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Fla. Senate rejects plan to stop double-dipping

TALLAHASSEE — A second attempt to crack down on double-dipping state employees failed Thursday, thanks in part to two senators who also collect pensions as former sheriffs.

The measure — weaker and less restrictive than one considered last week on the Senate floor — failed 4-1 in a Senate committee, making it unlikely the concept can be revived before the session ends May 2.

Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, the bill's sponsor, said he will try to explore other options. So far, the House hasn't considered a similar measure.

Last week on the floor of the full Senate, Fasano tried to prohibit all state retirees from going back to work in a different state job that paid them more than $30,000 annually while they also collected retirement benefits.

On Wednesday, he offered a more lenient plan that would have been tougher on elected and appointed officials than other state employees. It would have affected only employees retiring Oct. 1 or later, thereby grandfathering in all state pensioners who have previously returned to work for the state.

Those individuals included Sen. Steve Oelrich, R-Gainesville, and Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness, who voted against the new plan Wednesday.

Both Dean, 68, and Oelrich, 62, said they voted against the measure because they thought Fasano's effort was too broad and would prevent the state from attracting talent out of retirement. They said Fasano's measure failed to target a small number of egregious cases.

The measure also made an exception for teachers, allowing them to continue double-dipping, which won over the one "yes" vote from Sen. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami, a former Miami-Dade School Board member who would have otherwise voted against the bill, she said.

A St. Petersburg Times investigation has found more than 8,000 state employees are collecting a pension and a paycheck for a full-time job, with their total salaries topping $300-million.

Fasano's plan would have required those in public office to be retired for a full year before going back to work to collect a salary along with their pension. The measure also prevented working retirees from accruing a second pension.

For non-elected state employees, the measure would void retirement and delay pensions if the employee returned to work less than three months later. If they emerged from retirement after three months, they could return to a state job and would eventually collect both a salary and a pension.

Fla. Senate rejects plan to stop double-dipping 04/09/08 [Last modified: Monday, April 14, 2008 1:47pm]
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