As soon as the ink was dry on a bill he recently introduced, State Representative Rex Damschroder had to explain it would apply to all public employees, including those elected to office.
Rep. Damschroder (R –Fremont) said he filed HB 388 to end the practice known as “double dipping” in which public employees are permitted to receive their pension benefits while continuing to work in a public sector position.
The press release Damschroder issued to announce the bill’s introduction specifically states it would apply to “all government workers, including elected officials” and that they would be denied their pensions while working under the “retire-rehire” format.
However, in the first section of the bill, public employee is defined as:
“Any person holding an office, not elective, under the state or any county, township, municipal corporation, park district …” The bill continues to spell out other public entities, including authorities, boards, councils, universities, commissions “created by action of the general assembly or by the legislative authority of any units of local government named…”
If there is any doubt about a position being public or not, the public employees retirement board will determine their status and its decision will be final, the bill says
The words “not elective” caught the attention of some, including bloggers, who were quick to opine office holders should be held to the same standards.
Last week, Damschroder issued a statement saying the bill covers elected officials too.
“Simply put, HB 388 does not exempt elected officials,” it says. “Under current Ohio law, a public employee, by definition, does not include elected officials because individuals elected to public office are given the option of whether they wish to join PERS. If an elected official chose not to be under PERS, they would never receive retirement benefits from the state in the first place. In the vast majority of cases, an elected official would opt to join the retirement system.
“Once that elected official is under PERS, the provisions of HB 388 would apply to them just like they would any other state worker. In fact, as I worked to draft HB 388 over the last several months, I was specific that the bill contain zero exemptions…”
He explains further, the bill would prevent future state workers from engaging in double dipping.
“It is not my intent to retroactively punish state workers who are following current law,” the statement says, adding the bill would improve the “sustainability of our public retirement system by ending the practice of double dipping in the future.”