Friday, April 23, 2010

House Panel Approves Bill Creating Uniform Hazardous Duty Plan for LASERS – by Robyn Ekings

The House Retirement Committee on Thursday gave unanimous approval to a bill (HB 453) that would create a single plan for all hazardous duty employees who are members of the Louisiana State Employees’ Retirement System (LASERS), beginning January 1, 2011. The uniform plan would merge 8 different hazardous duty plans now administered by LASERS, and include certain gun carrying members of the LASERS rank and file plan, such as arson investigators and college and university police.

The proposal, authored by Lafayette Representative Joel Robideaux and backed by LASERS, according to LASERS Deputy Director Maris LeBlanc, would be “actuarially sound (neutral)” in cost to the system. LeBlanc added that “the hazardous duty plan takes in some of the best provisions of the current plans.” Actuary Charles Hall said his review of the bill showed that ‘from a retirement system aspect, we’re not making any money, not losing any money, it’s an absolutely neutral transaction.”

The plan would go into effect for those hazardous duty workers hired after January 1, 2011. It would include a change in final average compensation for some existing hazardous duty plans from 36 months to 60 months. There would also be an increase in employee contributions from what is set in some current plans. Opponents representing Wildlife and Fisheries agents and Probation and Parole officers complained that the changes would hurt their efforts to recruit new employees.

But Hall testified that removing any one group from the plan would come with a cost. “All hazardous duty plans in LASERS are subsidized by the employer. If you remove a class of participants, you’re going to alter the balance. Wildlife and Fisheries typically has the highest cost for employers within LASERS, if you remove it, it would cause an imbalance.” Hall went on to say that his calculations also show that the rank and file members of LASERS are actually also subsidizing the systems 13 different specialized plans.

Of the bill, Chalemette Representative Reed Henderson said “I think this is the type of thing we need to do.” The committee voted to approve the measure after Crowley Representative Jack Montucet withdrew a proposed ammendment to remove Wildlife and Fisheries from the plan.

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