Legislators juggle with Ecker pension

April 03, 1991|By John W. Frece | John W. Frece,Annapolis Bureau of The Sun

ANNAPOLIS -- The Democratic-controlled House and Senate are playing a little game of toss this session with the $40,000-a-year pension earned by Republican Charles I. Ecker, the Howard County executive.

The Senate is trying to keep Mr. Ecker from receiving his $40,000 pension from 36 years in the public school system on top of his $80,000 annual salary as county executive.

But the House of Delegates seems confused about what to do about Mr. Ecker's pension.

First, the House passed legislation that would permit any retired members of the state employees' or teachers' retirement and pension systems who are elected to county or municipal offices to collect both their salaries and their pensions. That bill is sitting in a Senate committee.

The General Assembly passes similar legislation every two years, said Delegate Charles J. Ryan, D-Prince George's, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. The idea, he said, is to help those who come out of retirement to run for relatively low-paying locally elected posts to keep their pensions while they serve.

But when the Senate version of the same bill arrived in the House, it contained an amendment specifically prohibiting county executives from enjoying the double-dip. Mr. Ecker, a retired deputy superintendent of county schools, happens to be the only county executive who would have been affected by the amend

ment, Mr. Ryan said.

"The fact the job is a high-paid one shouldn't change [state] policy," said Mr. Ryan. His committee stripped off the Senate amendment.

But by the time the Senate bill reached the full House yesterday, enough delegates seemed to support the idea of not benefiting the highly paid to kill the whole bill. It failed by a 67-45 vote -- four votes shy of the constitutional majority, leaving the whole matter unsettled.

Ultimately, the fate of Mr. Ecker's pension will probably be decided by a joint House-Senate conference committee.

Mr. Ecker, 61, said he had neither followed the bill's travels nor tried to alter its course. "What will be, will be," he said. "All I want is to be treated the same as other people."

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