'Scott Pine Law' headed to Governor Scott

The Florida House on Wednesday passed a bill that will increase retirement benefits for families of fallen law enforcement, corrections and probation officers as well as firefighters and paramedics. The bill has been nicknamed the Scott Pine Law after the Orange County Sheriff’s Office deputy killed in the line of duty in 2014.

“I would like to bring back [my children’s] father, but I can’t do that.  But something we can do is have this law changed so it can help my family and other families,” Bridget Pine said on Friday.

At the time, the widowed mother of three wasn’t sure the bill would come up for a vote in the House.
It had previously passed the Florida Senate unanimously, but the House had included the Scott Pine Law in a larger pension bill.

"Knowing the history of pension bills, honestly we thought this bill was dead,” said State Rep. Rene Plasencia,  R-Orlando, who had sponsored a version of the legislation.  Plasencia credited Speaker of the House Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island -- and persistent lobbying by Pine and the Orange County Sheriff’s office -- with making sure the measure came up for a vote. It passed 116-1.

"We have a mother and a widow and Orange County Sheriff's Office who would not let the memory of a man go without doing something about it,” Plasencia said.

Right now, when first responders choose a retirement plan they pick between a pension plan and an investment plan.  The current state retirement system says that the families of first responders killed on the job who chose the pension plan get 50 percent of that officer’s monthly salary for life.

The investment plan is often seen as the option that provides the bigger financial benefit, but if the first responder is killed on the job, the family gets only what the officer has saved at the time of death.  As a former investment banker, Pine chose the latter, and the plan that would have paid off in the long run wound up working against him.

If the governor signs the bill, the pension benefit will increase to 100 percent of the monthly salary earned by the deceased family member.  Those families whose loved one was a member of the investment plan will be able to convert those benefits to a monthly annuity that will serve to replace lost income in a similar manner.

The legislation, which is retroactive to 2013, helps the Pine family and others. "If you put on a badge or hop on the back of a fire truck, strap on a gun everysigle day to keep my family safe I owe it to you to keep your family safe as well,” said Rep. Shawn Harrison, R-Tampa.

Plasencia said lawmakers will likely revisit the issue next legislative session, to change the system for families who lost a loved one in the line of duty prior to 2013.