Monday, May 17, 2010

Senate Committee Approves Pension Garnishment Bill -by-Robyn Ekings

The Senate Retirement Committee today unanimously approved SB 13 by Committee Chairman Senator Butch Gautreaux. The measure provides that the pension or retirement benefit of an elected official may be garnished or seized to pay any fine or restitution imposed as a penalty for the conviction of a felony associated with his/her office. The bill maintains provisions in the current law that provide for the protection of a spouse’s community property interest in the public retirement system or pension benefit of a member affected by the garnishment or seizure. Senator Gautreaux indicated that he would submit an amendment to the bill to make it applicable to all public servants.

The proposal would apply to 13 different state and statewide systems, including the Louisiana State Employees’ Retirement System (LASERS), the Teachers’ Retirement System of Louisiana (TRSL), the Louisiana School Employees’ Retirement System (LSERS), and the State Police Pension and Retirement System. The LASERS Board of Trustees voted to support the bill, which it believes will not raise federal constitutional issues that forfeiture bills filed this session would.

The committee also reviewed another proposal by Senator Gautreaux and Lafayette Representative Joel Robideaux to provide a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to retirees of the four state systems. The bill included a provision for active employees to fund the COLAs with a contribution of up to 2% of their pay. The first COLAs under the plan would be granted to those retired from the systems by June 30, 2010, beginning in 2017 provided they are at least 62 years old and have received a benefit for one year.

“We have suggested more time to look at this.” Cindy Rougeou, Executive Director of LASERS, “I want to acknowledge that Senator Gautreaux has clearly honored his commitment to our retirees, we are committed to continue working on a COLA for our members.”

“I had an obligation that I placed upon myself to come up with a reliable permanent benefit increase. I think I fulfilled that obligation.” said Senator Gautreaux, before voluntarily deferring the bill and promising to return with a proposal to study the issue. “This isn’t going to be a study resolution that goes on the shelf and everybody forgets about it.” he added.

While LASERS retirees have received benefit increases for 6 of the past 10 years, turmoil in the stock market in late 2008 and early 2009, and state budget troubles have prevented the system from granting a COLA since 2008.

No comments: