By ROB MORITZ

Arkansas News Bureau

LITTLE ROCK — Legislation filed Tuesday for the legislative session that convenes in January seeks to end the practice by which some public officials draw retirement benefits and a paycheck at the same time. 

House Bill 1018 by Rep. Allen Kerr, R-Little Rock, would define what termination of employment means in an attempt to curb so-called double-dipping.

Placing a definition of termination in the state code is needed "so there is no question of the fact that you actually have to leave your job permanently," said Kerr, who first brought the issue to light last year.

"There’s enough blame to go around for everybody," he said. "What I’d like to do is for everybody to just learn from the mistakes that were made and go forward and try to fix what is broken."

Under the practice, elected officials up for re-election would retire by temporarily taking themselves off the payroll when they learned they would not be opposed for re-election. They would return to their jobs when re-elected, allowing them to continue receiving retirement benefits along with their salary.

An investigation by the Arkansas Public Employees Retirement system revealed that six of 250 county officials questioned were double-dipping. Those six had their retirement benefits cut off earlier this year.

Kerr also filed HB 1019, which would eliminate the rule that allows county officials to earn two years of retirement for every year of service up to 10 years.

Kerr said elected officials should not have a benefit not offered to regular state employees, though his bill would not affect those officials currently receiving the benefit. 

"I still have a hard time understanding why they thought elected officials deserved different retirement benefits than regular state employees," he said.

Eliminating the benefit for the future would save the state about $3.7 million annually, he said.