Voters Must Weigh in on Miami Firefighters Pension Changes

August 5, 2011 ( – A Miami-Dade County Circuit Court has found that pension changes for firefighters and police officers must be submitted to a referendum of the voters of Miami Beach before being implemented. 

The court cited a Florida statute enacted in 1973 that said no changes to laws that affect the rights of municipal employees will be permitted without approval  by referendum of the electors. It rejected the argument by the City Commission that the statute should not be applied to the pension reforms because they resulted from a collective bargaining agreement.  

The City said Chapter 447 of the Florida Statute, which governs the collective bargaining process pre-empts the other statute, and also cited an article in the Florida Constitution that state collective bargaining “shall not be denied or abridged.” It argued that subjecting the pension plan amendments to a referendum would deny the right to bargain collectively.  

However, the court disagreed, saying that since Chapter 447 is silent on referendums, the two statutes can be easily harmonized. “This Court finds that Section 166.021(4) is neither ‘irreconcilably repugnant” to Chapter 447 nor “hopelessly inconsistent” with Chapter 447,” the opinion stated.  

The court ordered the contract to be submitted to voters for consideration.  

The case in the Circuit Court for the 11th Circuit in and for Miami-Dade County, Florida, is The City of Miami Beach v. The Board of Trustees of the City Pension Fund for Firefighters and Police Officers of Miami Beach.