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Archive for the ‘Exemptions, Incentives’ Category

Editor’s note:

The following is a guest column offered by Baton Rouge teacher Fred Aldrich who, along with thousands of others, listened Monday as Superintendent of State Police Mike Edmonson appeared on the Jim Engster Show to defend the amendment tacked onto an unrelated bill on the final day of the legislative session which will give Edmonson an additional $55,000 (not $30,000 as first reported—we’ll explain at the end of Aldrich’s guest column) upon his retirement—a nice bonus unique to Edmonson and one other state trooper.

 

I am a long-time listener to NPR station WRKF, and I listen to the Jim Engster show whenever possible. I don’t always agree with Jim or his guests, but I usually don’t find my disagreements worthy of a response. Today was an exception.

The comments of Jim’s guests are not the opinions of Jim or WRKF, but unfortunately those comments may be spin and/or misinformation which listeners will take as truth.

State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson was on the show this morning. I have great respect for the state police, and I have considered Edmonson one of the good guys in the Jindal administration. This morning’s interview, however, was problematical for me in several ways.

Engster congratulated Edmonson for having the fortitude to come on the program at a time when the superintendent is facing a lot of heat statewide. His performance suggested that he has paid attention during the years he has also served as a prop for the governor. He sounded earnest, sounded passionate, and sounded determined to serve his troopers and the people of the state. So far, so good, but that’s not why he’s on the hot seat. No one questions his dedication.

As a teacher with 38 years of experience in Louisiana and one who participated in the Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP) about the same time as he did, my understanding and experience with the program are much different from what Edmonson expressed on the program. He wanted to dispel “inaccuracies” with “facts,” but in my estimation he mostly promulgated misinformation, to wit:

  • The retirement systems which offer DROP are not “different” retirement systems than they were at the time he or anyone else went into DROP. DROP was simply a program within these retirement systems which was offered to employees for a few years, theoretically to provide valued employees an opportunity to continue working while putting three years of retirement checks in an interest-earning escrow account that could not be accessed until the employee finally retires, as which time federal laws regarding taxes and withdrawals apply. Though officially retired, the employee continued to draw his regular pay while payments were made into his DROP account. These three years do not count as service credit toward figuring eventual retirement benefits.
  • Despite Col. Edmonson’s casual use of the word, no one was “forced” into DROP. It was a choice for anyone with 30 years of service, or 25 years of service for those 55 years old or older. Those who chose to not enter DROP simply continued to work, with the three years counted as regular service credit, and allowed the employee to draw the retirement benefits he/she accrued upon final retirement. Had Col. Edmonson, and myself, and others, chosen to not participate, his, and our, retirement benefit would have been what it took him a specious legislative effort to attain.
  • The form that each DROP participant had to sign made the options and possible outcomes very clear. It states, in no uncertain terms, that the employee understands that his basic retirement benefit is frozen at that time, that the decision is irrevocable, that service credit past the exit from DROP is calculated in a different manner, and that DROP may not be the best option, depending on future circumstances. It urges employees to consider their decision carefully and seek financial counsel before they choose to enter the program.
  • The articles I’ve read and the radio program in particular fail to mention the three years of retirement pay in Col. Edmonson’s DROP account plus the accrued interest and whether he plans to return that money to the system if he gets his new benefit. In my case, and I was in DROP at the same time as Edmonson, my account balance has nearly doubled in ten years. (And my eventual retirement benefit will be approximately 65% of what it would have been had I not chosen to go into DROP.)
  • Col. Edmonson misstated the application of the $30,000 yearly bump that has been mentioned. No one I know of has claimed that this is a bonus on top of his new yearly retirement benefit. It is the difference between the benefit that he is entitled to as the result of his voluntary participation in DROP and his new benefit, courtesy of a friendly conference committee.
  • Blaming the confusion at the end of the legislative session for the “misunderstanding” is ridiculous. It’s beyond obvious that he and his allies (which could range from the governor down to legislative staffers) gamed the system and took advantage of this dysfunctional process for his benefit, then blamed the process for a misunderstanding.
  • As for the integrity in which Col. Edmonson bathed himself and the commiseration he offered a caller who found herself in a similar retirement situation, he could have demonstrated his concern by including all DROP participants in his legislation. I, and several of my colleagues, (and apparently many others) have tried to lobby for the same remedy that Col. Edmonson and his allies sneaked through (Let’s call it what it is.) We have met the runaround
  • from every source we’ve approached, and we’ve accepted that most of us will have been long dead before anything actually could be done.

Unfortunately, we’re not in the governor’s loop and teachers with 35-50 years of experience who make less than half the salary of Col. Edmonson don’t have the same voice. His assertion that everyone should get the same consideration that he does begs the fact that all troopers, state workers, and teachers don’t have the same political connections and the same willingness to go through this foul-smelling process to enrich themselves.

This is my understanding based on my experiences with DROP and my following of Edmonson’s gift from the conference committee. If anything is factually incorrect, I will readily stand corrected. As a reaction to what happened, I remain convinced that the whole action smells. There are many hard-working, conscientious, productive people in state government, law enforcement and education, who don’t get special treatment through a disgusting legislative process.

            In addition to Mr. Aldrich’s comments, we have some comments and additional information of our own to add:

During his appearance on the Jim Engster Show, Edmonson who last week said he never asked for the legislation and did not know about it, acknowledged that an unidentified” staff member” brought the matter to his attention and he authorized the effort to go forward. He also told Engster that the issue of the special legislation actually arose several weeks before the end of the session.

That being the case, why was it necessary to wait until the last day of the session, when the pace becomes hectic and confusing, to insert the amendment into a benign bill completely unrelated to retirement (the bill, Senate Bill 294, dealt with disciplinary procedures for law enforcement officers under investigation)? That tactic alone smacks of covert intent designed to keep the measure from the prying eyes of the media and public.

Edmonson, during his interview, acknowledged that when he voluntarily (and the word voluntarily should be emphasized here) entered DROP, he was a captain earning $79,000 per year in salary. By entering DROP, his retirement was frozen and would be calculated on that salary. The trade-off was that he earned a higher salary.

But he probably did not foresee his advancement to Superintendent of State Police at a salary of $134,000.

Based on a formula multiplying his salary by the number of years of service by 3.33 percent), he would have retired at 100 percent of that $79,000 salary instead of 100 percent of his higher salary of $134,000 after 30 years.

Until the passage of the secretive-shrouded amendment to SB 294, that is. The amendment will mean an additional $55,000 per year to Edmonson during his retirement years—$134,000 (100 percent of his current salary).

Should Edmonson live for 30 years after retirement, that’s an extra $1.14 million in retirement benefits.

The amendment prompted one retired state trooper, Jerry Patrick, to express his embarrassment “that one of our troopers was so selfish that he would tarnish the badge that I and so many others worked and sacrificed to honor.”

Patrick said that it was “no stretch to believe that the governor’s office was directly involved in requesting this for a member of the governor’s cabinet.”

To that end, LouisianaVoice has made three separate public records requests. The first was to the Louisiana State Police communications director (which was handed off to the agency’s legal team) requesting the opportunity to review “all emails, text messages and/or other communications” between Edmonson, his staff, State Sen. Neil Riser, his staff, and the governor’s office pertaining to any discussion of DROP and/or retirement benefits for Edmonson and any discussion of retirement legislation that might affect Edmonson.

We made similar requests of both the House and Senate for any similar communications between members of the conference committee that approved the special amendment, Edmonson, the governor’s office and Laura Gail Sullivan, legal counsel for the Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee. Riser is chairman of that committee and was on the conference committee that inserted the amendment for Edmonson.

Through the grapevine, we have learned that Sullivan has already invoked the sacred attorney-client privilege to prevent releasing any of her emails. But that objection is questionable at best inasmuch as Edmonson is not her client. Neither is the governor. Nor is, for that matter, Riser.

Of course, she will probably include Riser by extension by virtue of his chairmanship of the committee for which she works but Riser, should he have nothing to hide, could always waive the attorney-client privilege.

If he does not, and if Sullivan does resist releasing the contents of her emails, we can only assume the obvious: there is something contained in those messages that the principals would rather we not know.

And to quote my favorite poet and playwright Billy Wayne Shakespeare of Denham-on-Amite from my favorite play, Hamlet Bob: “Ay, there’s the rub.”

But we are confident they would never try to hide anything from the public. This administration, after all, is the gold standard of ethics, openness and transparency. Gov. Jindal himself has said so on countless occasions in his many out-of-state appearances.

Oh, but wait. We also learned on Tuesday that House Speaker Chuck Kleckley (R-Lake Charles) has refused a request by State Rep. John Bel Edwards (D-Amite) for a full investigation of the secretive amendment. Kleckley said that because it was a Senate bill to which the amendment was attached, it becomes a matter for the Senate to investigate. Apparently, Kleckley neglected to note that three members of the conference committee that approved the amendment were House members.

Kleckley’s dancing around the issue, folks, is what is known as the Bureaucratic Shuffle.

 

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“The amendment impedes an existing contract. Col. Edmonson entered into a binding contract when he entered DROP and that is irrevocable. We have had a constant parade of state employees who wanted out of DROP and every single one has been denied.”

—State official, commenting on the 11th hour amendment to SB 294 which would give State Police Commander Mike Edmonson a $30,000 per year increase.

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State Treasurer John Kennedy told fellow members of the State Police Retirement System (LSPRS) Wednesday that he wants answers to a laundry list of questions pertaining to legislative passage of an amendment to an otherwise minor senate bill that increased State Police Commander Mike Edmonson’s retirement benefits by $30,000 per year.

http://www.auctioneer-la.org/Kennedy_LSP.htm

In asking for a thorough investigation of the amendment that was slipped on Senate Bill 294 on the final day of the legislative session, Kennedy said his main concern was with New York bond rating agencies, though he also questioned the fairness of the amendment’s applying only to Edmonson and one other Master Trooper from Houma.

“I was in New York when this story first broke (LouisianaVoice ran the first story about the amendment last Friday) and we had discussions about the $19 billion unfunded accrued liability (UAL) of the state’s four retirement systems,” he said. “These rating agencies read our newspapers and our blogs and they know more about Louisiana than we do.”

As State Treasurer, Kennedy sits on some 30 different state boards, including the State Police Retirement System Board but he said his interest in attending Wednesday’s meeting was in protecting the state’s bond rating. “If our rating goes down, our interest rates go up,” he said. “I spent 12 or 13 hours with them and they are worried about our Medicaid situation, our use of non-recurring revenue and our retirement systems’ UAL.”

Another state official, an attorney, told LouisianaVoice that he had another constitutional violation to add to C.B. Forgotston’s list of five constitutional violations of the amendment: “The amendment impedes an existing contract,” he said. Col. Edmonson entered into a binding contract when he entered DROP and that is irrevocable. We have had a constant parade of state employees who wanted out of DROP and every single one has been denied.”

Kennedy said there are two sides to every story. “I’d like to talk to Charles Hall (of Hall Actuaries, which did a study for the legislature earlier this year). I’d like Sen. Jean-Paul Morrell (D-New Orleans) who authored the original bill to come speak to us.”

Kennedy said the two men benefitting from the amendment also have a right to address the board. “They have every right to due process,” he said.

Other answers he said he would like include:

  • How many people are impacted by this amendment?
  • Who are they? (The identities of the beneficiaries of the amendment);
  • Who sponsored the amendment in committee? (so they might come before the board and explain their motives);
  • What is the total cost of the amendment? (so he can report back to the rating agencies);
  • What are the remedies, litigation or legislative relief, allege the bill is illegal or simply refuse to comply?
  • What are the legalities of the bill? (Can an amendment be done dealing with retirement issues that is supposed to be advertised?);
  • Has special treatment been given?

“Years ago, we had anywhere from 10 to 15 bills introduced each year to give special treatment to one, two or three individuals without appropriating any money,” he said. It was wrong then and it’s wrong now.

“Gov. (Mike) Foster finally said ‘Enough, we will do this no more.’ And now here we are again. The rating agencies are appalled at that.”

Kennedy, in a private interview after the meeting, said he was concerned with everyone being treated equally. “I don’t believe in special treatment for those who have the political power or (who) know the right people. I think it’s stupid economically and it is what has contributed to the UAL. This amendment has implications far beyond the two men affected. I want to see how much it would cost to give everyone the same treatment.

“We have the sixth worst-funded retirement systems in America and the rating agencies have told us over the past two years to get our business straight or they will downgrade us. If that happens, we’ll be paying higher interest on our bonded indebtedness.”

Kennedy saved his harshest criticism for the legislature when he said, “Someone didn’t read this bill or they’re not being candid. They should be doing these amendments in a more transparent way. These last minute amendments are done and no one know what they’re adding and suddenly, it’s an up or down vote.

Kennedy asked LSPRS Executive Director Irwin Felps, Jr. if the board could meet before the next scheduled meeting on the third Wednesday of September. “It’s important that we address this issue,” he said.

“There’s no excuse for this. This amendment didn’t just fall from heaven. Somebody has a lot of explaining to do and if I find preferential treatment, I will vote to rescind the amendment.”

Kennedy’s claim of a lack of transparency and the sudden “up or down vote” was illustrated when Rep. Jeff Arnold (D-New Orleans) explained the amendment on the floor of the House during the final hectic hours when lawmakers were hurrying to wrap up business:

“The new language to the bill applies to those paying more into the system since 2009 for benefits they cannot use,” he said. “It makes people whole but does not give them a larger benefit.”

Don’t believe us? Watch and listen for yourself as Arnold explains the new legislation in all of 15 seconds.

Then you can decide for yourself if the amendment’s sponsors were being completely up front with their colleagues—and with Louisiana taxpayers.

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“What about all the other troopers who retired under the old system?  If Edmonson and the Houma guy are the only ones left on the payroll, what about the ones who already retired?  Shouldn’t they now sue for equal treatment?  I wonder what that would cost?  A lot more than the minimum of $300,000 this bill will cost.”

—State retiree who possesses considerable knowledge of state fiscal matters, commenting on the amendment to Senate Bill 294 that gives State Police Commander Mike Edmonson an extra $30,000 in addition to his earned $134,000 retirement.

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State Police Commander Col. Mike Edmonson has been rumored to be priming himself for a run at public office and his latest “Who, me?” pronouncements would seem to indicate that he’s finally ready for the big jump.

Meanwhile, the Louisiana Retired Troopers Association is not happy and appears ready to leap into the controversy surrounding a special amendment giving Edmonson and one other state trooper hefty retirement benefit increases.

Edmonson says he is not getting special treatment, that he did not seek nor was he aware of the $30,000 a year retirement bump he got from an amendment sneaked into an otherwise nondescript bill on the final day of the session.

So, here’s the deal: everyone in the room who believes Edmonson please line up against the opposite wall. Now. Go ahead. Don’t be shy. We’re waiting. C’mon, people…

All right, let’s try a different tactic: everyone who does not believe his tooth fairy story, please leave the roo….Hey! Whoa! Not so fast! Someone’s gonna get hurt!

Edmonson also says that he and a Houma-based state trooper are the last holdovers from a defunct retirement plan and that the amendment allows them to retire in the current State Police Retirement System.

Are we to believe, then, you would have had no pension whatsoever had this amendment not been slipped in? Seriously?

Forgive our skepticism, Colonel, but that seems something of a stretch. First you deny knowledge of the amendment and then you go to great lengths to defend it.

Such self-serving denials/non-answers (bureaucratic two-steps) round out the qualifications for political office for Edmonson who, before moving upstairs to shadow Gov. Bobby Jindal for all those photo-ops, spent much of his career on the sidelines of LSU football games protecting the Tiger head coaches from…what, Hostile fans? Groupies? Reporters?

So now, as the State Police Retirement System staff prepares to take up this issue today at 1:30 p.m., the Retired Louisiana State Police Communication Network is abuzz about the sneaky way in which the amendment was tacked on by the Legislative Conference Committee on the last day of the session.

Word is there are retired state troopers scattered across the state who are not at all happy with the news that Edmonson, in addition to 100 percent retirement (his salary is $134,000 per year), based on more than 30 years of service, he also now becomes eligible for longevity benefits and the three Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP) years, boosting his retirement income another $30,000 per year over and above the amount at which he qualified at the rank of captain when he entered DROP.

And if anyone was of a mind to file a lawsuit to halt the special treatment of Edmonson, any retired state trooper would have sufficient legal standing to do so.

The actuarial notes prepared by the Actuarial Services Department of the Legislative Auditor’s office, calculate a fiscal impact on the retirement system of $300,000 but that’s only over a five-year stretch because that’s as far out as the notes may project. That calculates to $30,000 per year for each of the two troopers.

We can only speculate, of course, but it seems reasonable to assume the two will live more than five years beyond their retirement, which of course, will only add to the cost.

(The actuarial notes, by the way, were prepared on June 5, three days after the legislature adjourned, which gives us some idea of the surprise element involved with this amendment.)

http://www.legis.la.gov/legis/ViewDocument.aspx?d=913382

But back to those disgruntled retired state troopers: What might it cost the state if a retired trooper—or several retirees—got their backs up sufficiently to file suit?

While it might be a windfall to Jimmy Faircloth, it also might cost the state a lot more to defend the action than the $300,000, especially if the state should lose as it very well could. Such a lawsuit, after all, would be about fair and equal treatment.

One observer in a position to know said fiscal notes are required for bills affecting a pension plan’s unfunded accrued liability (UAL). “I don’t imagine one was prepared for this bill, but somebody knows what it will cost and the law requires any acts with the effect of increasing the UAL to have to be funded so that they don’t (affect the UAL).”

State Sen. Jean Paul Morrell (D-New Orleans), who submitted the bill, said it was intended to address routine changes in the law governing police officers under investigation and had nothing to do with retirement benefits. He said he was unaware of the impact of the amendment, a claim that most of the legislators who voted for the bill can probably make with a high degree of honesty considering the last minute crush of business in the session final days.

“Assuming Morrell is not lying,” our observer said, “I read into this…that Edmonson himself got him (Morrell) to do this amendment (after) having been tipped to its enrichment potential for him.”

Thus far not mentioned in all of this, but something that should certainly be considered:

How can Edmonson, after this furtive move and his lame denials, realistically expect the men and women under his command to continue to respect him as a leader?

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Apparently our story about the furtive amendment that boosted State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson’s retirement by a whopping $30,000 a year (note: that’s a $30,000 increase; most state retirees don’t even make $30,000) got the attention of the Louisiana State Police Retirement System (LSPRS).

Our friend over in Hammond, C.B. Forgotston, the “King of the Subversive Bloggers,” according to Baton Rouge Advocate columnist James Gill (a pretty fair political observer and writer in his own right), sent us a memorandum that went out to LSPRS staff members by Assistant Director Kimberly Gann.

Forgotston also forwarded information listing additional perks enjoyed by Edmonson as well as calculations of what his retirement income will be, thanks to the amendment tacked onto SB 294 on the last day of the recent legislative session.

Forgotston (don’t let the name fool you; he rarely forgets anything), an attorney who previously worked for the Legislature, also said the amendment by the Legislative Conference Committee to the bill that became Act 859 when it was signed into law by Gov. Bobby Jindal “violates at least five provisions of the State Constitution.”

“We were notified yesterday than an article was written about a piece of retirement legislation that passed the legislature,” Gann said in her e-mail. “Irwin (LSPRS Executive Director Irwin L. Felps, Jr.) wanted you to know about the article and have an opportunity read it. Please let us know if you have any questions. We will discuss this at the meeting on Wednesday (July 16).”

While the copy of Gann’s e-mail provided by Forgotston did not contain the names of the addressees, the message is presumed to have been sent to retirement system staff members. They include Retirement Benefits Analyst Tausha E. Facundus, Administrative Assistant Shelley S. CPA Stephen M. Griffin, accountant Kristin Leto.

Edmonson, upon his appointment, sold his home and he and his family moved into the “Colonel’s Home” on the Department of Public Safety campus which is also equipped to be the governor’s “Safe House” and command center for disaster relief.

That means he is residing in a four-bedroom, four-bath home completely furnished by the state. And because he has worked more than 30 years at retirement calculated at 3.3 percent per year based on his highest three years of earnings, he would already be eligible for retirement income of 100 percent of his salary. By adding the additional years above 30 (he has worked 34 years) and the three Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP) years, he will not only receive the full $134,000 (100 per cent of his salary), but an additional $30,000 per year when he retires.

The amendment allowed Edmonson to revoke an otherwise irrevocable decision to enter DROP, which allows his retirement to be calculated on his higher salary and to add years of service and longevity pay.

Forgotston, in listing the constitutional violations of the bill amendment giving Edmonson the $30,000 retirement increase, cited each section of the State Constitution he said the amendment violated. They are:

  • It was not introduced 45 days prior to the opening day of the 2014 Regular Session. (La. Const. Article III, Section 2, Paragraph (2)(c));
  • It was not advertised prior to being introduced. (La. Const. Article X, Section 29C);
  • It does not contain a recitation that it was advertised. (La. Const. Article X, Section 29C);
  • As amended contains two objects. (La. Const. Article III, Section 15, Paragraph A);
  • Language to provide the extra benefits is not germane to bill as introduced. (La. Const. Article III, Section 15, Paragraph C).

“The legislative process is often compared to watching sausage being made,” Forgotston said. “That is meant to convey the idea that the process is ugly, but the end product is worth it. In this case, even the end product is horrible. This is the type of legislation that is referred to by insiders as ‘snakes’ that crawl out in the last days of a session. For most, snake is much less appetizing than sausage.”

Forgotston said there “are only two ways to prevent these unconstitutional benefits from being paid and (to restore) integrity to the legislative process:

“The head of the State Police (Edmonson) can refuse the benefits or by someone filing a lawsuit,” he said, adding that the six members of the Conference Committee should initiate such litigation.

Forgotston can be quite cantankerous—and clever—when he wants to be, which is most of the time, and this action is no different.

He suggests that if readers who know an active or retired member of the Louisiana State Police, “Please pass this (information) onto them.”

He also listed the names and e-mail addresses of the six members of the Legislative Conference Committee who approved the action which has been denied to many others making similar requests in recent years:

Rep. Bryan Adams: badams@legis.la.gov

Rep. Jeff Arnold: larep102@legis.la.gov

Rep. Walt Leger: wleger@legis.la.gov

Sen. J.P. Morrell: jpmorrell@legis.la.gov

Sen. Neil Riser: nriser@legis.la.gov

Sen. Mike Walsworth: mwalsworth@legis.la.gov

 

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He is on the cover of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s ghost-written book Leadership and Crisis. In case you don’t remember that very forgettable book, it’s the one purportedly written by Jindal but in reality, hastily slapped together by Hoover Institute flak Peter Schweizer.

You’ve seen him standing solemnly (never smiling) in the background at virtually each of those rare Jindal press conferences as well as during the governor’s staccato briefings whenever he pretended to exhibit leadership, usually during a hurricane or oil spill.

One of those events may have even been when the governor pitched his ill-fated state pension reform legislation a couple of years ago that, had it succeeded, would have slashed retirement income for thousands of state employees—by as much as 85 percent for some.

But the next time you see Louisiana State Police Commander Mike Edmonson, you may see a trace of a smile crack that grim veneer.

That’s because a special amendment to an obscure Senate bill, passed on the last day of the recent legislative session, will put an additional $30,000 per year in Edmonson’s pocket upon retirement.

Talk about irony.

SB 294, signed into law by Jindal as Act 859, was authored by Sen. Jean-Paul J. Morrell (D-New Orleans) and appeared to deal with procedures for formal, written complaints made against police officers.

There was nothing in the wording of the original bill that would attract undue attention.

Until, that is, the bill turned up in Conference Committee at the end of the session so that an agreement between the different versions adopted in the House and Senate could be worked out. At least that was the way it appeared.

Conference Committee members included Sens. Morrell, Neil Riser (R-Columbia) and Mike Walsworth (R-West Monroe), and Rep. Jeff Arnold (D-New Orleans), Walt Leger, III (D-New Orleans) and Bryan Adams (R-Gretna).

That’s when Amendment No. 4 popped up—for which Edmonson should be eternally grateful:

http://www.legis.la.gov/legis/ViewDocument.aspx?d=911551&n=Conference

Basically, in layman’s language, the amendment simply means that Edmonson may revoke his “irrevocable” decision to enter DROP, thus allowing his retirement to be calculated on his higher salary and at the same time allow him to add years of service and longevity pay.

The end result will be an increase in his annual retirement benefit of about $30,000—at the expense of the Louisiana State Police Retirement System and Louisiana taxpayers.

The higher benefit will be paid each month over his lifetime and to any beneficiary that he may name.

Edmonson makes $134,000 per year and has some 34 years of service with the Department of Public Safety.

The Actuarial Services Department of the Office of the Legislative Auditor calculated in its fiscal notes that the amendment would cost the state an additional $300,000 as a result of the increased retirement benefits.

In the Senate, only Karen Carter Peterson (D-New Orleans) voted against the bill while Sen. Jody Amedee (R-Gonzales) did not vote.

Over on the House side, there were a few more dissenting votes: Reps. Stuart Bishop (R-Lafayette), Raymond Garofalo, Jr. (R-Chalmette), Brett Geymann (R-Lake Charles), Hunter Greene (R-Baton Rouge), John Guinn (R-Jennings), Dalton Honoré (D-Baton Rouge), Katrina Jackson (D-Monroe), Barbara Norton (D-Shreveport), Kevin Pearson (R-Slidell), Eric Ponti (R-Baton Rouge), Jerome Richard (I-Thibodaux), Joel Robideaux (R-Lafayette), John Schroder (R-Covington), and Jeff Thompson (R-Bossier City).

The remaining 127 (37 senators and 90 representatives) can probably be forgiven for voting in favor of what, on the surface, appeared to be a completely routine bill, particularly if they did not read Conference Committee amendments carefully—and with the session grinding down to its final hours, there was the usual mad scramble to wrap up all the loose ends.

Here’s what the bill looked like when originally submitted by Morrell and before the Conference Committee members slipped in the special favor for Edmonson:

http://www.legis.la.gov/legis/ViewDocument.aspx?d=878045&n=SB294 Original

But while the sneaky manner in which this matter was rammed through at the 11th hour is bad enough, it is especially so given the fact that numerous bills have been brought before the House and Senate retirement committees in the past few years which would have allowed a revocation of a DROP decision and without exception, each request has been rejected.

“This was done in Conference Committee and was done on an obscure bill with obscure references to old acts in hopes that the conferees would never have to answer any questions about why this was done,” said one observer.

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