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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Life Sentence

In a fit of symmetry and anticlimax, the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld HB 2004 (actuarial tables) as not violating the terms of the Henderson case of 1978. For those around in 1978, the 9th Circuit held that PERS could not use separate actuarial tables for men and for women, despite the different actuarial life expectancies of the two sexes. From that point forward, PERS developed "blended" actuarial tables that combined life expectancies of men and women. There was also a stipulation that PERS would not be able to change the actuarial tables back in the future. On that basis, the PERS Coalition challenged the 2003 Legislative effort to force PERS to change the actuarial tables to reflect more modern mortality data. In HB 2004, the Legislature put into statute rules that require PERS to examine actuarial tables every two years and update them, if needed, on January 1 of odd-numbered years (legislative years coincidentally). The PERS Coalition first challenged this in Strunk, but also filed in Federal Court on the grounds that the newly enacted statute violated the terms of the Henderson case of 1978. This case was first heard by a single Appeals Court Judge, then a panel of three Appeals Court judges, and finally by a larger group of 9th Circuit Judges. A few days ago, the 9th Circuit handed down its opinion that gives the Legislature and, through it, PERS the right to change actuarial tables as spelled out in HB 2004 so long as they preserve the blended nature of the tables. As this has been happening, this is really no news at all. Nevertheless, those of you hanging by a thread hoping that somehow, some way, those nasty actuarial tables enacted in 2003 would go away. Sorry. Your life sentence was not commuted.

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