Wednesday, May 18, 2005

TX State Employees Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

The Senate Jurisprudence Committee heard HB 2795 this afternoon. The bill will change the way the Board of Trustees of the state's Employee Retirement System are chosen. Yawn? Well, not when you realize what's at stake. The six-member board oversees a $19.9 billion, yes billion, retirement fund. With that kind of cash, you can be sure the wolves are circling.

Previously, three of the board members were elected. The other three were appointed. The governor, the chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court, and the speaker of the House each got to appoint one. Under this bill, the chief justice will no longer appoint a board member. Instead the governor will get to pick two. Since Rick Perry seems to be a congenital confuser of private interest with public interest (see former chief of staff Mike Toomey) state employees should be worried.

We can now expect more dangerously stupid proposals from the ethically-challenged along the lines of the one proposed by former Senator turned lobbyist Phil Gramm in 2002 for the similar Teachers Retirement Service. Gramm, acting on behalf of UBS Investment Bank, wanted TRS to allow his company to take out life insurance policies on retired teachers and keep the proceeds when they die. Dead peasant meets dead teacher.

Cause for further concern has to be the reappointment of Bill Ceverha this April to the ERS board. Speaker Craddick used his appointment to pick Ceverha who was treasurer of Texans for a Republican Majority. Ceverha is currently awaiting a verdict in a civil suit against him over his role in the 2002 campaign.