Star Telegram: “Double dipping” bill worthy of consideration

Last week, I filed my first bill of the session, HB 413, which will ban the “double-dipping” of a state pension and salary at the same time by elected officials. You may remember this issue from Governor Perry’s run for President when it was revealed that the governor has “retired” from state service in order to begin collecting a state pension – even though he was still on the job and collecting his regular salary.

It’s important to note that Governor Perry is almost certainly not the only elected official who is taking advantage of this loophole; he just happens to be the one we know about due to financial disclosures associated with his presidential campaign.

During the past few days, our legislation has received a good amount of media attention across the state, including this Fort Worth Star-Telegram editorial on Saturday:



January 11, 2013

‘Double-dipping’ bill worthy of lawmakers’ careful consideration

Had Gov. Rick Perry not run for president, Texans might never have known that he had “retired” and was already collecting his pension, a practice permitted by a 1991 law that apparently few people — including present and past lawmakers — fully understood.

The pension records of Texas politicians are private, so unless someone discloses that he or she is receiving the monthly benefits, there is no way the public will know which officials are “double-dipping,” drawing a pension while also drawing a state salary.

As a presidential candidate, Perry had to file income statements with the Federal Election Commission, revealing that he is receiving more than $90,000 a year in pension payments in addition to his $150,000 annual pay as governor.

That revelation shocked many people around the state, as did news reported by the Texas Tribune earlier this year that the governor was “in an elite group of 189 employees who make at least $100,000 annually while drawing a state pension, according to figures provided by the state comptroller.”

 That practice will be stopped if State Rep. Chris Turner gets his way. On Wednesday Turner, D-Grand Prairie, filed House Bill 413, which would prevent “elected officials from collecting a salary and state pension at the same time, if their retirement payments are a result of their service as an elected official,” his office said in a new release.

Turner said his legislation, which would not be retroactive, is designed to ensure that if politicians “retire” to collect a pension they should truly retire and not collect a salary.

Otherwise, it is unfair for taxpayers to pay them twice.

The sponsor of the bill to revise the pension plan more than 20 years ago, former Democratic Sen. Bob Glasgow of Stephenville, did not realize the special double-dipping perk was in it, the Tribune reported, noting that the late Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock used the provision to supplement his income through the pension plan.

 It is a bad practice that legislators this session should correct, and Turner’s bill provides a vehicle for doing that.

This bill has also been covered in recent days by the Texas Tribune, the Dallas Morning News, KEYE-TV and KLIF-AM.

To keep the momentum going on this legislation, I need your help. Please forward this email to your contacts, share these stories on your Facebook page and tweet them out to your friends and family.

With your help, we can put an end to the double-dipping loophole this session.

Turner Files Bill that Would Ban Double-Dipping by Politicians


by Jay Root | Texas Tribune | January 9, 2013

State Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, says he’s found the perfect way for elected officials to practice what they’re preaching about the need for fiscal restraint: ban “double-dipping” by politicians.

The lucrative perk was thrust into the spotlight a year ago when Gov. Rick Perry disclosed during his presidential campaign that he was collecting both his $150,000-a-year salary and an annual pension of more than $90,000. State ethics forms don’t require the disclosure of pension income, but federal forms do, so the governor had to reveal it.

There’s no way to know how many others are double dipping. Any state representative, senator or nonjudicial state-elected official who meets the age and service requirements is entitled to some benefit under the law, at wildly varying amounts depending on the official’s highest average state salary and individual circumstances, according to the Employees Retirement System.

Now Turner has filed House Bill 413, which would undo the obscure loophole. Turner’s bill would not apply retroactively to Perry or any other lawmakers who might be doing the same thing, but Turner said that with all the talk about tight-fisted budgeting, it’s time to end the lavish pension benefit.

“Our state leaders frequently tout Texas as a national example for fiscal responsibility,” Turner said. “Just Tuesday, we were reminded by the governor that we must be mindful of how we spend taxpayer dollars. This legislation helps accomplish that goal by not allowing elected officials to get paid twice for one job.”

Turner said he was not aware of the unusual pension provision until Perry disclosed it late last year.

“I just couldn’t believe it, and I think most Texans can’t believe elected officials can collect a salary, retire and still stay on the job and collect a pension all at the same time,” Turner said.

Perry spokesman Josh Havens said Wednesday that Perry, first elected in 1984, was “simply accessing what he has earned” and continues to pay into the state retirement system.

As for Turner’s legislation, Havens said the governor “will review any bill that makes it through the legislative process and onto his desk.”

Perry has said previously he would be “foolish” not to take advantage of the provision that is reserved exclusively for state elected officials. The provision has been on the books at least since 1991, when former Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock, a Democrat, took advantage of it.

State Representative Chris Turner

Turner Sworn in to Represent Tarrant County’s New District

Will focus on the priorities of District 101: Good jobs, quality schools & affordable health care

January 8, 2013

 swearinginAUSTIN – Today, as the 83rd Texas Legislature convened, Chris Turner took the oath of office to represent the new District 101 in the House of Representatives. Turner was elected in November 2012 to serve the fast-growing areas of southeast Arlington and western Grand Prairie.

“It’s a great honor and privilege to serve our community in the Texas House,” said Turner. “This is a critical time for our state and I’m committed to working hard for the families of our district in the Legislature.”

During the 140-day legislative session, Turner’s focus will be on the issues important to Arlington and Grand Prairie families: good jobs, fair funding for public schools, reforms to the testing-focused school accountability system, health care affordability and access, and improving basic infrastructure.

“Texas families courageously continue to meet major challenges in every aspect of their lives,” Turner said. “They deserve better than what they have been getting from their state government. This session, we must focus on the basic priorities that all Texans have a right to expect: quality public schools, affordable health care and good paying jobs.”

Turner previously served in the House from 2009-2011, representing District 96. During his first legislative session, Turner authored and passed the landmark bill establishing a dedicated lottery scratch-off ticket to benefit the Permanent Fund for Veterans Assistance. The $2 “Veterans Cash” ticket has generated over $20 million to pay for much-needed aid to Texas veterans and their families.

A lifelong Texan, Turner graduated from the University of Texas at Austin and today works in the public relations industry. Turner and his wife of thirteen years, Lisa, live in Grand Prairie. Chris’s two stepchildren, Melissa and Scott, both graduated from Summit High School in Mansfield ISD.

Turner was joined on the House floor during the swearing in ceremony by Lisa and his father, Gary Turner of Dallas

Every Second Counts

A few minutes ago, the 83rd Legislative Session convened and I had the honor of being sworn in as a member of the Texas House of Representatives representing House District 101. I am so humbled by the trust the voters have placed in me to represent our community in Austin.

A new legislature represents the opportunity for a new beginning. I am hopeful that this legislature will turn the page on the harmful decisions made here two years ago, because this is such a critical time for our state. Every second of the 140-day session will count as we fight for the priorities that are important to our community.

For too long, those in power have ignored the inadequacies of our health care system and have refused to provide the resources to properly educate our young Texans. For example, last session, billions were cut from our public schools and we still have the highest rate of uninsured in the nation.

As the new session convenes, we need to deal with the problems that are knocking loudly on our front door.

With yesterday’s news of solid state revenue projected growth, , it is time to address the dire state of our public education system, answer for the large number of Texans who remain uninsured and without access to affordable health care, and confront the congested roads and highways that go unrepaired and unfunded.

With all of these issues, we need to find solutions and deliver results. The good news is, I know that if legislators are willing to put aside partisanship and put Texas first, we can and will make a difference on these issues.

To kick off the legislative session – and to begin serving our brand new district – we have retooled and re-launched our website. Check out the “Virtual Office” [LINK TO PAGE] which provides a list of the services our office can provide, information about visiting the state Capitol building, and facts about District 101. We have also added a section called “There Ought to be a Law,” which allows Texans to submit ideas they think need to be addressed this session. Don’t forget to check back often for the latest news from our office and legislative updates.

We have a lot of work to do and little time to do it. With your continued help, support and advice, I know we can tackle the challenges facing our state head on.

I look forward to hearing from you about the issues that matter to you and your family, our community and our state. Thank you again for the honor of serving as your state representative.


Chris has worked closely with leaders and citizens throughout southern Tarrant County to find ways to improve the transportation infrastructure at look at alternative methods of travel, including light and commuter rail systems.

Chris understands that the lack of public transportation in Arlington and Grand Prairie is a difficult obstacle for many families who are unable to commute to work or school. Chris believes the state’s transportation priorities should include strategies to upgrade and expand mass transit in major urban areas.

He strongly believes that State Highway 360 must be extended south of Green Oaks, so that Arlington and Grand Prairie families can commute to and from their jobs faster.


Pocketbook Protection

Protecting Families from Surprise Utility Rate Hikes 

Chris wrote the law that now requires residential electric providers to give at least 30 days written notice that a customer’s electric contract is scheduled to expire, allowing the customer time to shop around and select a new plan.

Chris learned that a number of his constituents had experienced situations in which their utility bill skyrocketed overnight, due to a contract expiring without their knowledge.

“Chris is genuine, honest, and he listens. He took on the utilities when they were raising their rates without telling us. With Chris, we know that we have a voice in Austin who stands up for us.” – Adrena Stephney, Precinct Chair, Arlington

Making Insurance Companies Accountable 

When Chris was in office, he wrote and filed several measures aimed at holding insurance companies accountable for the high premiums they charge consumers. Currently, Texans pay the highest rates for homeowners insurance in the nation and the coverage they receive does not reflect the amount they pay. Powerful special interests fight efforts to reform Texas’ insurance system, but Chris is determined to help deliver real reform for Arlington and Grand Prairie families.

For his work on consumer protection issues in 2009, Chris was named “Freshman of the Year” by Texas Watch, a leading consumer advocacy organization.

State Representative Chris Turner

Public Education


Politicians in Austin talk a lot about education, but they have repeatedly failed students, parents and teachers. Texas ranks last in the country in the percentage of population over the age of 25 with a high school diploma and 47th in SAT scores, while our dedicated public school teachers are paid well below the national average.

Chris will fight to change this and make public education a top priority for Texas.

The last legislative session cut public education funding by more than $5 billion last year – a staggering cut that harms millions of school children across Texas. Chris will work to reverse these cuts and implement a more fair and better financed public education system for all Texas children.

Chris also believes we must reform the school accountability system that has become entirely too dependent on standardized tests. There is entirely too much “teaching to the test” in Texas and we need to lessen the emphasis on standardized testing in the classroom.


State Representative Chris Turner

Higher Education

collegeMaking college more affordable and accessible to every Texan is one of Chris’s top priorities. Rising tuition costs and reduced financial aid opportunities have closed the door of opportunity to too many Texans. Chris will work to increase the Texas Grant program, which made college financial aid available for an additional 24,000 middle-class Texas families in 2010-2011.

Chris co-authored legislation that opens the door for “emerging research universities,” such as the University of Texas at Arlington, to become a “Top Tier” research university. Chris wrote and passed the law requiring all Texas colleges and universities to have a financial aid specialist trained on the GI Bill and the Hazlewood Act.

In the last five years, tuition rates at Texas colleges and universities have risen over 40% because of the actions of the state legislature. The result has been that the dream of a college education has been priced out of the reach of many deserving, middle class students. Chris will work to open the doors of Texas colleges to all students who have worked hard and proven themselves.

Health Care

With the highest rate of uninsured in the nation and Texas ranked dead last among the 50 states in health care delivery, there’s no shortage of improvements to be made to the state’s health care system. The good news is that Texas has the tools to expand access to affordable health care – it’s called the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which has been upheld by the Supreme Court. Chris believes that Texas should use the ACA smartly to get the maximum benefit for the state. Chris will work with his colleagues in the Texas House to gain support to accept the Medicaid expansion. Under ACA, states can enroll their citizens in Medicaid if their annual income is 133 percent of the poverty level (about $30,000 for a family of four) or less. Under this provision, about 1.5 million Texans would gain coverage.

Chris also supports expanding the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in order to decrease the number of uninsured children in our state. In 2009, Chris co-authored a measure that would expand CHIP eligibility to include children whose family incomes are between 101 to 300 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. Chris will work to extend the Medicaid enrollment period from six months to one year, as it is in most other states.



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