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No delay needed for pension removal amendment

Not getting much attention as more far-reaching matters traverse the legislative course in this special session of the Louisiana Legislature is SB 17, which would enable the Legislature constitutionally to strip pension benefits from corrupt public servants. The main contention comes over how to deal impact on spouses and dependents and whether to act on it now.

The latter question popped up when it appeared the language of the special session call did not appear to allow for the enabling legislation to put this into practice to be discussed in the session. Some have argued the enabling legislation ought to be dealt with in tandem with the constitutional amendment, at least bringing it to the floor of either chamber (versions are in both) and taking their chances with a ruling from the presiding officer in terms of germaneness (which, if past declarations reveal anything, are fairly loosely-constructed). That option seems to have been rejected.

This affects the former consideration, since other arguments against SB 17 (and similar bills) are that, given the complexity of the issue, before voters who would have to approve the amendment get their chance on the item at the voting booth, they should have full information about the kind of law that would get passed relative to the entire question.

While most states already have laws mandating forfeiture of the state portion of a pension that also impacts the miscreants’ families, each state’s laws are different and measures have to be carefully designed tailored to each. For example, being that Louisiana is a community property state and exempts state employees from paying into Social Security unlike most states means ramifications of the change must be studied thoroughly.

Given the short term of the session, it might have been a good idea to leave the enabling legislation to the regular session in any event for a thorough vetting. Still, there’s no reason why a proposed constitutional amendment should not be approved now by the Legislature, especially since a vote on the amendment would not occur until this fall, after the Legislature has a chance to act on the enabling legislation during the regular session.

There are the usual suspect naysayers about the subject of yanking a pension from a felonious government employee with money vested in one of 13 state retirement systems, such as teachers’ unions who couldn’t care less about the children or taxpayers as long as they can transfer as much money as possible from the public to teachers. But the fact is, corrupt activities in government are carefully plotted and any measure to deter them that sticks in the minds of potential felons like loss of their government benefits will reduce incidence of this behavior and sustains the public good. SB 17 needs to come before the voters.

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