Tuesday, June 26, 2007

LASERS Board opposes House Bill 845

With the passage of House Bill 845, the Louisiana senate voted to place an enormous and completely unjustifiable financial burden on the LASERS trust fund, says Louis Quinn, Legislative Committee Chair of the LASERS Board of Trustees.

HB 845, by Rep. Sydnie Mae Durand, won approval Monday night on the floor of the senate. When debate on HB 845 began, the measure would have granted special retirement benefits to a select group of LASERS members at no cost to the recipients. It made 450 Adult Probation & Parole officers eligible for free service upgrades which would allow them to retire with larger pensions at an earlier age. Hundreds of their correctional officer colleagues had previously paid tens of thousands of dollars each for similar benefits under the two-tiered retirement plan available to many corrections personnel.

“HB 845 was a bad bill when it went to the full senate,” Quinn says. “But the version that won final passage is a train wreck. The select few can continue to enrich themselves, and the retirement system is left to pick up the tab.”

Under an amendment offered by State Sen. Walter Boasso, HB 845 now provides that:

“Any member who is a probation and parole officer in the office of adult services of the Department of Public Safety and Corrections, who is employed before January 1, 2002, who elected to transfer from the primary component to the secondary component and who upgraded his service credit as permitted pursuant to Subparagraph (B)(2)(b) of this Section, may elect to be reimbursed and to have his benefit calculated as provided in R.S. 11:444(A)(2)(c) for all creditable service in the system earned before the date the member transferred to the secondary component."
According to LASERS actuary Charles Hall, this means that LASERS, in addition to bearing the cost of providing unpaid-for retirement benefits to a select group of probation & parole officers, will also have to reimburse this special, select group of Adult Probation & Parole officers who paid to upgrade prior service in a similar fashion.

“The bottom line,” Quinn says, “is that a privileged group will receive free, unearned service credit from LASERS, and the cost will be subsidized by every other hard-working member of LASERS.”