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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Details in the Fabric

The 3-day feeding frenzy that is the opening organizing session of the Legislature has just ended.  The boys and girls of Camp Silly will convene again on February 1 to begin the daunting task of winnowing through almost 1700 bills introduced this session.  Some might call this the "full employment act for lawyers, lobbyists, and legislative counsels".  Of the 1700 bills, twenty three (23) are related to PERS, although I think 2 of the 23 are not PERS bills at all.  The bad news is that these bills touch every category of PERS member including current retirees.  Bills affecting retirees all pertain to the COLA.  One eliminates the "COLA banking" provision, one limits the "COLA" to members with 10 years of creditable service (not applicable to current retirees), and one limits the COLA to the first $2000 per month of benefits.  There are three different bills that cover the same topic, namely to eliminate the income tax subsidy provided to retirees who do not live in the State of Oregon.  All these bills will be challenged by OPRI and, presumably, the PERS Coalition.  The remaining bills deal with active members.  Two seem to do with the OPSRP program, one renaming it officially to Tier 3, and another terminating the OPSRP for newly hired employees who become eligible for PERS on or after July 1, 2011 (a Tier 4, if you will).  For active employees, there are two classes of obnoxious bills.  The first eliminates the 6% pickup, and various forms of this bill make it either impossible for employees to contribute on their own, or impossible to contribute at all.  The second class of bills reduce significantly what is included in calculating the Final Average Salary (FAS).  One eliminates overtime in excess of the average for employment category; another eliminates the use of sick leave and vacation time.  Finally, the most obnoxious bill in this category would limit the PERS benefit to no more than 100% of this redefined FAS.   Several bills redefine who can and can't work for a PERS employer after retirement, and one bill directs PEBB to offer high deductible plans and HSA, and another changes how PEBB deals with spouses who are both public employees.  The final insult is a bill that would neuter the most important elements of SB 897, passed in 2010, and hold PERS harmless for errors made by employers in reporting service and related matters to PERS during the verification process.  This is an insult to all those who worked hard to secure passage of SB 897 over the Governor's veto.  Ironically, the revision was introduced at the request of our new Governor.

The good news (if there is any) is that the Legislature chose NOT to micromanage PERS.  This means that issues pertaining to actuarial tables, assumed rates, and the rate guarantee are nowhere to be found in this set of bills.  This doesn't mean these won't appear, but at this point it is highly unlikely.  These are functions that are assigned to the PERS Board and PERS Staff, and these considerations will be taken up in due course at PERS Board meetings and through public hearings, if they are taken up at all.

Collectively, these bills will take a lot of effort to lobby and to defeat.  For active members, the PERS Coalition and each of the unions will be working hard on your behalf.  For retirees, OPRI and its lobbyist(s) will be defending our benefits at the Legislature.  If you go to my newsgroup (see PERS OREGON DISCUSSION) at left, join the group, you can see the summary of all of these bills by number, and participate in the discussion.  It is really important to join the group, not just read the messages.  Strength comes in numbers and the more we have, the louder our voice will be.  In the meantime, OPRI will be meeting on Monday Jan 17, 2011 to discuss these bills and to decide how to prioritize their lobbying effort.  Please make your opinions known on PERS OREGON DISCUSSION before Monday so that you and have a voice in what OPRI chooses to work on.  You can also send contributions (MAY BE TAX DEDUCTIBLE) to OPRI's PAC, which pays for lobbying expenses in the Legislature.  You can find information http://opri.org.

9 comments:

Ken said...

Marc,
I enjoy your blog and also monitor POD daily. Just wanted you to know that I use the most recent version of Mozilla Firefox and I can't see your Amazon buttons, your favorites, the search box or ads on your blog. I see the text that says favorites or kindle, but when I hover the curser over them, it acts like it's just text. I assume you're using a Microsoft product to post that uses some of the non-approved conventions that tend to give other browsers some grief. If I visit your site using internet explorer, then all is visible and usable. I didn't know if you've received that feedback before, so thought I'd drop you a note.
Ken J
Salem

mrfearless47 said...

Noms products. I use an intel Mac pro 8 core with apple products. Yours is the first such complaint. If you want to lookup or order from amazon, use this link (save it in your toolbar): http://www.amazon.com/?&tag=orpein-20 .

uomatters said...

Thanks you for this summary. I think you have missed SB 405, which would add university police to the list of PERS employees eligible for early retirement. I am not sure how this small group of employees were able to persuade Senator Prozanski to sponsor the legislation, or how the OUS system will fund the new benefits.

http://uomatters.blogspot.com/2011/01/now-i-get-it.html

Michael Whitty, Attorney said...

You do all of us PERS members a disservice by referring to the legislature as "the boys and girls of Camp Silly." Regardless of your opinion of the legislative members, some of whom may read this blog and be negatively impacted by your comments, you need to maintain a professional approach. These are serious matters, and your offhand attempts at humor are neither helpful to the cause, nor ingratiating to yourself.

Your analysis was concise and informative. Please keep it on that level.

mrfearless47 said...

Michael:

By this point in the history of my blog (1000 posts +) and nearly a million hits I don't worry much about whether people think my attempts at humor are funny or not. My opinion of the Legislature is well-known and nothing I say here would change that opinion so I don't bother to check my tongue. The fact that many legislators refer their constituents to my blog and my newsgroup tells me that if I occasionally tweak some hypersensitive legislators, I'm getting through to the people I need to get through. If you were offended by that remark, how come you don't take umbrage and some of my post titles which are either funny, nasty, or just plain ugly intentionally?

Kolbs said...

I tried to post on POD but I guess it didn't get through. When you meet with Rep Garrett please advocate for the removal of the emergency clauses. It make a mockery of retirement planning and will impact the public if there is a mass exit because of some bill. Thanks. Randy Kolb

mrfearless47 said...

I absolutely agree that the emergency clauses play havoc with any responsible retirement planning. This is just a way to screw with PERS members and make them panic, but the real effect could be to provoke somewhere close to 50,000 members to bail all at once. Wouldn't that be a disaster for all concerned. Thanks for reminding me.

mrfearless47 said...

@Ken. Sorry to have ignored your comment. I'm not sure what the issue is because I've checked the blog from Windows 7 using IE 7, IE8 and the beta of IE 9, all versions of Firefox for both Windows, OSX, and Linux (Ubuntu), Safari (OSX), and Google Chrome (Windows 7 and OS X). I wonder if you are using an old version of Firefox. there are so many different versions of Firefox floating around that it is hard to insure compatibility. Google hosts the blog and I use two different blogger products (MarsEdit and Blogo) to produce the blog. None of these report any problems with Firefox.

Suggestion: Clear your Firefox cache (Tools: Clear Recent History) and see if that helps. If not, let me know and I'll investigate further.

mrf

mpguy said...

I agree about the emergency clauses. I doubt that screwing over public employees really constitutes an "emergency."

There is no reason that any PERS reform bill passed (if any of significance do pass) can't take effect after the close of the legislature. That gives people some time to become informed about changes in the law, and to take appropriate action based on their circumstances.