Gov. Jindal favors repeal of Edmonson benefit law

Gov. Bobby Jindal wants the Legislature to repeal a state law he signed that provides State Police Col. Mike Edmonson with enhanced retirement benefits.

Jindal’s press secretary on Tuesday released a statement outlining Jindal’s position.

“We did not know the legislation affected only two people. The Legislature shouldn’t have handled this issue this way. We think they (legislators) should fix it next session,” Mike Reed, Jindal’s press secretary, said.

Fixing it, Reed said, means “undo it.”

The enhancement — valued at $300,000 for Edmonson and another trooper — was approved by legislators June 2 in the waning minutes of the legislative session without mention of its impact. Jindal signed the bill into law on June 23.

Last week, legal advisers to the Louisiana State Police Retirement System concluded that the law is unconstitutional because, among other reasons, the amendment was tacked on to a bill that had nothing to do with retirement benefits. Robert Klausner, of Plantation, Florida, a national pension system expert, and Denise Akers, a Baton Rouge lawyer who represents the retirement system, recommended that the agency not pay the benefits.

The lawyers also found that the law violates the state constitution because proper notice was not given to the public about the legislation that would change retirements and pensions.

State Sen. Neil Riser, R-Columbia, has said he directed legislative staff to add the provision to a conference committee report on an unrelated measure. The law went into effect on July 1.

Edmonson has said he has no intention of taking advantage of the benefits granted under the new law and would ask legislators in the next session to repeal or fix it. He did not like the “last minute” manner in which the change occurred and the lack of transparency involved. “I was not comfortable with the process,” he said.

Exactly how much Edmonson and Master Trooper Louis Boquet would stand to benefit has not been divulged by the State Police retirement system. A legislative actuary analysis puts costs to the system’s special experience account at $300,000.

The law deals with their decision years ago to participate in the old Deferred Retirement Option Plan, called DROP.

Under the old rules, a trooper had to make a decision whether to enter DROP when he or she reached 25 years of service or 50 years of age. DROP allowed troopers to continue to work even though they were eligible for retirement.

The downside was the troopers didn’t get full credit in their pension checks if they started receiving higher salaries after entering DROP. Troopers did not have to enter DROP, but once they did, the decision was irrevocable.

Edmonson took DROP as a captain. As a result of the law change, Edmonson would be able to receive lifelong pension payments based on the calculation of his higher colonel’s pay of $135,000 a year. That’s more than he would have received at captain’s pay, where it was frozen because of his DROP decision.

Follow Marsha Shuler on Twitter, @MarshaShulerCNB. For more coverage of the State Capitol, follow Louisiana Politics at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog/.