Tag Archives: General Assembly

A Look Back at the 2017 Legislative Session

As the dust begins to settle in Jefferson City, we close the book on another legislative session. Beginning full of optimism, there seemed to be very little standing in the way of a seamless legislative agenda this year. Right off the bat we saw several major landmark bills from Right to Work to Tort and Labor Reform, and then the machine came screeching to a halt. Some say the Governor’s office was bullying legislators, others say it was lack of Senate leadership; some say it was simply in-fighting between party factions. We may never really know. Whatever the source of dysfunction, we saw at times a painfully slow legislative grind. In the final weeks, the bodies slowly moved forward and we did see a few other legislative accomplishments. The legislature passed the budget, fully funded the education formula, passed Real ID, as well as the Blue Alert system.

On the pension side of things, we saw a bit less accomplished. The biggest area of focus for pensions this session was funding. We saw a great deal of discussion in appropriations committee devoted to funding of the State Employees retirement system (MOSERS).  The House originally drastically reduced the requested funding, which was eventually resorted in the Senate. Out of 44 Pension Bills that were filled this session, only 2 were Truly Agreed and Finally Passed. The first,  Senate Bill 62, was an omnibus pension bill that contained amendments, many of which were designed to address some sort of funding issue. LAGERS was not directly impacted by this bill. Senate Bill 34 was the second pension bill passed, but its language was also contained in the omnibus SB 62. This bill modified language related to felony pension forfeiture.

LAGERS did not sponsor any legislation this session, but was closely watching several bills. LAGERS Public Safety Language was again filed this year to give all employers the option to update the definition of public safety to include EMS and Jailers. Though not initiated by LAGERS, Representative Walker filed the language in HB 865. While there was no opposition, the bill failed to gain traction as focus this session quickly shifted to some of the more pressing funding issues. The language was successfully amended to SB 394 later in session and came very close to the finish line this year. Thank you to those who called in on the bill’s behalf in the final days, and as one of our advocates noted, the capitol was quite busy the last two days as everyone made their final legislative pushes. While the Public Safety language fell short, LAGERS was encouraged at the progress the bill made this session and will be retooling our strategy over the summer.

Another bill that would have impacted LAGERS was HB 933. It would have allowed metropolitan planning organizations to be considered eligible for LAGERS membership (mirroring the regional planning commission language that was passed several years ago). While LAGERS did not sponsor this language, the MPO group did reach out to LAGERS to ensure the language they were seeking met our approval. This bill did not make much noise in its first attempt and will likely reappear next session.

Don’t forget that our Legislative Committee meets every year at our Annual Meeting. This is a great forum for all members of our system to meet with the Board, Legislative Committee, and Staff and participate in an open forum about upcoming legislative issues and agenda of the system. Be sure to look for more information on that in coming months!

Legislative Quick Links:

Sign Up to Receive LAGERS Capitol Report

Visit the Joint Committee on Public Employee Retirement’s Webpage

View Summary of 2017 Pension Legislation

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Is My LAGERS Benefit Secure?

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You’ve probably been hearing chatter in the media about the recent Congressional Spending Bill, which includes provisions that may allow certain multiemployer pension benefits to be cut.  Many of the articles in the news are unclear about which plans are affected by this particular bill and have raised further questions from our members about the security of their LAGERS benefit.

First and foremost, the current Congressional debate would not apply to public sector pension plans, like LAGERS.  The federal government maintains greater oversight of private sector plans, and this legislation, in particular, targets private, multi-employer plans that are ‘severely underfunded.’  Fortunately for LAGERS members, the control of LAGERS remains with the State, and member benefits are governed by the state statutes under which they were created.  There are currently no proposals to make any changes to current or future benefits or to LAGERS structure before the Missouri General Assembly.

Regardless of whether or not the current national debate will impact LAGERS benefits, the natural follow up question is, how secure is my benefit in the future?  While there always remains the possibility that Congressional changes could set a precedent that eventually trickles down through state legislation, here are a few important thoughts to keep in mind about LAGERS:

LAGERS benefits are statutorily and constitutionally protected in Missouri.

LAGERS benefit guarantees can be found both within LAGERS’ governing statutes as well as Missouri’s constitution, providing multiple levels of protection to your accrued benefit.  Any changes in benefits or plan design would require a change in the law, initiated by Missouri’s general assembly.  Currently, those change made by an employer or through a change in Missouri’s statute, could only impact a member’s service prospectively, meaning that any benefits earned prior to the change are guaranteed at the highest earned level.

LAGERS is an extremely well-funded plan.

Even if Missouri’s general assembly someday decided to follow Congress’ lead and look at allowing Trustees of our public plans in Missouri to make benefit reductions to prevent full termination of a plan in the event of financial insolvency, LAGERS would most likely still not be affected by that legislation.  Here’s why:  If you read about what is going on at a national level, the plans targeted are those few which are nearing financial insolvency, most likely due to that fact that the fund has not consistently been making their actuarially required contributions.  LAGERS has extremely sound plan design and 100%  of our over 650 employers across the state are required to make their full actuarially required contributions each and every month…no exceptions.

The results of great plan design is ultimately stable funding and benefit security not just today, but tomorrow, 50 years from now, and beyond.  When employers make their full contribution each month, benefits can be pre-funded.  This means that when a LAGERS member is ready to retire, 100% of the benefit that they will receive for the rest of their life has already been paid for and set aside in a Trust that can be used solely for the purpose of paying retirement benefits.  How’s that for security?

LAGERS staff monitors all legislative action, both at the state and federal level.

LAGERS staff takes the security of our members’ benefits and future benefits very seriously.  People who work hard their entire life should be able to retire with a little security, a little dignity, and plenty of peace of mind that their benefit will always be there for them.  Our staff constantly monitors these debates and works tirelessly to ensure that we are educating our legislators on this important issue.

Wondering if there is anything you can do to help?  Retirement security isn’t just an issue for the already retired.  A 20-something will eventually be just as impacted by changes to current retirement benefits.  So regardless of whether you are just starting your career, or you’re already enjoying your hard-earned benefit, make sure you are staying connected with LAGERS and engaged with your legislators.  Follow us on Social Media to ensure that you are getting the latest updates from LAGERS staff, and as always, we love to hear from you; whether it’s with a question, or if you just want to let everyone know how much you LOVE your LAGERS!!

 

Elizabeth Althoff Public Relations Specialist

Elizabeth Althoff
Public Relations Specialist

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The 2015 Missouri Legislative Session: What You Need to Know

Jefferson City, Missouri - State Capitol
The 2015 Missouri Legislative Session will begin January 8th so I thought I would give readers a preview of what LAGERS will be focusing on during the upcoming assembly.

Our top priority is what we affectionately call the “Local Plans Bill.”  This legislation allows LAGERS-participating entities the opportunity to voluntarily transfer the administration of their closed pension plan to LAGERS.  We first proposed this legislation during the 2014 session and it received wide support from LAGERS members, legislators, and even the media.  In an opinion piece published in the Jefferson City News Tribune, a staffer wrote, “Rare is the proposal that presents no downside and attracts no opposition.”

Senate Bill 675 (the Local Plans Bill), which was not testified against in either chamber, passed the House with a 136-10 vote and the Senate unanimously in March 2014 but was vetoed by Governor Nixon in July.  LAGERS board and staff, however, still believe that this legislation is good public policy and will propose slightly modified language during the upcoming session that we trust will be agreeable to all parties.

We do not have plans at this time to propose any other legislation, but will be monitoring all pension and retirement related bills, especially those that may affect LAGERS membership.  You may track all public pension related legislation in Missouri here.

LAGERS staff will continue its education and outreach with the legislative community.  LAGERS believes retirement security is an important issue for Missourians and secure, stable retirement plans that provide steady monthly income are the most efficient way to help middle class workers transition into middle class retirees.  Our outreach, aimed specifically at policy makers, includes new videos and publications that convey the value of the public sector worker and the positive economic impact of LAGERS benefits.  One such example is this video directed at all stakeholders, depicting the partnership of all working toward a common goal to grow communities better and stronger.

This education is vital as an attempt to negate the well organized and funded movement to abolish pension plans like LAGERS. If this movement succeeds, the retirement stability of countless Missourians would be in serious jeopardy.  Not to mention how this would upset the economic fabric of the entire state.

Please visit molagers.org for updates during the 2015 legislative session and don’t be afraid to contact your state legislators to let them know how important your LAGERS benefit is to you and your community!

 

Jeff Kempker, RPA, CRC

Jeff Kempker
Manager of Member Services

 

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