Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

New double-dipping rule could squeeze out Florida's Secretary of State Kurt Browning

Secretary of State Kurt Browning entered the deferred retirement plan in 2005.

Secretary of State Kurt Browning entered the deferred retirement plan in 2005.

TALLAHASSEE — Florida's new "double dipping" bill aimed at stopping government workers from drawing both a paycheck and a pension could force one of Gov. Charlie Crist's top aides to step aside prematurely.

The proposed law's timetables may have trapped the state's top elections official, Secretary of State Kurt Browning, who says he likely will have to leave office before the next statewide election in 2010.

Browning, 50, a former Pasco County supervisor of elections, received generally high marks for Florida's smooth 2008 presidential election, though he has faced numerous lawsuits over voter registration issues.

His problem is a last-minute amendment to the double-dipping bill in the Senate on Friday that sought to narrow the loophole by requiring retirees to wait six months before returning to their old jobs.

The proposed law, which cleared the Legislature and Crist is expected to sign, would take effect July 1, 2010.

When Browning entered the deferred retirement option or DROP program in August 2005, he set his retirement date at July 31, 2010 — meaning the six-month hiatus period would force him to sit out the 2010 election.

"It's not fair to the state of Florida for me to sit out for six months and have the governor come back in and appoint me. It isn't fair," Browning said. "This certainly impacts my future."

Crist might not be around to do that. He's thinking of running for the U.S. Senate, so it's possible there will be a new governor in 2010, who likely would pick a new secretary of state.

Browning said that he's not seeking special favors and that he's willing to forgo collecting his monthly pension benefits until he leaves state employment. His best hope is that the Legislature would amend the law in the next regular session in the spring of 2010.

"I don't want my retirement benefits until I retire," he said. "I don't want a 'Kurt Browning Relief Act.' "

If the current law were not changed, Browning said, he likely would have sought to take a 30-day hiatus, assuming the governor would reappoint him, before returning to work. But he also is willing to delay acceptance of his lump-sum payout and retirement benefits until his career is over, and wants the state to put his earnings in a noninterest bearing account.

"Just let me keep working. That's all I want to do," Browning said.

The Division of Retirement said Browning is entitled to a lump-sum retirement payment of $455,000.

Browning said he agrees that elected officials have abused the system by "retiring," and then returning to their old jobs 30 days later, as the current law allows. But he said the state also should find a way for talented and dedicated employees to work as long as they want.

The legislators who championed tightening the double-dipping law represent Browning's home county of Pasco: Rep. Rob Schenck, R-Spring Hill, and Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey.

"Kurt is a great friend of mine. He's a buddy," Fasano said. "But you have to draw the line somewhere. If you keep putting in a provision to help somebody, the legislation is all for naught."

Fasano said Browning could move up his retirement date so it is before July 1, 2010, when the new law will be effective. But Browning said he was troubled that doing so would make it appear he was trying to "game the system" by evading a law that his own boss, Gov. Crist, has said is necessary.

Browning began working in the Pasco elections office when he was 17. He had 31 years of government employment before Crist appointed him secretary of state.

When he entered the DROP program, he had no way of knowing Crist would recruit him to run the state's elections operations.

Fasano's original bill (SB 1182) set the effective date of the new law at Jan. 1, 2010. But senators agreed to extend the date by six months, to July 1, 2010, on an amendment sought by an opponent of the bill, Sen. Al Lawson, D-Tallahassee.

Steve Bousquet can be reached at or (850) 224-7263.

New double-dipping rule could squeeze out Florida's Secretary of State Kurt Browning 05/04/09 [Last modified: Saturday, May 9, 2009 11:43am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Jones: Bucs need success to get national respect


    Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones offers up his Two Cents on the world of sports.

    No respect

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter walks the field during the second day of mandatory minicamp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times
  2. Hopes fade after landslide destroys Chinese village (w/video)


    Crews searching through the night in the rubble left by a landslide that buried a mountain village under tons of soil and rocks in southwestern China found 15 bodies, but more than 110 more people remained missing.

    Vehicles and people line a road leading to the site of a landslide in Xinmo village in Mao County on Saturday in southwestern China’s Sichuan Province. More than 100 people remained missing after the village was buried under tons of rocks and soil.
  3. Rookie Jake Faria dissatisfied with performance in Rays' loss to Orioles

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The rookie pitcher walked to his locker Saturday after tossing the fourth quality start in as many tries to begin his career. He held the potent Orioles bats to three runs and for six innings gave his team a chance to win.

    Orioles third baseman Manny Machado tags out the Rays’ Mallex Smith at third after a rundown in the first inning.
  4. Thousands converge in two St. Pete locations celebrating LGBT rights

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — Tom Rockhill didn't know what to expect Saturday, but by noon people were knocking on the door of his bar Right Around the Corner in Grand Central.

    (From left to right) Emma Chalut 18, gets a rainbow sticker on her cheek from her sister Ellie, 15 both of Jacksonville before the annual St. Pete Pride parade in downtown St. Petersburg on Saturday. This year the route was changed from the Grand Central and Kenwood area to Bayshore Drive.
[EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times]
  5. Retired Florida Supreme Court Justice Parker Lee McDonald dies

    TALLAHASSEE — A former Florida Supreme Court justice, who wrote a decision that prevented lawyers from excluding jurors because of their race, has died.

    Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Parker Lee McDonald died Saturday, the court said in a statement. He was 93.