Mississippi pension system set to update rule

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - 1:56 p.m.

The Mississippi Public Employees Retirement System is on track to update its rules to let retired state government workers collect pension benefits while serving in the Legislature.

The system's board voted Tuesday to direct the retirement system's staff to draft a new rule, with a goal of having it in place by January.

The new rule would affect people who win legislative seats in this year's round of state elections.

For years, the Mississippi retirement system had a rule that state elected officials could not receive salaries and pension benefits at the same time. Attorney General Jim Hood issued a legal opinion in November contradicting that rule.

The retirement system's executive director, Ray Higgins, says the new rule will have to be written to preserve the pension fund's tax-exempt status.

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4:01 a.m.

The once obscure question of whether retired public employees can collect state pensions while serving in the Mississippi Legislature looms large in some Democrats' electoral hopes for 2019.

The board of the Public Employees Retirement System is scheduled to meet Tuesday to discuss the question, and could change its rules.

Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood issued an opinion in November contradicting the system's longtime rule that elected officials couldn't receive salaries and pension benefits simultaneously.

Hood on Monday accused Republicans of trying to pressure the pension system board to flout his opinion or delay complying until after the March 1 election qualifying deadline. That could cut retired public employees running for office.

But PERS Executive Director Ray Higgins says questions remain that could imperil the pension fund's federal tax-exempt status.