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Senate passes double dippers bill -- finally

A bill to stop public employees from collecting a paycheck and a pension from the same agency was passed by the Senate 27-11.

The bill, which had been killed once and revived by the Senate, attempts to close a loophole created in 2001, when lawmakers amended the state retirement law to allow public officials to retire and return to work in 30 days, collecting both a pension and a salary.

The "double dippers'' loophole has since been used by more than 225 elected officials and 9,000 state employees. The bill would limit the ability to take advantage of that loophole by requiring retirees to wait six months before returning to work.

‘This is a loophole that was created sadly a few years ago and many of us voted on. all we're tryign to do is fix it," said Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, who sponsored the measure.

The bill originally would have banned all retirees from returning to a state job within the state retirement system. Several senators worried the broad ban could hurt rank and file employees -- such as teachers and retired judges -- who are used as substitute teachers or part-time judges.

The fix may punish the wealthy wage-earners but it has a devastating impact on lower wage earners, said Sen. Arthenia Joyner, a Tampa Democrat.

"it's like being between a rock and a hard place,'' she said. "I want to stop the abuses but I don't want to hurt the people at the bottom of the barrel.''

Fasano argued that anyone who retires from the Florida Retirement System doesn't "leave as paupers, even thos rank and file, they leave with hundreds of thousands of dollars,'' he said. "It's not like they're leaving with no money in their pocket. This is a lot of money they're getting.''

It is the second year Fasano has worked on the measure and, with it arriving on the final hours of the final day, it may be in trouble.

The ban would not affect current double dippers but apply only to public employees who retire after July 1, 2010 and the job could not remain vacant for the six months.

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