Fight looms over retirement board

Legislators seem to want another fight over the state’s employee retirement system.

By MIKE JACOBS
NDNA

Legislators seem to want another fight over the state’s employee retirement system.

Last week senators stripped provisions in the bill that would have changed the structure of the Public Employee Retirement System.  Advanced by House Republican Leader Al Carlson, these would have eliminated the nine-member commission that governs PERS and replaced it with a seven-member advisory board appointed by the governor. Senators substituted language that would lead to a study of “the powers and duties” of the personnel system board.

A stand-off over similar legislation in 2015 led to an abrupt adjournment of the Senate, a special session and sniping between the bodies. An echo of the disagreement occurred early in the 2017 session, when Carlson broke with tradition and had the speaker of the House preside over the joint session that opened legislative activities this year. Previously, the lieutenant governor had presided at that event – but constitutionally, he is a member of the executive branch who presides over the Senate.

Disagreements between Senate and House boil down to these:  whether employees should be represented on the board, and when should changes in pensions become effective.

Carlson has said that his goal is to increase the Legislature’s power to shape and fund pensions.

The issue will go to a conference committee, and it could be among the last issues settled this session. Nevertheless, leaders remained confident last week that this session would end by mid-April.