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Tuesday, June 28, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesGERS RETIREMENT BILL TABLED INDEFINITELY

GERS RETIREMENT BILL TABLED INDEFINITELY

The red-hot Government Employees Retirement System bill, which included full retirement pay for senators after 12 years in office, was put on a back burner Thursday from which it will likely never be retrieved by the Senate Government Operations Committee.
"The bill is dead," Senate president Vargrave Richards said, a sentiment echoed by all his committee colleagues as they voted 6-0 to table the measure indefinitely. "The bill is now tabled indefinitely, infinitely and finally," he said.
The measure had been added to the agenda of a May 1 legislative session, but Sen. Judy Gomez, who was sitting in for Richards, adjourned the session before it was called up.
Authored by the GERS board, the bill was proposed by Sens. Richards, Gomez, Roosevelt David, Allie-Allison Petrus, Gregory Bennerson, Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg, Violet Anne Golden, Almando "Rocky" Liburd and David Jones. As Thursday's meeting proceeded, all of the sponsors present were kept busy wiping egg off their faces.
The bill provided retirement benefits to senators of 40 percent of their salary after two terms of two years each in office, and 100 percent benefits after six terms. In other words, at today's salaries, four-year senators could leave office and collect $26,000 a year for life, and six- term senators could choose not to run for re-election and collect the same amount they would get if they were returned to office for another term — $65,000 a year — for the rest of their lives.
David had special-ordered the bill to Thursday's meeting, tacking it on at the end of the committee agenda. In an emotional statement regarding his signature on the bill, David said, "I have no defense. On this one, I blundered. I made a terrible mistake which I truly regret – I'm not infallible."
Commenting on the political nature of Senate proceedings and saying that Petrus may have decided to not to seek re-election because of it, David said the bill's effect would be "to move the islands backward." Charging that certain senators want take over the 24th Legislature, he warned, "If you put the leadership of this body into the wrong hands, you will have an unstable train running at breakneck speed, without one survivor."
Petrus didn't respond directly to David's statement but said, "I think the appropriate action has been taken by my colleagues." He said he had "played a role in the bill, with no disingenuousness intended" and that he would "go down with the ship." He also said that the people who make the most noise get heard, adding that he didn't "subscribe to emotional politics which leave no room for cerebral activity."
Jones, however, said that by tabling the entire 107-page bill, "We're throwing the baby out with the bath water." The bill addresses GERS investment, a judicial retirement plan and many other matters which the senators said were worth while but had to be disregarded in favor of clearing the air on the Senate retirement controversy.
Richards said the GERS board "should have stood up louder and stronger for their bill," insisting that changes be made. He said "significant portions" of the bill had merit, but were "clouded" now.
Voting to table the bill indefinitely were Sens. David, Lorraine Berry, Jones, Donald "Ducks" Cole, Petrus and committee chair Gregory Bennerson. Richards is not a committee member. Neither Cole nor Berry endorsed the bill. Committee member Adelbert Bryan was absent.

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The red-hot Government Employees Retirement System bill, which included full retirement pay for senators after 12 years in office, was put on a back burner Thursday from which it will likely never be retrieved by the Senate Government Operations Committee.
"The bill is dead," Senate president Vargrave Richards said, a sentiment echoed by all his committee colleagues as they voted 6-0 to table the measure indefinitely. "The bill is now tabled indefinitely, infinitely and finally," he said.
The measure had been added to the agenda of a May 1 legislative session, but Sen. Judy Gomez, who was sitting in for Richards, adjourned the session before it was called up.
Authored by the GERS board, the bill was proposed by Sens. Richards, Gomez, Roosevelt David, Allie-Allison Petrus, Gregory Bennerson, Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg, Violet Anne Golden, Almando "Rocky" Liburd and David Jones. As Thursday's meeting proceeded, all of the sponsors present were kept busy wiping egg off their faces.
The bill provided retirement benefits to senators of 40 percent of their salary after two terms of two years each in office, and 100 percent benefits after six terms. In other words, at today's salaries, four-year senators could leave office and collect $26,000 a year for life, and six- term senators could choose not to run for re-election and collect the same amount they would get if they were returned to office for another term -- $65,000 a year -- for the rest of their lives.
David had special-ordered the bill to Thursday's meeting, tacking it on at the end of the committee agenda. In an emotional statement regarding his signature on the bill, David said, "I have no defense. On this one, I blundered. I made a terrible mistake which I truly regret – I'm not infallible."
Commenting on the political nature of Senate proceedings and saying that Petrus may have decided to not to seek re-election because of it, David said the bill's effect would be "to move the islands backward." Charging that certain senators want take over the 24th Legislature, he warned, "If you put the leadership of this body into the wrong hands, you will have an unstable train running at breakneck speed, without one survivor."
Petrus didn't respond directly to David's statement but said, "I think the appropriate action has been taken by my colleagues." He said he had "played a role in the bill, with no disingenuousness intended" and that he would "go down with the ship." He also said that the people who make the most noise get heard, adding that he didn't "subscribe to emotional politics which leave no room for cerebral activity."
Jones, however, said that by tabling the entire 107-page bill, "We're throwing the baby out with the bath water." The bill addresses GERS investment, a judicial retirement plan and many other matters which the senators said were worth while but had to be disregarded in favor of clearing the air on the Senate retirement controversy.
Richards said the GERS board "should have stood up louder and stronger for their bill," insisting that changes be made. He said "significant portions" of the bill had merit, but were "clouded" now.
Voting to table the bill indefinitely were Sens. David, Lorraine Berry, Jones, Donald "Ducks" Cole, Petrus and committee chair Gregory Bennerson. Richards is not a committee member. Neither Cole nor Berry endorsed the bill. Committee member Adelbert Bryan was absent.