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Thursday, March 10, 2011

DROP Bill is Amended to Create a Study Committee on Teacher Retention

A bill that would eliminate the state's Deferred Retirement Option Plan, or DROP program, was amended from the floor Thursday to create a study committee that would look for ways to help the state retain its "best and brightest" classroom teachers and public employees.

The amendment was offered by state Rep. Mac McCutcheon, R-Huntsville The committee would have to report its findings by the fifth legislative day of the 2012 session. Lawmakers voted for the measure 78 to 8, though state Rep. Craig Ford, D-Gadsden, said he wanted the people back at home to know that the current DROP program would still be ended under this bill.

State Rep. Harry Shiver, R-Bay Minette, had attempted earlier in the day's debate to amend the bill to change the effective end date of the program from April 1 to July 1, giving people who might have planned to enter the program this year time to put in their applications.

State Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, had successfully fought attempts Wednesday evening to amend the bill to move the end date, arguing that it would cost the state between $10 million and $12 million to move the date to June 1.

State Finance Director David Perry said the governor's budget plans partially hinge on the DROP program being eliminated by April 1. He said that state agencies would have to figure out how to cut the additional millions from their budgets if the April 1 date was pushed back. It is unclear how much a move to July 1 would cost.

House members ultimately voted to reconsider the Shiver amendment, while he was out of the room, and ultimately decided to table the amendment.

House members continue to debate the bill, with mostly Democrats offering amendments. McCutcheon's amendment has been the only successfully one offered so far Thursday. The amended bill would have to go back to the Senate, but it is expected to be accepted in the upper chamber.

Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard of Auburn told members before they recessed at just after noon to have a big lunch because there likely would be no break for dinner.

-- Markeshia Ricks

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