|Bronner cracking down on pension abuse|
|Written by News Desk|
|Friday, 05 July 2013 11:28|
By Bob Martin
State Retirement System (RSA) officials report they have a serious problem with some retirees they suspect are abusing the system.
RSA rules forbid retirees from earning more than $23,000 annually from state agencies or educational systems which participate in the system. RSA General Counsel Leura Canary writes in the most recent RSA newsletter that some retirees have been entering into "sham independent contractor relationships with participating employers and taking the position they are exempt from the postretirement pension suspension rules that would otherwise require the suspension of the retiree's pension." She calls it "a form of pension fraud," that is creating a financial drain on the system.
The RSA, I am told, has obtained an opinion from the State Attorney General's office and is moving forward to determine the identity of retirees who may be violating these provisions. RSA has requested the names of retirees from all agencies who perform any work for them as an employee or under a contract.
Let me be clear. State law permits a retired employee to work for a participating state or educational agency without suspension of his benefits if the retiree is not employed in a permanent fulltime capacity and earns $23,000 or less during a calendar year. The pension rules do not apply to those who work as "true" independent contractors.
So take note retirees; Dr. Bronner is now watching.
High Court reinstates $3.2 million verdict
The Alabama Supreme Court has reinstated a $3.2 million malpractice verdict against Baptist East Hospital in Montgomery in favor of a Montgomery woman who died in 2005 after being treated at the hospital's emergency room which was operated by the Health Care Authority for Baptist Health. She was initially released, but later died after it was determined she had an infection.
A Montgomery Circuit Court jury ruled against the authority in a malpractice trial and awarded the woman's estate $3.2 million. The verdict was later overturned by the State Supreme Court which ruled the Baptist Authority was a "state entity" and possessed immunity from being sued.
The High Court Justices have since looked in the dictionary and found that Baptist Health is a for profit medical facility and not the Health Annex at First Baptist Church. Then they overturned their prior decision but the additional interest for the time in between jumped the total payout to $4.5 million.
Supreme Court broadens marriage rights
Last week the United States Supreme Court struck down the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) while essentially deferring to the individual states' definitions of marriage.
In a 5-4 decision authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Court noted that by "history and tradition the definition and regulation of marriage...have been treated as being within the authority and realm of the separate States."
The Supreme Court left intact section 2 of DOMA which permits states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed under the laws of other states. As a result, Alabama and the other 36 states affirming marriage as the union of a man and a woman will not be forced to recognize homosexual marriage for state purposes under the court's opinion.
The long term result will likely include litigation designed to force the Supreme Court to hear a challenge to state laws restricting the definition of marriage and associated privileges to heterosexual couples. State Rep. Patricia Todd has already indicated her willingness to fight Alabama's law in court. Similar efforts taking place across the nation will likely result in splits between the federal appellate courts and push the Supreme Court to again address the issue in relatively short order.
And court gives Shelby County a victory
The court also ruled 5-4 in favor of Shelby County's arguments and overturned requirements in the Voting Rights Act of 1965 with the formula used to determine which jurisdictions, including Alabama, are required to get federal government permission for election changes.
"Our decision in no way affects the permanent, nationwide ban on racial discrimination in voting found in [Section] 2. We issue no holding on [Section] 5 itself, only on the coverage formula. Congress may draft another formula based on current conditions," the court said in the ruling authored by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.
The litigation revolved around the Voting Rights Act of 1965's preclearance requirements that mandates states with histories of racial discrimination to get federal government approval of changes to elections and voting laws. Section 5 covers all or parts of 15 states. Alabama is one of the fully covered states.
Photo: Gene Jones was honored with a wooden bust likeness of himself by Dr. John Van Valkenberg. The bust was carved from red cedar.
Photo: Brian HodgeRead more...
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