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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Senate bill boosts retirement pay for some legislators and staff



The last paragraph of the Senate pension reform bill, SB 2100, includes some interesting language that clearly is intended to benefit someone. But who?

A little investigation by Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, and the Division of Retirement, and it appears that there are about 1,764 people who have retired from the Florida Retirement System but have returned to work and want to re-enroll in the retirement system. The list includes people who already draw a pension check and a state salary.

It also includes five legislators: Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, Sen. Gwen Margolis, D-Miami, Rep. Jeanette Nunez, R-Miami, Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, and Rep. Irv Slosberg, D-Boca Raton.

The list also allows Secretary of State Kurt Browning, who draws a pension check for his work as former Pasco County supervisor of elections, retired last year as secretary of state under Gov. Charlie Crist, and returned to the same job under Gov. Rick Scott. Under the bill, Browning would continue to earn retirement pay, draw his retirement check and earn a state salary. Under the bill, he would again earn retirement pay, draw his retirement check and earn a state salary. Fasano calls it triple dipping.

Update: Department of State Communications Director Chris Cate said Browning has no intention of re-enrolling in the retirement system.

Hayden Dempsey, Scott's director of legislative affairs, would also benefit from the language. Former Florida State University president T.K. Wetherell also benefits from the language as does Carlos Muniz and Jason Rodriguez in the attorney general's office.

The measure also benefits David Bishop, the spokesman for Senate President Mike Haridopolos. Bishop said that when he left state government, he never expected to return so he took his retirement money with him. Now that he's back, he wants to re-enter the retirement program. He called it a "glitch" in state law.

Fasano has an amendment to repeal the language from the bill. Bishop said "it will pass."

"I have no doubt this language was added to a 177 page bill to create a loophole for certain double dippers who now want to be triple dippers,'' Fasano said. "The present law is clear the taxpayers will not contribute to another state pension for those individuals that have retired from their state taxpayer paid job. I passed legislation two years ago to stop the double and triple dipping by government employees yet here is another example of last minute legislation that did not go through the committee process with hidden language that will cost the taxpayers in the end."

Fasano's bill closed a loophole that had allowed more than 9,300 people, 200 of whom are elected officials, to collect retirement benefits and a salary at the same time. The measure requires people to leave state employment for six months before being rehired with the state.

[Last modified: Wednesday, April 6, 2011 3:09pm]


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