Lawmakers consider plan to let them "double dip" pension benefits

Lawmakers are considering a plan to let them double dip legislative pension benefits.

AB360 was introduced by Assemblyman John Carpenter, R-Elko, and would let lawmakers who are at least 60 years old and have served at least 10 years begin to draw retirement while they continue to serve.

Right now, that would include seven members of the Senate and four Assembly members. At least three more would qualify next year.

"When you serve that many years, getting a little retirement is not that far out of line," Carpenter told the Assembly Government Affairs Committee Wednesday.

Lawmakers now contribute 15 percent of their $7,800 salary for the session to their retirement plan, which pays lawmakers $25 a month for each year of service. They have to have at least 10 years total service to qualify for the benefit.

Carpenter, 73, an Assemblyman since 1987, would qualify for $425 a month this year. Also qualifying for different amounts of pension money would be Senators Bob Coffin, Joe Neal, Ann O'Connell, Bill Raggio, Ray Rawson, Ray Shafer and Dean Rhoads. In the Assembly, Bernie Anderson, Vonne Chowning and John Marvel would qualify as well as Carpenter.

"I believe this will help the people to serve a little longer," Carpenter said.

Assemblyman Tom Collins, D-Las Vegas, said some other states already allow lawmakers to draw their pension and serve in the Legislature.

Carpenter's bill would freeze the size of the pension check when the legislator began to draw the monthly check even though he or she continued to accrue years of service. Then, when they retired, the value of the additional years would be added to the pension.

Assemblyman Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, suggested an amendment to let lawmakers increase their pension benefit by $25 every year to recognize the added service time even while drawing the pension money.

The bill is similar to SB557 of the 2001 Legislature, which allows public employees to retire then be hired back and receive both their pension and pay check if they are in what is designated as a critical position.

The law was designed to help school districts retain hard-to-find personnel such as special education, math and science teachers and counselors. Clark and Washoe counties have used the law to retire and rehire a number of experienced teachers.

But it drew controversy at the time because two of the first to take advantage were Public Safety Director Dick Kirkland and his chief deputy Dave Kieckbusch. After that, Gov. Kenny Guinn declined to approve any other positions as "critical."


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