Session Daily: Omnibus state employee retirement bill passes House

Session Daily: Omnibus state employee retirement bill passes House

Source: Session Daily

By Katie Spielberger

Departing member Rep. Joe Atkins (DFL-Inver Grove Heights) had aimed to “go quietly into the night” this session. But this proved impossible when his amendment to the omnibus state employee pension bill was ruled out of order.

The bill, HF659/ SF588, sponsored by Tim O’Driscoll (R-Sartell) and Senate President Sandy Pappas (DFL-St. Paul), passed the House Sunday by a vote of 129-3 and now goes to the governor. Atkins’ amendment, which he said would bolster the pensions of 83 police officers and firefights in the state to correct past wrongs, was ruled out of order under House Rule 3.21, the frequently-invoked germaneness provision.

O'Driscoll, Tim

Rep. Tim O’Driscoll

“For 83 retired police office and firefighters who always ran towards the fire … now we’re running away,” he said. “Join me in running towards the solution. We can do it right now.”

O’Driscoll said any amendment would destroy the agreement that had been reached on the bill.

House Minority Leader Paul Thissen (DFL-Mpls) said the ruling “may have been the very worst ruling I’ve ever seen on the House Floor.”

“So, basically, what you are saying is you can never add an amendment to an omnibus pension bill,” he said.

The ruling aside, most members agreed that the omnibus bill overall was pretty good.

The bill would set aside most of the “heavy financial lifting” until next year, O’Driscoll said, and would result in $88.5 million in savings to the state pension system from a one-year reduction in the cost-of-living adjustment for certain plans. Some of the other provisions in the plan would do the following:

  • merge the Duluth teacher retirement plan into the Teacher Retirement Association plan;
  • incorporate changes related to increased lifespans based on an actuarial report;
  • streamline the process for survivors of service members killed in the line of duty seeking to access benefits;
  • help certain cities include volunteer firefighters in plans; and
  • address a variety of individual constituent issues.

Rep. Michael Nelson (DFL-Brooklyn Park) unsuccessfully offered an amendment to remove the COLA provision, saying this adjustment would only affect retirees, rather than sharing the burden with employers and employees.

“That’s not really how we’ve done this in the past, and it’s not fair,” he said.

Despite this, Nelson said he supported the passage of the bill.

“This is probably the best pension bill we can get this year,” Nelson said.

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