Bill to provide pensions for some Earl employees fails

A state House committee on Wednesday night rejected an effort to create a special pension eligibility for state employees who lose their jobs because of LSU hospital privatization.

The House Retirement Committee sidelined House Bill 35 after state employee and teachers retirement officials opposed the change because it would add to the long-term liabilities of the two pension systems.

Three committee members voted for it while six voted against.

HB35 sponsored by state Rep. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, would have provided for retirement eligibility at 25 years of service, regardless of age and without an actuarial reduction for certain members of the Louisiana State Employees Retirement System and the Teachers’ Retirement System of Louisiana.

Barrow said there were several employees at Earl K. Long Medical Center in Baton Rouge who were within five years of reaching full retirement when the hospital closed and they lost their state jobs.

“It’s totally unfair,” said Barrow. “It was not of their own choice.”

Retirement committee chairman state Rep. Kevin Pearson, R-Slidell, said there needs to be some funding source to cover the added cost that Barrow’s legislation would create for the pension systems. Otherwise, Pearson said legislators would not be living up to their fiduciary responsibility to create no further debts for the systems.