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Broward police union to host "party to leave the party"

By James Call

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wfsu/local-wfsu-973572.mp3

Tallahassee, FL – The Broward County Police Benevolent Association is encouraging police officers to leave the Republican Party. James Call reports the group will host next month a party to leave the party.

The Broward PBA President Patrick Hanrahan said the group sent out 4,000 party switching invitations to PBA members living in Broward County. He said his group is angry about initiatives supported by the Republican leadership during the legislative session.

"We don't like the new stance they took on attacking public employees, in their jobs, their benefits and their pensions, and then just downright trying to bust the unions with a dues deduction bill."

Hanrahan is arranging to have elections officials on hand at the PBA's headquarters in Fort Lauderdale Saturday July 16th for officers and the public to switch party registration. A PBA official in Tallahassee says the state association doesn't get involved in local political decisions. Matt Puckett is the state executive director.

"There is going to be political instances at the local level where, we are never going to tell them hey, support local Mayor X so why would we stop them from doing something their members want to do whether it be voter initiative or whatever?"

The Florida PBA was an early supporter of former Governor Jeb Bush and part of a coalition that brought Republican leadership to the state capitol.

"Jeb Bush isn't governor anymore. We have a new governor and we're not part of his coalition."

A recession produced state budget shortfalls and lawmakers responded with cuts to the benefits of police and other government workers. One budget balancing maneuver that especially stung Hanrahan requires police, firefighters, teachers and state workers to contribute three percent of their pay to a pension.

"Ya know for five, six years almost they haven't had a pay raise. Now you are not only going to take three percent from them, whatever you want to call it, we call it a tax. You are not only going to take the three percent and the argument is you pay for your benefits. Well, okay, not only are you going to take three percent, you are going to cut my benefits."

Hanrahan said he is hosting the party switching party to send a message to Tallahassee. PBA's state executive director Matt Puckett points out that voter registration in Broward County is heavily Democratic and that the event is sponsored by the local chapter not the state association.