Nebraska lawmakers began to compromise on a retirement bill this week that would affect public school teachers.LB 415, introduced by Sen. Mark Kolterman of Seward, is intended to reduce the amount of "double dipping" for certain state employees.
These "double dippers" are people who receive retirement benefits and begin working again, with new benefits in the same program.
The debate focused on retired teachers who return to teach as volunteers or as substitutes.
The current policy is that teachers can return after retirement as substitutes or volunteers before a 180-day required separation expires.
This bill would eliminate that, and require them to wait for 180 days without exemptions.
The bill also proposes a minimum age of 60, with a Rule of 85, for a teacher to retire. The rule means a person may retire with full benefits if their age plus years of school service add to at least 85 (an amendment reduced the original proposal of 90).
The change would not affect those who are currently retired at the minimum age of 55.
Kolterman said the changes would help stop double dipping and encourage people to work until they are "truly ready" to retire.
He also said the rule change would save $100 million in school expenses over the next 30 years.
But many senators, such as Sen. Steve Erdman of Bayard, opposed the idea of eliminating substitute teacher exemptions, saying Nebraska already has a shortage of substitute teachers.
"I see no reason why we should have a waiting period for a teacher to become a substitute," Erdman said. "That doesn't make any sense."
Erdman said those teachers are no longer an employee of the school; they are more like a contract laborer who fills a need for Nebraska schools.
In response, Kolterman said the bill is a money saving method that won't affect the substitute pool very much. He said most teachers retire at the end of the school year, so after summer is over, they only have to wait another 90 days.
Sen. Lynne Walz of Fremont proposed an amendment that would allow teachers to return within the 180-day waiting period but only on "an intermittent basis not to exceed 45 days” in one stretch.
Debate on Walz’s compromise ceased Wednesday and was brought up again on Friday morning.
Senators again cited the state's lack of substitute teachers.
Sen. Carol Blood of Bellevue read a letter from a teacher in her district saying that some teachers go to work sick because they know there won't be a substitute.
The debate ended when Sen. Matt Williams of Gothenburg said he and Kolterman were working on an amendment that would adjust and reduce the times when retired teachers could return to substitute.
Walz withdrew her amendment with the condition that the new amendment would address compromises on waiting periods. Debate then ceased for the week. LB 415 got first-round approval on a 38-0 vote.