Gov. Bobby Jindal’s veto of a retirement bill has effectively killed three other bills he previously signed into law.
The three House bills allowed retired teachers to return to part-time work and continue pension benefits.
Now that cannot happen.
Each bill had a condition attached to it under which the legislation could not become effective unless Jindal signed another bill — Senate Bill 6 — by Senate Retirement Committee Chairman Butch Gautreaux, D-Morgan City.
SB6 was aimed at protecting elementary and secondary education members from increased retirement costs in the event higher education employees left the Teachers Retirement System of Louisiana.
The legislation would have required agencies, such as LSU, to cover the financial cost to the system if they pulled employees out of it.
Jindal vetoed Gautreaux’s bill Friday, making the three House bills he previously signed into law moot.
“It does send a mixed signal,” said state Rep. Page Cortez, R-Lafayette, a sponsor of one of the House bills.
Cortez said he doesn’t understand why Jindal signed the bills if he knew he was going to veto SB6.
“For him to sign them and give us false hope and then to veto Butch Gautreaux’s bill is disappointing,” said state Rep. Gary Smith, D-Norco, sponsor of another measure.
“I guess the governor was playing a little politics signing those bills, so he could say he was in favor of them,” Smith said.
Jindal did not respond to two interview requests Tuesday.
Jindal’s deputy chief of staff, Kristy Nichols, said the governor signed the three retired teachers bills because they “had merit.”
Nichols blamed the failure of the bills on Gautreaux “holding the bills hostage” on SB6.
Jindal’s veto message said the bill would have placed a roadblock on key education reforms involving charter schools, the Recovery School District and privatization efforts.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry and LSU had opposed the bill.
Earlier in the day, Gautreaux predicted Jindal’s response.
“He just wants to lay blame on me,” Gautreaux said. “He knew full well that his signing of SB6 was a contingency on all three bills.”
Gautreaux said the lawmakers involved agreed with tying the measures together because his legislation helped the Teachers Retirement System and its members.
The authors of all three bills said Tuesday they favored Gautreaux’s bill.
Gautreaux said his bill was not directed at fallout from education reform initiatives, but rather a potential costly problem with higher education pullouts.
All three House bills would have allowed retired teachers to return to work on a limited basis and get a pension check as well as a payroll check.
In each situation the retired teacher’s earnings could not exceed 25 percent of his or her pension check.
Otherwise, the pension check would be reduced by the excess amount.
Cortez’s House Bill 417 affected retired teachers who may return as substitute teachers in grades K-12.
Smith’s HB369 affected retired teachers re-employed in an adult education or literacy program administered by a K-12 school.
House Bill 150 by state Rep. Hollis Downs, R-Ruston, dealt with those who may return as adjunct professors engaged in the instruction of students or research on college campuses.
The SB6 link was added in separate conference committees formed to work out differences between the House and Senate versions of bills.
“We knew we were taking a risk,” Downs said.
Downs and Cortez had helped Gautreaux pass SB6 through the House Retirement Committee and on the House floor and onto final legislative passage.
Smith also supported the measure.
“It’s very short-sighted to veto it,” Downs said. “It was very good legislation and very much needed for the financial solvency of the (teachers) retirement system.”
“Butch’s bill was the right thing to do in trying to protect the system,” Smith added.
LSU was contemplating getting out of the state teachers retirement system, Downs said.
“If they did, they did not want to be accountable for the pro-rata share of the unfunded accrued liability.
“That’s going to add to the (unfunded accrued liability) that the rest of the people pay because these people are leaving and that’s not right,” Downs said.
Unfunded accrued liability is the money the system is short of to pay benefits of its members if it were to shut down today.
Gautreaux’s bill would have required the pro-rata share of unfunded accrued liability of the departing employees to be paid.
The other issue involved take-over charter schools leaving the public system and taking employees with them, he said.
In his veto message, Jindal wrote that Gautreaux’s bill “unnecessarily ties the payment of state retirement debt to much-needed reforms such as greater autonomy for public schools through charter conversions and better fiscal management through contracting and outsourcing.”