- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 25, 2006

ANNAPOLIS — Maryland’s teachers and state employees will get better retirement pensions, thanks to $120 million in improvements signed into law yesterday.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, signed the pension-improvement bill along with dozens more bills in a State House signing ceremony. The pension bill allows people hired after 1998 to retire with 54 percent of their pre-retirement income, up from about 42 percent.

“It’s going to go a long way to recognizing the outstanding work done by veteran teachers,” said Patricia A. Foerster, head of the Maryland State Teachers Association, which pushed for the bill.

The new law calls for the workers to contribute more money toward their retirement, from 2 percent to 5 percent over three years. It raises the multiplier, or the percentage of the average salary that is paid for each year of service, from 1.4 percent to 1.8 percent. That means monthly payments to retirees would increase.

Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, a Republican, attended the bill signing and said the pension bill has been long overdue for Maryland’s teachers and state employees. Mr. Steele said he would like to see even more improvements passed in coming years.

“We’ve got more to do. We’re 49th in the country in teacher pensions. It’s unacceptable,” Mr. Steele said.

Also signed into law yesterday was a requirement that public schools have automated external defibrillators for sporting events. The schools will have to buy the machines, which can be used for people suffering cardiac problems.

Mr. Ehrlich signed that bill first, surrounded by parents who have lost teenage children to heart problems. The governor said the new law “strikes at the heart of any human being, any parent, anybody who cares about youth athletics.”

The sponsor of the defibrillator bill, Delegate Susan C. Lee, said the expense would be less than $500,000 statewide.

“It saves lives, and it’s not that expensive,” said Mrs. Lee, Montgomery County Democrat.

As is typical for bill-signing ceremonies, yesterday’s was a frenzied affair with dozens of people shuffling through the governor’s reception room to see their measures become law.

Other items that Mr. Ehrlich signed included a new law allowing restaurant patrons to take home opened bottles of wine, a new law prohibiting police departments from giving officers quotas for arrests or traffic tickets and a new law requiring horses to be transported in safe trailers.

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