Court Upholds Florida Governor’s Veto Of Firefighter Raises

Local S-20 of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) represents firefighters working for the State of Florida. During bargaining for 2015-2016, Local S-20 sought a $1500 per member raise. Upon reaching impasse, the parties submitted their positions to the Joint Select Committee on Collective Bargaining as required by the statute for resolving impasses.

After the Committee completed its work, the Legislature passed what is known as a General Appropriations Act, or GAA. The GAA included language resolving the impasse by granting a $2000 per member pay raise, an even larger raise than Local S-20 had sought. The Legislature also passed a catch-all impasse provision providing for the resolution of unaddressed impasses “by maintaining the status quo under the applicable current bargaining agreement.”

When the GAA was presented to Governor Rick Scott, he issued a line-item veto for the $2000 raise. After the Legislature took no subsequent action to override the veto, the impasse was resolved by maintaining the status quo.

Local S-20 filed an unfair labor practice charge claiming that the Governor lacked veto authority. Florida’s Public Employees Relations Commission dismissed the charge, rejected Local S-20’s argument that the Governor was powerless to veto the raise and approved the State’s presentation of a bargaining agreement that maintained wages at the status quo.

The Florida Court of Appeals agreed, and upheld the Governor’s veto of the raise. The Court found that the Florida Constitution is clear that the Governor may sign the GAA, veto it, or veto specific appropriations within the act. In this case, if the Governor approved the $2000 raise within the GAA, then the impasse would be resolved. However, if the Governor vetoed either the entire GAA, or the raise-specific proviso within the GAA, then the impasse would remain within the Legislature’s purview to resolve by some other means.

“Local S-20 asks us to recognize a limitation on the Governor’s constitutional authority to review the GAA, even though the Constitution explicitly allows the Governor to veto the GAA or any specific appropriation in a general appropriation bill. We cannot accept the invitation. The Florida Constitution clearly articulates the Governor’s authority to veto the GAA, or specific appropriations therein. It authorized him to veto the raise appropriation here. That firefighters possess constitutional collective bargaining rights does not alter the Governor’s constitutional authority with respect to the GAA.

“Moreover, the Governor’s veto did not displace the Legislature’s power to resolve the impasse in this case. After the veto, the Legislature retained final authority under the statutes to resolve the wage impasse, and it did so here. The Legislature knew two things before attempting to resolve the impasse through the GAA: (1) that the Governor could veto specific appropriations, and (2) that it could override any veto. After the Governor exercised his veto authority in this case, nothing stopped the Legislature from exercising its constitutional authority to override his veto.”

IAFF Local S-20 v. State of Florida, 2017 WL 2438334 (Fla. App. 2017).