Pension Legislation Updates: Paving the Way Forward

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This year presents a dynamic landscape for public pensions across various states, marked by challenges and significant opportunities. In a refreshing shift, we find ourselves in a unique position. Not only does public opinion now favor defined-benefit pensions, but major corporations are also rediscovering the value of offering pensions to workers. With troublesome shortages of public employees nationwide, the significance of public pension plans has become even more pronounced, changing the tone of debates around the country.   

Let’s delve into the recent legislative updates across several states, highlighting the strides being made to bolster pension provisions:

Alaska |  in session January 16 – May 15, carried over from 2023

Alaska stands at the forefront of addressing one of the most pressing challenges facing states today: the critical shortage of public employees. Exacerbated by severe difficulties in recruitment and retention, the state’s public service delivery has faced significant strain. Senator Cathy Geissel took decisive action in 2023 by introducing Senate Bill 88. This pivotal legislation aims to reinstate defined-benefit pensions for public employees, a move long overdue after an 18-year hiatus since the closure of the defined-benefit pension plan to new hires. With its successful passage in the Senate, SB 88 now awaits further deliberation in the House State Affairs committee. This bill would provide security for Alaska’s dedicated public servants, marking a crucial step forward in addressing the state’s public service shortage crisis.

Connecticut | State Legislature in session February 7 – May 8, no carry-over from 2023

In Connecticut, legislative efforts aim to recognize the invaluable contributions of certain public servants. HB 5388 seeks to extend the “hazardous duty member” definition under the State Employees Retirement Act to include investigators in the Division of Public Defender Services. Additionally, SB 334 would require that pensions be provided for police officers and firefighters employed by Municipalities, acknowledging their dedication to public safety.

Florida | State legislature in session January 9 – March 8th

Earlier this year, we heralded the proactive stance of Florida lawmakers as they “hit the ground running” this legislative session with two significant proposals to improve public workers’ retirement security. With the introduction of SB 1022 and SB 242, we anticipated significant strides. However, despite the initial momentum, both bills met an untimely demise in the Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee. While this setback is undeniable, it serves as a testament to the unwavering determination within the pension advocacy community and its efforts to push toward prioritizing retirement security for public workers.

Kansas | State Legislature in session January 8 – May 3, carried over from 2023

In recent years, Kansas lawmakers have faced numerous challenges regarding the state’s pension system. Bills introduced in 2022 and 2023 aimed to transition all public employees to a thrift savings plan, which had significant implications for retirement security. However, amidst these challenges, the current legislative session highlights efforts to enhance pension provisions for public servants.

SB 479 and SB 505 stand as testament to this commitment. SB 479 seeks to transition teachers to a more sustainable plan, ensuring the longevity of their retirement benefits. Similarly, SB 505 aims to enhance benefits for corrections officers, acknowledging their vital role in maintaining public safety. These initiatives reflect a proactive approach to securing the retirement future of Kansas’ workforce, underscoring the state’s unwavering dedication to those who tirelessly serve its communities.

Notably, SB 505 recently advanced the Senate Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee and is now slated for further consideration by the full Senate. Meanwhile, SB 479 had a Senate hearing earlier this month and awaits further action.

Minnesota | State Legislature in session February 12 – May 20

Last year, Minnesota legislators allocated $97 million in ongoing funding to lower the retirement age from 66 to 65 for teachers in the Minnesota Teacher Retirement Association (TRA) and the Saint Paul Teachers’ Retirement Fund Association pension plans.

 This year, over 1,000 teachers again rallied at the Capitol to support further pension reforms. Sen. Heather Gustafson—herself a teacher—authored a Penalty Reduction bill. “The bill lowers penalties, restores some equity between Tier I and II teachers, and gives the option to retire early if needed with fewer penalties,” Gustafson said. 

Representatives of the other Minnesota employee groups are also weighing in. According to a representative of the Minnesota Professional Fire Fighters, the Saint Paul Teachers, and AFSCME Council 5, Minnesota ranks 46th in spending per capita on public employee pensions. The state dedicates just 2.4% of all state and local revenues to pensions, while the national average is 5.2%. Meanwhile, recent Legislative Commission on Pensions and Retirement testimony drew attention to a $10 billion shortfall in the Minnesota PERA plan. 

Minnesota will be a place to watch as the legislature completes its work before Memorial Day.

Oregon | State Legislature in session February 5 – March  7

HB 4045 in Oregon stands out as a proactive measure to address the evolving needs of public servants. By lowering the retirement age for police and firefighters and extending benefits to other hazardous-duty workers, the bill exemplifies a concerted effort to ensure retirement security across various public service roles. Additionally, the bill directs the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) board to consider creating a new category of benefits for hazardous-duty workers such as emergency dispatchers and hospital care workers—underscoring the commitment to adapt pension plans to meet the changing demands of the workforce. 

House Bill 4045 cleared both legislative chambers by large margins — 55-2 in the House and 25-5 in the Senate — as the 2024 session wrapped. The bill is now awaiting the governor’s approval.

Stay in the Know

As the 2024 legislative sessions draw to a close, NPPC  will continue to provide important updates on these matters, ensuring you stay informed about developments impacting public pensions. For ongoing updates, we encourage you to stay tuned to NPPC’s news blog and sign up for our News Clips to receive daily pension news from across the country directly to your inbox.