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PERS Votes to Accept AG's Ruling, Create Regulation

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PERS Votes to Accept AG's Ruling, Create Regulation
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Rep. Jay Hughes of Oxford, Talks to Reporters about Board's Vote
Ashley Norwood, MPB

A Mississippi agency charged with managing state employee retirement funds says they support a new ruling that allows retirees to collect their pensions while serving in the legislature. MPB's Desare Frazier reports.

Board members of the Public Employee Retirement System of Mississippi called a special meeting about a new ruling by the state Attorney General Jim Hood. His decision allows retired state employees to collect their pensions and still serve in the Mississippi House or Senate. Until now, they couldn't be a legislator and collect their retirement. Ray Higgins is executive director of the agency.

"Under the current regulation or the current historical interpretation, basically full elected positions were deemed to be full-time and as such you would not be able to be retired and full-time at the same time," said Higgins.

Higgins says the new ruling says serving in the legislature is a part-time position. That opens the door for retirees to run for political office. After much discussion, the board voted to accept the ruling with the requirements that PERS abide by federal law and they don't jeopardize the plan's tax exempt status. Board Member George Dale, is pleased with the decision.

"I just think it was a victory for retirees who don't want to be put out by the side of the road. They want to make a contribution and they feel like they can do it through the legislative process, and I say have at it," said Dale.

Dale says he didn't feel pressured to vote in support of the ruling. This week, Attorney General Jim Hood, a Democrat, accused Republicans of pressuring the board to disregard his opinion or wait until after the qualifying deadline to run for office, which is March 1st. PERS says they will have the regulation in place by January 2020.