Double-Dipping Ban Sails Out of Committee

Longtime elected officials would no longer be able to use an obscure perk to boost their take-home pay under a bill that sailed out of a House committee Monday. The proposed double-dipping ban now heads to the House floor.

A House committee gave unanimous approval Monday to a bill eliminating the obscure loophole that allowed former Gov. Rick Perry to draw his salary and a state pension at the same time. 

The legislation, House Bill 408, now heads to the full House.

Two years ago, the bill stalled out at the end of the session. This year, so far, it’s been sailing through the legislative process. It passed 7-0 Monday in the House Pensions Committee, one week after a brief public hearing on it.

Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Canton, committee's chairman, said the bill fits perfectly with a drive this session to make practices under the Capitol dome more transparent.

Perry used the obscure provision of state pension law to retire without ever leaving office, a perk that’s only available to longtime state elected officials. Voters only learned about Perry’s lucrative pension arrangement after he was required to list the payments on his federal disclosure forms while he was running for president in 2011. At the time, Perry was making a $150,000 annual salary as governor and $92,000 a year in pension benefits. 

“We’re better off having more transparency in government, and I think that’s what the people are asking for, and this is a good start,” Flynn said.

The bill sponsor, Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, called the legislation a “common-sense bill that people in both parties agree needs to pass in order to close the double-dipping loophole.”

The bill is not retroactive and thus does not impact the pension Perry receives, but it would bar future governors or other longtime state elected officials from using the same provision to boost their take-home pay. Gov. Greg Abbott, who has asked legislators to dedicate the session to ethics reform, has already signaled his support for eliminating the pension loophole.

“This session people seem to have a much more favorable view of the bill,” Turner said. “It’s not about Gov. Perry or any other individuals. It’s about making sure going forward that elected officials can’t get paid twice for doing one job.”