Weekend Update: Senator Pappas kindly informed us that we had incorrectly identified the retired senate employee who is the intended beneficiary of a bill we described below. To the best of our knowledge, the bill has not been introduced so there is no easy way to determine the person’s identity or any other particulars. Senator Pappas declined to share that information with us. It is not part of the omnibus bill coming out of pensions. We sincerely apologize to Senator Pappas and to the person we incorrectly identified in the post last week. This is a good reminder to check information, though our source was pretty darned good!
The Legislative Commission on Pensions and Retirement (LCPR) has had two meetings, once on May 5th and again last night, May 11th. All of the bills that have been heard are summarized here.
There is one bill that we want to call particular attention to: a nine-year employee of MnDOt was killed while trying to clear a culvert. He left behind a 30 year old wife and two young children. His family will receive survivor benefits from social security and worker’s comp. He would have had a very small amount of retirement from MSRS. Rep. Morrow and Sen. Sheran introduced a bill that would give his family additional survivor benefits that will be paid out of MSRS–and MnDOt has agreed to pay the actuarial bill from its operating budget. We are sympathetic to this young family, but this is an indefensible use of taxpayer funds!
Because the Commission formed late in the session (for a mix of reasons), we anticipate that the LCPR will not do much more this session unless Chair Morrie Lanning opens up the commission’s agenda to additional items. He said last night that he intends to close the agenda for the session but he may be pressured by Sen. Larry Poggemiller if the Minneapolis Police and Fire are able to reach agreement with PERA on merging their old, closed funds with PERA. The governor may try to get this in as part of a last minute budget deal. This is one to watch.
Another item that might be pushed is a bill sponsored by DFL Senator Sandy Pappas that would give a retired Senate employee (revised and updated: we do not know the identity of the beneficiary of this bill, see above) 24 months of health coverage that he or she may not be otherwise be eligible for. The bill offering the benefit was passed in 2010 to incentivize people to retire.
Chair Lanning also made it clear on May 5th that he does not intend to hear any “major reform” bills this session but that he intends to get to that business next session.
Lanning, as Chair of the State Government Finance Committee, has had a very full agenda. Lanning’s position on pensions reflects the GOP leadership’s decision to focus on the budget this session, though there are bills that will reduce the payroll and thus reduce the pension liabilities in the future.
The commission is scheduled to meet on Friday, May 13th to consider bills for inclusion in an omnibus bill. We’ll report back after that meeting. Will it be quiet or Friday the 13th?