Bills filed for 85-day session starting March 12

• Baton Rouge
By Capitol News Service

State Rep. Jim Fannin (D-Jonesboro) has introduced a bill for the upcoming legislative session that will tighten the requirements for the payment of medical benefits for retired Winn Parish sheriffs or sheriff's deputies.

More than 50 bills dealing with public retirement, from municipalities to parishes to the state level, have already been filed as the Jindal administration seeks to reduce retirement benefits for state employees while requiring that they work longer to qualify for state pensions.

Fannin's bill is consistent with the governor's agenda in that it would require a Winn sheriff or deputy to have 30 years' service time to qualify for medical benefits.

Present law provides that the Winn Parish Sheriff's Office "shall pay the premium costs of group hospital, surgical, medical expenses, dental and life insurance from the sheriff's general fund for any retired sheriff or deputy sheriff who is at least 55 years of age and is entitled to receive benefits from the Sheriffs' Pension and Relief Fund.

Fannin's bill, should it pass the legislature and the governor sign it into law, would add the requirement that recipients of the benefits also have "30 years of service with the Winn Parish Sheriff's Office for payment of premium costs."

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With the opening gavel due this month, Sen. Gerald Long (R-Natchitoches) has pre-filed a bill for the upcoming legislative session that addresses the unfunded accrued liabilities (UAL) of the Teachers Retirement System of Louisiana (TRSL), according to records provided by the Louisiana Senate.

The 85-day regular session opens at noon on March 12.

State retirement reform, privatization, and public education reform, along with an anticipated $900 million deficit, are expected to dominate this year's session, which adjourns no later than 6 p.m. on June 4.

SB 1 by Long would provide that the first $100 million of excess investment earnings shall be applied to the remaining balance of the original amortization.

The bill would also provide for increases of benefits for retired teachers.

Present law provides that after allocation of $200 million for accelerated reduction of certain UAL, 50 percent of the net investment gain be credited to the system's account.

Current law also requires that the remaining 50 percent of investment game form an amortization credit used to reduce the employer contribution over the 30-year amortization period

Long's bill would provide that 50 percent of the net investment gain be credited to the system's account before any allocation toward reduction of the UAL or for formulating an amortization credit.

SB 1 also would allow a benefit increase in which the system is below 80 percent funded and fails to exceed the board-approved valuation rate of return of 8.25 percent.

Present law also prohibits any increase in benefits from the funds in any year in which the system's actuarial rate of returns fails to exceed the actuarial valuation rate and in which the system is less than 80 percent funded.

Long's bill would provide that the cost of the increase benefits and the UAL pay-down would be funded with additional employer contributions.

Gov. Bobby Jindal's far-reaching retirement reforms, while exempting teachers and law enforcement, would require state employees to pay 3 percent more but rather than go to increase benefits or to reduce the state system's UAL, the additional employee contributions would go into the state general fund.

Jindal also has expressed his intention to require employees work longer to qualify for lower benefits. He is attempting to change the defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan that would create retirement programs similar to 401(k) plans in the private sector.

He anticipates savings of $450 million from his retirement reforms.

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