State Politics

Double-dipping reform bill signed into law

MANATEE — Gov. Charlie Crist has signed into law measures outlawing the practice of “double-dipping” from the Florida Retirement System, officials said Thursday.

The new law is designed to close a loophole that has allowed more than 9,000 people, about 200 of whom are elected officials, to collect retirement benefits and a salary at the same time, officials have said previously.

Under the new law, a state employee is no longer permitted to “retire” and return to work in 30 days. The new law mandates a six-month ban on re-employment.

Its provisions apply to retirements that occur on or after July 1, 2010.

At a time when Florida is facing probable layoffs of many of its employees, it was important to reform the system, which hurt rank-and-file workers while benefitting more highly-paid employees and elected officials, said one of the legislation’s sponsors, state Sen. Mike Fasano, R-Spring Hill.

The law applies to all elected officers and employees, officials said. Additionally, any retiree who returns to work will not be able to accrue any new state pension benefits, they added.

State Rep. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, who voted for the bill during the 2009 legislative session, said Thursday, “I’m very pleased that the governor signed the bill, it’s an issue that many of my constituents have expressed concern about. The bill fixes a loophole, and that’s a necessary thing to do, especially in economic times like we’re facing.”

The measure will put a stop to the abuse of the state retirement system by elected officials and judges in particular, said Fasano.

“Those individuals will not be able to take a six month break from their elected or appointed positions,” he added. “ It will also keep senior management from retiring and coming right back to their old position at a high salary, since their position will have to remain unfilled for six months,” he noted.

The Herald previously reported that several Manatee County officials, including Supervisor of Elections Bob Sweat and Clerk of Courts Chips Shore, are among those collecting retirement benefits and a salary at the same time. Under the Deferred Retirement Option Program, Shore and Sweat are fully within their legal rights to do so.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at (941) 708-7908 or at skennedy@bradenton.com.

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