Thursday, April 15, 2010

House Retirement Committee Takes Action on Bills by Robyn Ekings

Metairie Representative John LaBruzzo, sponsor of a bill (HB 71) that would allow what he estimates are 66 members and retirees affected by Hurricane Katrina or Rita, who took Early Retirement following the storms to avoid termination, to get an increased benefit. Testimony today by an actuary from the Office of the Legislative Auditor indicated that if all 66 members took the option, the Louisiana State Employees' Retirement System (LASERS) would incur an increased liability of $2.3 million. "I can't imagine more than ten people taking advantage of this." Representative LaBruzzo told the panel.

But several members disagreed, including Chalmette Representative Reed Henderson who said "I guess my question is; Why wouldn't they ask for this ?" LASERS Executive Director Cindy Rougeou agreed that the bill "does have a substantial cost to the system." She added "There was a law in place that gave them (employees) something instead of nothing. Many people took advantage of that. Many did it to keep their health insurance." Denham Springs Representative Rogers Pope expressed his opposition, saying "I also think we have an obligation to look after 13 different retirement systems. For my consideration, I just can't sit here and add to the liability. The committee voted without objection to defer the measure.

Slidell Representative and Retirement Committee Chair Kevin Pearson gained approval of HB 748 after several amendments were added. The proposal would require a breakdown of employer contributions for each of the subplans in LASERS. Employer contributions would then be set based on the benefits received by their employees. For example, the benefits for rank and file employees are not as costly as those benefits provided to LASERS members in specialty plans. The bill recognizes the differing costs and assigns employer contributions based on those costs. The LASERS Board of Trustees voted to support the measure if the effective date is amended.

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