told to. The walk down was a study in the rape of the earth.













Eventually, I made it down to the location where the tree sitter had been preparing a climb.



Some of the miners were watching the Police deal with the tree sitter’s ground crew.


The tree sitter had done his banner drop while I was higher up in the mine.




When I got to the base of the tree, the ground crew of the tree sitter were cuffed and in the Police car.


The hills were alive with the sound of Police cars and the loud trucks and four wheelers of the Friends of Coal. They are the group that would counter protest while the protesters walked an eight mile gantlet of miners, families, four wheelers and pickup trucks intent on keeping us from making headway back up the now “closed” (seemingly to only our vehicles) public road. The drive back after the pickup was also contested by blockades and dangerous high speed maneuvers by those same counter protesters.









The ubiquitous helicopter following the march out.


Twenty of the protesters were arrested, charged with trespassing, and held on $25,000 bond, only able to be secured with property in West Virginia, cash or bail bond not acceptable. As I write this, about half are still in jail.

The protesters made it back to camp that night, tired, sore, scared, and ecstatic. And with a lot of experience of how intimidating it can be to be the enemies of both most of the locals and Law Enforcement, and how to get through that sort of challenge with heads held high. As high as the mountains they love.


All photos in this diary are mine. Some have since been used without attribution. More of my photos of this event are here:


A friend of mine, Flux Rostrum made this video of the protest:


I must admit (full disclosure) that the red Jeep Liberty in the video (with the FDL Occupy Supply sticker on the window) is mine and the woman being interviewed about being pepper sprayed by a counter protester is my girl friend. She drove my Jeep with four passengers, all media, to the site. All the stills used in the video from the mine site are those I took.

And Jordan Freeman, another friend, made this one of the walk and drive back:


Published earlier today on the European Tribune