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Monday, January 20, 2014

Time Without Consequences

The Oregon Supreme Court has published its schedule for the Special Master hearings and for the oral arguments in the cases involving SB 822 and SB 861.  These cases pertain to the PERS retiree COLA and the legislation involving the out-of-state subsidy for Oregon Income Tax.  To make things as clear as possible, there is no litigation that I am aware of involving HB 3349, the 1995 legislation that provided retirees with a direct income tax subsidy for Oregon income taxes for work performed prior to October 1991.  The only litigation involves SB 656, passed in 1991, which provided a boost in PERS benefits to retirees based on length of service, not income and tax obligation.  

The Special Master’s status conferences were and will be held on January 10, February 14, and March 14, 2014.  The Special Master will take testimony from April 1 to April 11 on the evidence.  The Special Master’s report is due to the Supreme Court on April 30, 2014.  

Subsequently, the Supreme Court will begin Oral Arguments on the combined cases involving SB 822 and SB 861 in September 2014.

The final decision, as predicted, will occur sometime between 12 and 14 months from now.  This follows the pattern established by the 2005 Strunk Court in its ruling on the 2003 Legislative reforms.  Again, without an appellate court history, the Special Master’s role is to create a legal framework that the Supreme Court may use in its deliberations to reach a final decision on the constitutionality and legality of legislative actions taken in SB 822 and SB 861.  As I anticipated, the final decisions will be available to the 2015 Legislature, although it is unlikely that a decision will be available by the time the Legislature convenes.  Gov John Kitzrobber has claimed he will not put PERS issues back on the Legislative calendar regardless of the outcome of the consolidated Moro et al cases.  That, of course, depends on whether Gov Kitzrobber is reelected, a prediction that isn’t entirely certain at this point.  I certainly am not anticipating voting for him, but I won’t vote for his presumptive opponent either.

Sorry for the long delay between postings.  Between being far out of town, and attending to various family emergencies, I haven’t been paying as close attention to PERS issues as usual.  Things should improve as the legal machinations get moving.