/Some newly elected legislators question whether they can serve if they can’t draw retirement

Some newly elected legislators question whether they can serve if they can’t draw retirement

Based on an opinion from the office of Attorney General, the PERS Board voted to repeal a regulation which prohibited retirees drawing their retirement while they were serving in the Legislature. The repeal of the regulation that prohibited retirees from drawing their retirement while serving in the Legislature was subject to approval by Internal Revenue Service. According to the PERS website, the IRS approval has not been granted with the opening session of the legislative session, Jan. 7. This date is rapidly approaching. The IRS approval could not be granted, and the lawmakers elected in November will have to resign. Or they may lose their state retirement. This is significantly more than what a legislator makes. Dale Goodin, a former Perry County School District vocational technical education director, said that there will be people who can’t afford it. He retired in October after 29-years as a public educator. Goodin, who beat incumbent Roun McNeal to represent portions of Perry, Greene, and George counties in District 105, wouldn’t say what he would do but admitted that it would be difficult for him to retire from his state retirement. Billy Andrews, who was a member of the House from the late 70s to the early 80s and served as a county judge and youth court judge for Lamar County, is also in the same boat. He was elected to the vacant District87 seat, which includes parts of Forrest and Lamar counties. He said, “It’s hard to know exactly what I’m going to do.” It is still a work-in-progress. It is possible that it will be resolved and I won’t have to do any other than continue to serve as my legislative position.” PERS stated that at least seven new members could be affected in some way. There are also incumbent members who have been serving their pensions and sacrificed theirs. Ray Higgins, the Executive Director of PERS, has posted a statement on the website, stating that the IRS has not yet responded to whether the proposed regulation will have an adverse effect on the retirement system’s exempt status from tax, potentially causing harm to the system and its members. Higgins stated that he believes the IRS might not support the regulation. We will likely have to withdraw our regulation if we don’t receive affirmation from the IRS. This would mean that the pensions of the retired workers would be lost while they are serving in the Legislature. Others argue that retired public employees can serve in other states and their system is not penalized by IRS. They claim they don’t understand why Mississippi is so different. They claim they don’t understand why Mississippi is so different. For example, Florida law states that any retired state employee can serve in the Legislature as any other citizen. Goodin pointed out that Mississippi’s public employee retirees are eligible to serve on local boards of supervisors or as members of city councils. He said, “We are not asking for any particular favor.” “We want to be treated as local politicians.” This issue is important because the late-2018 announcement by the Office of Attorney General Jim Hood that a PERS Board regulation that states retirees cannot serve in the Legislature or draw their retirement checks was in conflict with state law, has brought the matter to the forefront. Many pro-education groups were excited by the ruling, as it raised the possibility that retired educators might run for the Legislature. In the opinion of the attorney general, it was argued that by preventing state employees retiring from the Legislature while drawing their retirement benefits, this violated a right that all citizens have. The retirement system is a common benefit for most employees of state and local government, as well as university and public K-12 employees. They contribute 9 percent of their salaries to retirement benefits. PERS data shows that the average benefit for more than 100,000 beneficiaries is more than $23,100 per year. According to the AG opinion, there are more than 300,000. These people either receive benefits or have paid into the system.