Heads up, public education supporters: Legislators in the House of Representatives voted against you in overwhelming fashion today. Teachers, they don’t want you to serve in the Legislature and draw your hard-earned retirement.
This afternoon, the House Appropriations Committee voted down two bills that would have clarified the right of retired educators and other PERS retirees to serve in the Legislature and draw their retirement.
To be clear, there is a recent Attorney General ruling that retirees have every right to draw their retirement while serving in the Legislature, just as numerous retirees currently draw their retirement and serve in county and city elected positions or are reemployed by state agencies. Read more background here.
As one state employee said to me, “This (retired educators serving in the Legislature) is a game-changer for the Mississippi Legislature. Philip Gunn knows it, and it scares him to death.”
Many retirees believe that the Legislature’s real goal is to limit the number of people who can challenge them in an election. It’s working pretty well for them so far. In the 2019 Election, 77 of the 174 legislative seats were uncontested.
Gunn has said repeatedly that, if the three newly elected retirees want to serve in the Legislature and draw their retirement, they should introduce a bill to amend state law to more specifically state that it is allowed. (NOTE: The law currently says retirees may be reemployed part-time by the state while drawing their retirement.) So, they drafted two bills to do just that. Here’s what happened…
A House Appropriations Committee meeting was called with just 30 minutes notice and the retirees’ bills were brought up for a vote. The newly elected retirees were not notified, and the bills had not been posted online. The leadership held a roll-call vote – a highly unusual move (in committee virtually all votes are voice votes). The roll-call vote has fueled speculation that Gunn pressured House members to vote against the bills and wanted to know who had voted against him. Few did. Those bills are dead.
It appears that legal action will be required to protect your right to have retired educators and other PERS retirees represent you in the Legislature. You can help by making a donation – large or small – to help with those expenses – and to send a message! Some have asked how to donate anonymously. On the Go Fund Me donation page, just below the space to enter your name, there is a box next to the statement, “Hide name and comment from everyone but the organizer.” If you check that box, your donation will be listed as “Anonymous.”
Friends, what is happening in the House is a travesty. With your help, we can protect retirees’ right to serve and draw their hard-earned retirement pensions. After all, together, we’ve got this!