Legislative Update: Gunn Pressuring Recently Elected Retirees to Step Down
Friday, January 17, 2020
Posted by: Kelly Riley
Senate Education Holds First Meeting: As shared previously, Senator Dennis DeBar of Leakesville will serve as chairman of the Senate Education Committee, while Senator David Blount of Jackson will serve as vice-chairman. We look forward to working with Chairman DeBar and Vice-chairman Blount, as they both have strong records of supporting public education, including voting to kill HB 957 in 2018 that would have rewritten the MAEP funding formula. Senate Education held its organizational meeting yesterday. In addition to adopting committee rules, the committee elected Senator Boyd to serve as secretary.
Senate Introduces Teacher Pay Raise Bill: As shared in a previous post, the first bill was filed in the Mississippi State Senate this past Tuesday and it is a teacher pay raise bill. SB 2001 increases the starting pay for new teachers (Years 1-3) by $1,110 to $37,000. The bill provides a $1,000 increase via the salary schedule for all other teachers and increases the minimum salary of assistant teachers from $14,000 to $15,000. The bill was introduced by Senate Education Chairman DeBar and Vice-chairman Blount with the support of Lt. Governor Hosemann. It is encouraging to see a teacher pay raise bill introduced before all other bills in the Senate. It is also encouraging to see a pay raise bill introduced by the leadership during the first year of a four-year term, rather than during the last year of a term when state leaders are facing reelection. SB 2001 is a starting point for legislative discussions. It may be amended throughout the legislative process. It has been referred to Senate Education and Senate Appropriations.
Gunn Pressuring Recently Elected Retirees to Step Down: Veteran capitol reporter Bobby Harrison broke a story yesterday that House Speaker Philip Gunn has told four recently elected representatives - all four of whom are state retirees, as well as Republicans (i.e., same political party as Gunn) - that they must resign from the legislature or give up their retirement. Click here to read Harrison’s story. The four representatives are:
- Rep. Billy Andrews of Purvis, a former legislator, county judge, and youth court judge
- Rep. Ramona Blackledge of Laurel, a retired county tax assessor/collector
- Rep. Jerry Darnell of Hernando, a retired educator
- Rep. Dale Goodin of Richton, a retired educator
The PERS Board of Trustees recently revised Regulation 34, Reemployment after Retirement. The revised regulation allows legislators to draw their retirement if they only draw a portion of their legislative pay. The House leadership will not agree to pay the four a smaller percentage of their legislative pay, as Gunn considers it double dipping for them to receive their legislative pay and their retirement. Although Gunn announced earlier this week that he would not be announcing House committee assignments before next Friday due to representatives not turning their committee preferences in until the deadline for doing so, word at the capitol is that he is postponing the committee assignments until these four representatives step down.
Speaker Gunn should not usurp the votes of these representatives’ constituents who elected them to serve in the state legislature. Doing so undermines the basic tenets of our democracy. The PERS Board of Trustees specifically revised Regulation 34 in order to allow retirees to serve in the legislature. Speaker Gunn’s actions certainly create the appearance that he does not want retired state employees – including retired educators – to serve in the legislature.
If you would like to share your thoughts with Speaker Gunn, you may reach his capitol office at 601-359-3300.