After two committee hearings, a spirited preliminary debate, and remarks from legislators prior to the final vote, major PERA reform legislation gained final approval by the full Senate last week. If passed, SB 18-200 would impact every current and future PERA member and beneficiary.
Below is a breakdown of the bill’s path through the legislative process.
Senate Finance Committee
After over four hours of testimony on the bill on Tuesday, March 13, the Committee delayed the amendment phase and final vote. When the hearing continued on Thursday, March 15, they considered four amendments. Two of the amendments, which both passed by votes of 3-2, removed language that would have increased employer contributions beginning in 2018, as well as the employer contribution increases that were part of the automatic adjustment provision. Another amendment, which passed without objection, clarified that the four members of the proposed public pension oversight committee who are “experts in the area of pensions or retirement plan design” would not be legislators, and therefore would not have the power to vote on matters before the committee. The only amendment that did not pass out of Senate Finance would have removed the provision in SB 18-200 expanding the option of choosing the defined contribution plan to all new hires. The committee members voted 4-1 to refer the amended bill to Senate Appropriations.
Senate Appropriations Committee
With no public testimony, the Appropriations Committee hearing was quick. One amendment appropriated $200,000 of general fund money which may be used by the legislative council for an “independent review of PERA assumptions.” The committee voted 4-3 to advance the amended SB 18-200 to the floor of the Senate.
The full Senate debated SB 18-200 over the course of two days; Friday, March 23 and Monday, March 26. During the debate, several amendments were considered, but only two passed: (1) removing the provision to adjust retirement eligibility for current members (PERA Interim Executive Director Ron Baker expressed concerns about this provision during the Senate Finance Committee hearing) and (2) moving up the implementation date from 2020 to 2019 for allowing eligible new members to opt-in to the defined contribution plan. On Tuesday, March 27, the full Senate voted 19-16 to send the bill, as amended, to the House of Representatives.
SB 18-200 has been introduced and assigned to the House Finance and House Appropriations Committees. A hearing has been set for Monday, April 16 at 1:30 p.m. Once the hearing starts, everything will begin anew: public testimony, consideration of amendments by committees and the full house, and, if the bill continues to pass through the process, eventually final approval from the House. If the House version of the bill differs from the Senate version—and all indications are that it will—then the Senate will be asked to concur with House amendments and send the bill to Governor Hickenlooper, or a conference committee of members of the House and Senate will be formed to try to forge a compromise that can win the support of both chambers. All of this must happen prior to Wednesday, May 9, which is the final day of the legislative session.
As always, for up-to-date information on SB 18-200 and any other PERA bills that might still be introduced, check back with PERA on the Issues.
See this fact sheet for a comparison of the PERA Board’s recommendation and SB 18-200.