From the Arkansas Statehouse...

Mayors’ pension bill raises questions.

In Retirement on 23 March 2009 at 12:27 pm

A bill to change provisions of certain mayors’ pension plans passed through the Joint Retirement Committee today, but not before several questioners probed whether the measure will have an unwanted impact on officials’ retirement.

The bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Lindsley Smith, would apply to mayors, city clerks and clerk-treasurers in cities with over 2,500 people. Currently cities are required by state law to pay these employees half their final salaries for the duration of their lives once they reach sixty if they served in their public role for over ten years. Rep. Smith’s bill would allow cities to decide whether that is appropriate compensation.

Rep. Smith said current law provides municipalities with an unfunded mandate. She said cities rather than the state should decide how to fund pensions for long-term mayors and clerks.

State law leaves it up to cities to decide whether to participate in the state pension plan.

Several speakers were skeptical about Rep. Smith’s bill. Camden mayor Chris Claybaker said it might allow a city board in a spat with its mayor to revoke his retirement. “I think [the bill] is a way of putting a mayor’s or city clerk’s pension into a political situation,” Claybaker said.

Sen. Jim Jeffress questioned whether the measure is specific to Fayetteville, Rep. Smith’s home city. She replied that it isn’t, though she added that the question of whether a mayor should receive the state-mandated pension was an issue during Fayetteville’s last mayoral race.

Sen. Jeffress was an audible no vote, which suggests that the bill may garner debate if it reaches the Senate floor.

UPDATE 24 MARCH: It didn’t even get that far. The bill met defeat on the House floor today by a vote of 33-45.

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