The pissing match between feckless Governor Ted and the Legislature over SB 897 is finally OVER. Today, following Friday's unanimous vote to override Governor K's veto of SB 897 in the Senate, the Oregon House voted 44-15 to override. As of around noon today, SB 897 is now LAW - the Governor be damned.
SB 897 forces PERS to establish mechanisms to ensure Quality Control on all retirement estimates beginning two years before the earliest retirement date. It requires verification of service time at all PERS employers, verification of age, beneficiary, account balances (and requires PERS to collect from employers derilect in paying employee and employer contributions, and effectively insures that when an individual puts in a retirement application, ALL the information used has been audited. Done properly and with care, there should be NO MISTAKES when someone starts receiving his/her first benefit check. The bill puts PERS on the same playing field as the Oregon Department of Revenue. Once a return (application) has been audited and closed, whatever mistakes (if any) are owned by the agency, not the individual.
This is, by no means, a land-grab by PERS members as some have claimed. PERS has until July 1, 2011 to put mechanisms in place to accomplish the audit, and with their new super-duper jClarety software package, they ought to be able to insure the accuracy of benefits to the point where people can finally stop worrying about a PERS "dropping shoe" about two or three years after retiring. This was the essence of the Kay Bell case in which PERS denied errors during Kay's working life and then suddenly found them after she retired.
I am proud of Kay for standing up through all this publicity, the trials, and the excursions through just about every aspect of her life. I'm proud that our jury system works and that Kay won punitive damages (yet to be collected) from PERS. And I'm proud of our Legislature, which had the collective wisdom to pass SB 897 in the first place, and the tenacity to stick it into the Governor's dark places when he vetoed a unaminously passed bill. I am also proud of OPRI for actively working on passing SB 897.
And to all the PERS critics out there who will see this as the beginning of a further falling of the sky, read the damn bill before bothering to criticize. It hands out nothing to anyone and grants public employees rights that you all already have. Take a chill pill and relax. The sea is not roiling, the sky is not falling, and armaggedon is not close.