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Monday, April 11, 2011

How To Become Clairvoyant

What a strange trip this past week has been. I suppose I owe OPRI an apology for the drubbing I gave them on Friday following the hearings on the PERS bills in the House Business and Labor Committee - specifically, HB 2456. I fell into a semantic cesspool with Mike Schaufler's chief of staff over the fate of HB 2456. I had written to Representative Schaufler, as I had done with all of the members of that committee earlier the previous week about the fate of HB 2456. I had made some suggestions about the bill, concluding with the assertion that the bill generates so little cash that it hardly seemed worthwhile given the amount of ill-will and litigation that might result. On Tuesday, April 5, I received an email from Representative Schaufler's Chief of State telling me, in effect, that HB 2456 was not likely to move forward to a work session. That was true, but exceedingly misleading. After perusing the "history" of HB 2456 on the Legislative website, it was clear that the bill was scheduled for a hearing on April 8, which I already knew, but that no amendments had been posted as of that date. I concluded, both properly and improperly at the same time, that the Chief of Staff's words should be taken literally - HB 2456 was dead. Unfortunately, I don't have time to peruse every website on the planet so I wouldn't have seen OPRI's amended version of the bill to trade future retirees for present retirees. Thus, I scolded OPRI harshly for, what appears to have been, something they didn't do. They did not revive a dead bill. They provided an option to a bill that was dead in its original form, and gave the committee a way out of the legal dilemma they had created with the unamended version of the bill.

So, OPRI is owed an apology for my scolding. It was premature. They didn't revive a dead bill. They provided an amendment that protected those currently living out of state and those already retired, while offering up future retirees to the gallows. Future retirees remaining in Oregon will continue to get the tax benefit, but those who either already live out of state, or those who plan to move out of state, will not.

I have been called out on this by David Reinhardt, lobbyist (and former Oregonian columnist), and by Representative Schaufler's Chief of Staff. I suppose I should be more contrite, but at the moment I'm mostly pissed. I feel like Representative Schaufler's office deliberately misled me or steered me away from what was really going on (it's just me folks and I can't be in twenty places at one time). I stuck my neck on the line and I, deservedly, got it chopped off.

Nevertheless, my point about OPRI remains. This is NOT a good recruitment strategy. You need new members, desperately. Your membership is aging in place and there has to be a way to encourage new retirees to join. Again, for those retiring after 2011, what exactly will OPRI's claim to fame be?

I wish I could be clairvoyant and read through people's words. But when someone takes time to write me a personal email, I don't typically think I'm being burned, misled, or even deceived. Live and learn.

Thankfully, I'm going away from this mess for about a week. This will probably be my last post for this week. I'm going to enjoy a week in the Florida sunshine with John D. MacDonald and friends in Cedar Key, FL.


Harvey said...

Dont beat yourself up Professor. I have been following this bill also and wrote my own views to the committee and my Rep and Senator. The fact of the matter is all across the country their are forces at work attempting to strip public employee retirement benefits and rights. This latest assault on 20 yr old settled law and benefits should have been DOA and opposed by the Coalition's mouthpiece Hartman and OPRI for no other reason than it another reduction in public employee benefits. The one question I never could find out is who was pushing this bill in the first place? And yes, although I am a current retiree, living in Oregon, OPRI sold out current PERS members and especially future retirees! And for what? The bill should have been killed and the sob's behind it should not have "helped out" to solve any legal problems created by the vermin seeking to reduce our benefits!

mrfearless47 said...

@Harvey. Thanks for your support. I won't beat myself up for long. I didn't get the "fearless" for being namby-pamby about this kind of stuff. OPRI wanted an apology and a correction - the got it, but with strings attached. I still think their decision was poorly thought out.

Kolbs said...

None of this changes the fact that OPRI and the PERS Coalition should/should have fought against this bill - period - without giving up on the actives.

TruthSeeker said...

Actives who retire in Oregon will still receive the tax adjustment(most retirees). Those considering moving out of Oregon (a few retirees) at least have accurate information on the consequences of moving re: tax adjustment.

mrfearless47 said...

Then there are those actives who already live out of state, work in Oregon, and pay Oregon income tax. There are members who live in Nampa, ID, in Washington, Northern California, and possibly northeastern Nevada. If you are "lucky" enough to live in California, you get to pay both CA and OR income taxes.

mrfearless47 said...

@Harvey. As for sponsors of the original bill, a group of legislators put together "legislative concepts", which were then drafted by Legislative Counsel in some standard form, paying particular attention to the legal niceties. They don't rule on the legality of the bill itself or the clauses therein, but they make sure that the bill references all the appropriate sections of the statutes that would be revised by the bill. This one I would lay at the feet of the Republican caucus.

zanzen said...

Am I mistaken or is the tax increment reduced by 1/4% each year from inception. If that is the case the 2012 benefit will be so small as to not be noticed by new retirees.

mrfearless47 said...

@zanzen. No. The tax increment is computed as the fraction of service prior to October 1991 divided by the total length of service times 9.89%. For unactive members whose work history is entirely prior to October 1991, the reduction is 9.89%. For active workers, the reduction varies from about 1% to 3%. The only workers it doesn't affect are those who had NO service prior to October 1991, or those who choose to remain in Oregon.

Andrew said...

OPRI has posted helpful comments and background on their actions related to HB 2456: http://opri.org/index.php/news
My sense is that OPRI acted within the dictates of sound political realism. Those on the scene perceived that the best we could reasonably hope for was damage control. Such is the nature of politics, where those at the extremes who demand all or nothing rarely get their way. I, for one, think there is good reason to support an organization that understands this and acts accordingly (and, no, I do not have any connection to OPRI).

mpguy said...

HB 2456 is coming back to committee quickly. It's scheduled for a possible work session at 8 a.m. on Monday, April 18. That could mean that it's headed to Ways and Means, then the House floor. At the very least, it probably means a Business & Labor Committee vote.

mpguy said...

I was watching the hearing via the internet. The only two people who showed up to discuss this at this morning's Business and Labor Committee meeting were from PERS (Orjoe and Rodeman (spelling?)). They were there to clarify how this would work, should it become law.

The new "dash seven" amendments to HB 2456 make it applicable only to PERS members who retire after December 31, 2011. They also "turn the remedy on and off," so that retirees who move out of Oregon lost the benefit offset, but allow them to regain it should they move back to Oregon.

There was also a discussion by the PERS reps about notification. Committee members were concerned about people not knowing that their benefits would be reduced and the legislature having to fix another problem.

The only action taken at today's meeting was to incorporate the "dash seven" amendments into the bill. It was continued to Wednesday, April 20, because the committee didn't have the fiscal impacts as of today's meeting. It appears that they are getting ready to pass this out of committee and down to Ways and Means at that time.

dave said...

I suppose we at OPRI should let matters rest after you were good enough to apologize for your recent misreporting on HB 2456. In offering that apology, however, you blamed Representative Schaufler's office, specifically his chief of staff, for deliberately misleading you.

That charge runs counter to everything anyone knows about the Schaufler office in general and is chief of staff in particular. One, why would his office deliberately mislead you? There would be no reason to do so.
Two, a chief of staff -- in any office -- would not necessarily be aware of the status of a piece of legislation. The committee administrator would.

His chief of staff no doubt told you what he knew at the time. A little more reporting on your part would have helped. You could have contacted OPRI before you sallied forth to condemn OPRI and libel Shaufler’s office.

Ask anyone around the capitol and they will tell you two things: One, Representative Schaufler is never shy about telling you what’s on his mind regarding a particular piece of legislation. Two, Representative Shaufler’s chief of staff, Dave Harrell, is one of the finest people in the capitol.

mrfearless47 said...

The fact that I wrote directly to Rep Schauflers,and NOT his chief of staff is part of the problem. I didn't ask mr. Harrell for a comment; I wrote about my concerns with bill and the fact that the fiscal impact as estimated by PERS would be far less, dramatically less, than estimated after enforcement and administaive costs coupled with the reduction for sb 656 adjustments. It was mr Harrell who responded to my email, not representative schauffler. Mr Harrell concluded his email with the declarative "...there is no intent to move this bill, FYI.". This bill is HB2456. The sentence contained no further qualification, period. Only when I challenged rep schaufler on the day of the hearing did I learn from mr Harrell that ge didn't exactly mean what he wrote. There was never an apology for The misleading concluding line; only an attempt to requalify itby stating what should have been said in the first place.

As for contacting OPRI, I had no time before posting the entry. Such is the nature of the beast. Furthermore, my experiences in attempting to communicate with OPRI by way of pac counsel has been underwhelming to say the least. Messages ignored or unanswered, or snarky and unhelpful responses. I still fail to understand why an email to OPRI cannot be answered by OPRI without having to be filtered by a third party.

So I would advise OPRI to accept its shortcomings and take this experience as an object lesson. I've certainly learned a valuable lesson from this. Time to move on.