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Pension restoration bill passes Assembly; Mark’s Law does not

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Twelve Jefferson County residents are only a governor’s signature away from getting back their retirement plans.

The state Senate on Thursday unanimously passed legislation that would restore years of state pension benefits. Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli had said they were not entitled to the benefits because of a dispute over the legal status of the development organizations for which they worked. The legislation, if signed into law, would override that decision.

“I was glad to see that go through,” said state Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, who represents Jefferson County and introduced the legislation. “These are 12 people who paid in good faith into the retirement system.”

The bill overcame its most significant hurdle late Wednesday when it passed the state Assembly. Opposition from the Civil Service Employees Association had threatened to derail the legislation, but an 11th-hour agreement brokered by Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa, placated the powerful public-employee union.

The 12 employees, who work under the umbrella of the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency, will receive the credits they had racked up for years — in one case, more than 17 years. If Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signs the bill into law, the employees will receive pension credits until Aug. 1.

Donald C. Alexander, a development employee who could have lost nine years of pension credits, said he was hopeful that Mr. Cuomo would sign the bill into law.

“I’m really optimistic, and the reason I’m optimistic is because this is really a question of fairness,” Mr. Alexander said. “I think the governor is a reasonable and fair man. This is not going to impact anybody except the 12 people. It’s only to continue those benefits up to a certain point. Then we have to decide what to do going forward.”

He said he told several of the employees the news Thursday, and they, too, were cautiously optimistic.

“Clearly, we’re on the right path,” Mr. Alexander said.

In other legislative action Thursday, the state Assembly did not act on Mark’s Law, a bill named after a Cape Vincent emergency medical technician who was killed in the line of duty in 2009.

The bill was not reported out of a committee, meaning it couldn’t come up for a full Assembly vote, said Mrs. Russell, a supporter of the legislation. Thursday was the last day of the legislative session, so unless the Legislature comes back again this year for a special session, advocates will have to wait until 2013 to push for the measure again.

Named after Mark B. Davis, the legislation would have given prosecutors the ability to charge the killers of first responders with first-degree murder. The law now applies only to police, corrections or peace officers or court officials.

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