TALLAHASSEE — A bill that would eliminate triple-dipping and place new restrictions on public employees who try to double-dip won approval Wednesday from the House Council on Governmental Efficiency and Accountability.
Acting just a week after a Senate committee killed another effort to limit double- and triple-dipping, the House bill would close several loopholes that have allowed thousands of public employees to "retire" and return to work at the same job, collecting both a salary and a pension.
Rep. Robert C. Schenck, R-Spring Hill, introduced the bill (H1405) after reading about double- and triple-dippers in stories published by the St. Petersburg Times.
Council Chairman Frank Attkisson, R-St. Cloud, supports the bill and said he hopes to get it out of the House and into the Senate before the session ends May 2.
During debate Wednesday, Schenck defended the bill against complaints from several lawmakers who wanted to exempt all elected officials from a provision that would force public employees to forfeit their pensions if they were being paid more than $100,000.
Another provision would make members of the Florida Retirement System, most state employees and more than 900 local governmental agencies ineligible for a second pension once they have begun collecting retirement benefits and return to work. Under current law, there is no limit on the number of pensions a public employee can receive.
Public employees can retire, take 30 days off and return to work at their old jobs if supervisors approve. The House bill would extend the 30-day hiatus to 12 months, making it substantially more difficult to "game the system," Schenck said.
Those voting against the bill were Reps. Carl Domino, R-Jupiter; Joe Gibbons, D-Pembroke Park; Matt Meadows, D-Fort Lauderdale; Franklin Sands, D-Weston; and Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando.
Meadows and Thompson are among the 15 legislators who collect a $31,000 salary plus pensions they earned in other jobs covered by the state retirement system. Lawmakers working to fix loopholes say the number of their fellow legislators who are personally collecting two checks has made change difficult.
Schenck's proposal would not affect any of the lawmakers because they don't collect more than $100,000 a year for their part-time lawmaking duties.
Domino, one of the wealthiest members of the Legislature, said he collects a U.S. government check for his military service. His pension would not be affected by the bill, but Domino said he is concerned that the restriction would keep some good people from seeking elective office.
Last week, Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, wanted the Senate Governmental Operations Committee to approve a bill that would have limited re-employment pay to $30,000 a year once a public employee has retired and started collecting a pension.
The committee voted 4-1 against the measure. Senate President Ken Pruitt said Wednesday he was disappointed and hopes some members will have a change of heart and eliminate double- and triple-dipping.
Lucy Morgan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (850) 224-7263.