Tag Archives: Legislation

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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2016 Legislative Session Wrap Up

Stylized vector illustration of the US capitol dome

Although legally and fiscally separate from the State of Missouri, the LAGERS system is a creature of statute.   This means that anytime there is a desire to make a change to the plan’s structure, it must be done through a change in the law.  Over LAGERS’ nearly 50 year history, the LAGERS staff, at the direction of the Board of Trustees, has pursued a handful of legislative initiatives which have molded the system into what it is today.  For the past three years, LAGERS has been working on two primary legislative goals:  Local Plan Administration and Updating of the Public Safety Officer Definition.

The desire for the Local Plans Administration bill arose years ago from employer requests.  Many of these local employers operate closed pension plans that they no longer wish to administer.  LAGERS, being a solution to help relieve the administrative and financial burden of closing these olds plans over the lifetime of the plan’s participants and beneficiaries, worked with interested parties, the legislative advisory committee and Board of Trustees to draft and file a bill that would help these local subdivisions transfer the administration of their closed plans into LAGERS without any adverse impact to the LAGERS system.  In its first year filed, the bill made it all the way to the governor’s desk with no opposing testimony.  But, in a twist at the end, the governor vetoed the bill after a group voiced concerns to his office about plan participants not having enough say in the transfer.

LAGERS sought to address these concerns the following session and filed slightly modified language emphasizing the voluntary nature of the bill.  And while again, the bill moved quickly, the 2015 legislative session, wrought with scandal, PQs, and Right to Work, proved a nearly impossible path for even the best of good-governance bills.

In 2016, LAGERS retooled our legislative strategy with a focus on getting our membership and other interested parties more involved.  LAGERS filed our Local Plans Administration bill early in both the House and Senate with the hopes that it could be passed prior to the final days of session.  While the Senate version seemed to fly through early on, it slowed in the House and became bogged down with amendments.  Its companion bill in the House, which was slower moving, eventually made it to the Senate with no amendments.  As other interests saw this bill as an uncontested good-governance vehicle, proposed amendments again quickly came to the table.  Thanks to the hard work of our legislators and efforts of many LAGERS members, House Bill 1443 was kept clean as it passed the Senate early in the final week of session.  This bill now awaits the governor’s signature to be signed into law!

LAGERS’ second legislative item has proven to be a more arduous journey.  The Updating of the Definition of Public Safety Officer bill would give member employers the option to update their definition of ‘police officer’ or ‘firefighter’ to  employees.  When filed in years past, challenges quickly arose as legislators view this bill as a ‘benefit enhancement’ for certain groups of employees.  Although this year’s bill was whittled down to include only EMS and jailors, and while this legislation was not met with any major dissent, there still remains a tenor that this is a benefit enhancement.  Like other bills that were viewed similarly, none received high priority from Senate or House leadership.  LAGERS was able to amend this language on to several other bills in hopes of passing it through as an amendment, but none ever gained enough traction in the final days of session as legislators shifted their focus to some of the ‘hot’ issues the year including paycheck protection, ethics reform, and voter photo ID.

While the Public Safety bill will continue to present unique challenges into the future, LAGERS recognizes there is also a unique opportunity to help educate our legislators on the value and skills of the individuals who work in these capacities.  We can’t do it without your help, and are excited to continue to work more closely with our membership on these and future issues.

 

Elizabeth Althoff Communications Specialist

Elizabeth Althoff
Communications Specialist

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2015 Legislative Session Closes with Little Passed

Rooftop.Capitol.Zoom.OCT.2007The gridlock that held many bills hostage in the final days of Missouri’s 2015 Regular Legislative Session made no exceptions for three LAGERS bills, all of which stalled in the final days of session last week.

LAGERS entered 2015 hopeful that this would be the year that the “Local Plans” bill would pass.  LAGERS filed similar language in the 2014, with Senate Bill 675(2014) being Truly Agreed and Passed; however the bill never made it to law as it was vetoed by Governor Nixon last summer.  House Bill 494 and Senate Bill 283 were LAGERS top priority this year, and with modified language to address the Governor’s veto concerns, LAGERS felt confident that this was year we could achieve a legislative solution for those member employers wishing to transfer the administration of their frozen pension plans into LAGERS.

Both House Bill 494 and Senate Bill 283 looked promising as they initially moved through their respective chambers meeting no opposition and with legislators agreeing that this language is good, common sense policy for Missouri’s taxpayers and local municipalities.

Unfortunately, SB 283 became weighted down with extra amendments, many of which were unrelated to LAGERS, and eventually succumbed to its injuries in Conference.  HB 494 sailed through both its House and Senate committees, and looked as though it was on track to the governor’s desk.  However it became one of the countless pieces of legislation held up in the final days of the filibuster that shut down the Senate in its last week.

It was a tough year politically to accomplish anything at the capitol, but LAGERS still firmly believes that this legislation is great policy for Missouri’s taxpayers and for our members.  We will continue to work towards a legislative solution that could potentially enable political subdivisions who wish to get out of the pension business to do so.

LAGERS’ other bill, House Bill 643, which would have allowed employers the option to classify certain public safety personnel as either ‘police’ or ‘fire’ employees for LAGERS purposes, also suffered a similar fate in the final days of session.

LAGERS looks forward to continuing to work with law makers next year to help ensure that the best policy for Missouri and Missouri’s taxpayers can be reached.  And while 2015 did not move forward as hoped, LAGERS is reminded that our ultimate focus is to ensure that our members’ benefits are secure and protected today and into the future, something we continue to do every day.

Elizabeth Althoff Public Relations Specialist

Elizabeth Althoff
Public Relations Specialist

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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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