TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Charlie Crist on Thursday signed into law new rules that will limit state employees' ability to collect a paycheck and a pension from the same agency.
HB 495, sponsored by Republicans Rep. Robert Schenck of Spring Hill and Sen. Mike Fasano of New Port Richey, aims to curb the practice known as double-dipping by requiring retirees to wait six months before returning to work. It affects anyone who retires after July 1, 2010.
The bill also prohibits state employees from accruing a new pension in addition to their original pension.
The changes were crafted in response to St. Petersburg Times reports starting last year that hundreds of elected officials and thousands of state workers have used a loophole in state retirement law that since 2001 has allowed public officials to retire and return to work 30 days later — collecting both a pension and a salary.
More than 225 elected officials and more than 9,000 members of the retirement system are collecting both pensions and paychecks, the Times has found. Some are collecting two pensions and a paycheck while earning credit toward a third pension.
The state spends more than $300 million on salaries for double-dipping employees who have returned to the state payroll after "retiring."
The law will not affect those who already are double-dipping.
Fasano tried but failed last year to get the changes passed — thanks to opposition from fellow lawmakers.
"It was one of the toughest pieces of legislation to get passed in the 14 years I've been in the Legislature," he said.
But with the state's economic woes forcing the Legislature to make billions in cuts, lawmakers could no longer fight the changes, Fasano said.
"We see people losing their jobs at the county level, the city level, the state level," he said. "We could not allow anyone to double-dip in the manner that some of our elected officials have. It had to be addressed."
Shannon Colavecchio can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (850) 224-7263.