I had several brief meetings on legislation I’m working prior to the weekly Republican Caucus meeting at noon. I attended a Government Affairs meeting at 1 PM to present SB199, a Bill that will take into account the latest Census data when classifying a city of 12,000 or more inhabitants for purposes of replacing a Mayor who cannot complete their term due to an unforeseen circumstances such as election to another office, illness, etc.
AT-PRO (Alabama Teachers Planned Retirement Option)
The Senate went into session at 2 PM at which time I introduced at AT-PRO. Just last week, the Governor signed into law the legislation to close DROP, the Deferred Retirement Option Program. As readers of this blog know, I had little compassion for those in the program who are making six figure salaries. But I have great compassion for those classroom teachers who no longer have a program such as this to participate in. In its original intent, the DROP program was a good program but the program was not sustainable in its current form (more information on DROP and why I voted to close the program is at Day 7 below).
A floor amendment was added to the DROP legislation from the House. This amendment created "Keeping Alabama's Best" Joint Interim Legislative Committee on Teacher and Public Employee Retention. I envision a potential recommendation from this committee to create an improved deferred retirement program. And so, today, I offered legislation for a new, much improved program – a program that will build upon the original intent of the DROP program. I call this program AT-PRO or Alabama Teacher Planned Retirement Option.
In its infant stages, the program incorporates several good elements of the original DROP plan - 25 years employment and 55 years of age to participate, limited to a maximum of 3 – 5 years of participation thereafter. However, the program also begins to address the issues that caused the DROP program to meet its demise. AT-PRO requires participants to apply for the program at the local system level, participants must retire after completing the program, preventing employees from returning to state employment after retirement, sets interest rates to market conditions and, sets a salary cap for participants of no more than $75K.
My intent in offering this program via legislation today is to keep legislators focused on the commitment made in the house amendment to find ways to keep Alabama’s Best. This is a framework from which to build on. In fact, during the DROP debate, I heard of, but never saw, a proposal to make DROP revenue neutral. I encourage anyone (Republican, Democrat…Teachers or AEA members) to bring this forth to be added to the Bill.
Of note, my Democrat counterparts are already calling AT-PRO a “sham” (read the article here), which is a shame because teachers across our state deserve better. You can read the AT-PRO Bill, SB303 here.
Forever Wild – I wrote an Opinion/Editorial on the Forever Wild Program (SB140). The article was submitted to several local papers; who knows if they’ll print it but for readers of the blog – here it is.
Legislative CPI Pay Increase – Of all things…the controversial legislative pay increase included an automatic raise tied to the Consumer Price Index. This year that came to almost $800 a year. I declined the increase in a letter to the Secretary of the Senate.
Busy day of Committee Meetings tomorrow - five meetings in all. I'm spending tonight reading the bills and watching 'Bama play at the NIT...Roll Tide.