Most pension and retirement benefits in the state of Florida are administered by the Florida Retirement System. The Florida RS covers general state employees, public safety employees, and teachers. FRS assets are managed by the State Board of Administration, which is made up of the governor, state treasurer, and state comptroller. Since 2000, new employees are given a choice of three plans to select as a primary benefit: a defined benefit plan, a defined contribution plan, or a hybrid plan.
Chapter 121 of the Florida Administrative Code deals with retirement. The laws covered in Chapter 121 set forth those positions for which participation in the FRS is mandatory. Also covered is retirement eligibility and benefit calculations. The Teachers Retirement System is covered in Chapter 238. Chapter 60 of the Florida Administrative Code covers rules that deal with retirement issues including membership, benefits, and administrative procedures.
The Florida State Board of Administration is charged with managing pension funds for nearly 1 million retirees, including public employees and teachers. FRS assets represent 80% of the total amount managed by the Florida State Board of Administration, but 37 other funds also fall under their purview.
Section 121.051 of Florida Statutes was amended to allow for the optional withdrawal of public employees of community colleges or charter technical career centers sponsored by public community colleges from the Florida Retirement System. Employees who choose to withdraw from FRS would have the option to enroll in the State Community College Optional Retirement Program, which would be provided by the employing agency.
Per the U.S. Census, in FY 2011, employer contributions to Florida state and local government pension plans were 3.37 percent of all state and local government direct general spending.
Article I, Section 10 of the Florida Constitution provides that no law impairing the obligation of contracts shall be passed. This constitutional provision has been interpreted by the courts to protect vested pension benefits. Once an individual has attained eligibility for a retirement benefit, the benefit is afforded. constitutional protection. Caselaw interprets impairment of contract protections in Art. I, §10 to only permit prospective adjustment to pension benefits. Florida Sheriff's Association v. Department of Administration, 408 So.2d 1033 (Fla. 1981); State ex rei. Stringer v. Lee, 2 So.2d 127 (1941); Anders v. Nicholson, 150 So. 639(Fia. 1933); O'Connell v. State Dept. of Admin, 557 So.2d 609 (Fla. App. 3 Dist. Feb. 2006)(holding that benefits vested upon attainment of normal retirement eligibility). In 2012, a state court trial judge in Williams v. Scott (Case No. 2011CA1584) struck down amendments to the state retirement system which increased the employee contribution and eliminated the COLA for future years of service. (FL CONST., Article I, §10) Source: Robert Klausner, Esq., State Constitutional Protections for Public Sector Retirement Benefits