By CAROLINE BECK and MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – A “slimmed down” teacher retirement modification bill cleared a Senate committee on Wednesday.
House Bill 93 as amended would let newer teachers in the state rollover each year their sick leave and get paid for unused days when they retire. Current Tier II teachers lose unused days each year. Senate Finance and Taxation Committee chairman Sen. Arthur Orr said the current law almost creates an incentive for teachers to take sick days when they don’t need to, forcing school systems to use substitute teachers.
Sponsor Rep. Alan Baker, R-Brewton, said his goal was to erase some of the “disparity” between Tier I and Tier II benefit recipients. As approved in the committee, Baker’s bill is much less than what he’s proposed in previous sessions to make Tier II more generous. As originally written this year and approved in the House, Baker’s bill would have let Tier II teachers collect retirement after 30 year instead of at age 62 as is now law. That portion was struck.
Orr, R-Decatur, said he wants to take a broader look at retirement benefits across state government. The 2022 education budget that Orr worked through the Senate last month includes the creation of a compensation commission to make sure state employees’ and educators’ total compensation, including retirement, health benefits and salary is competitive with other southeast states.
“We’ve got to look at the whole package,” Orr said.
Tier II retirement benefits went into effect for new teachers in 2013 in an effort to save the state money on retirement costs. Teachers who were already in the classroom at that time got to stay in the more generous Tier I.
Baker’s bill also increases teachers’ contributions to their retirement from 6% to 6.75%.
Co-sponsors on the bill include Reps. David Wheeler, R-Vestavia Hills, Proncey Robertson, R- Mt. Hope, Terri Collins, R-Decatur, and Parker Moore, R-Decatur.
One-time bonus for retired teachers
Meanwhile, a bill that would give a one-time lump sum payment to retired teachers or beneficiaries passed the Senate education budget committee on Wednesday.
Senate Bill 172 from Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, passed the committee with no opposition. It would offer retired teachers or their beneficiaries a lump sum payment calculated at $2 for every month of service of the teacher, or $300, whichever is greater.
As originally filed, the bill called for the bonus to be calculated at $3 for every month of service. Singleton amended the amount to $2 so the payment structure was aligned with a bill from Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, that gives a one-time bonus for former state employees in the Employee Retirement System. That bill has already passed out of a Senate committee.
Committee chairman Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, said he wanted to make sure Singleton’s bill was passed at the same time as Marsh’s so all retirees are paid in the same time frame.
“I think state employees and educators need to be in sync when it comes to timing,” Orr said in committee.
Singleton’s bill would provide the one-time bonus to teachers who have retired prior to June 1, 2021. Beneficiaries of deceased retirees who receive monthly allowances from the Teacher’s Retirement System will also receive a lump-sum payment of $300.
The payments will be given to retirees in December 2021, the bill states.
The bill now moves to the Senate.