from the office of State Senator Judith Zaffirini

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Nick Almanza
(512) 463-0121
January 23, 2007

Sen. Zaffirini Files Bill Supporting Laredo's Municipal Workers

AUSTIN -- Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, filed legislation on Wednesday (Jan. 17) to protect Texas Municipal Retirement System (TMRS) benefits for municipal retirees who return to work for municipalities that, due to administrative and organizational circumstances, rehire retirees of working age. Senate Bill 236 by Zaffirini will allow retirees enrolled in TMRS who become employees of the same municipality to re-enter the system without suspending their monthly benefit.

"This bill will help many Laredo municipal employees receive essential retirement benefits owed properly to them for years of dedicated service," Senator Zaffirini said. "When the City of Laredo privatized its water utility systems in 2002 and resumed operation in 2005, many employees who transitioned from the city and then back were unable to receive their pension benefits and back pay. This bill will provide clear definition for reemploying municipalities and protect workers' TMRS service benefits regardless of organizational transitions."

SB 236 will define clearly a "reemploying municipality" as one with a municipally controlled service that is privatized and transitioned eventually to municipal control. Current law allows retirees to return to work for any city other than the reemploying municipality while continuing to receive the monthly retirement benefits from TMRS. Also under current law, workers who return to work for a reemploying municipality must suspend the monthly benefit until such time as the retiree again terminates employment with the municipality.

SB 236 also provides that a person who retires with a TMRS service benefit and becomes an employee of the reemploying municipality within one calendar month of retirement is not considered retired. TMRS will reinstate the worker's membership in the system and allow for receipt of a monthly retirement benefit if the worker chooses to work for another municipality or becomes an employee of the same municipality at least one month after retirement.

"This bill closes a negative loophole in our state retirement system that, unfortunately, many municipal workers fall through," Senator Zaffirini said. "Ensuring that workers continue to receive retirement benefits they earned and that they don't lose them because of employment reorganization is a no-brainer. I look forward to passing this bill and championing the rights of workers in Senate District 21 and throughout Texas."

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