Retirement insights from a Colorado PERA perspective

Legislation & Governance

2019 legislative session kicks off

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The First Regular Session of Colorado’s 72nd General Assembly convened on Friday, January 4, 2019. Unlike 2018, when PERA’s sustainability was a major issue at the State Capitol, the PERA Board of Trustees has not identified any legislative agenda items for consideration this year. However, bills will undoubtedly be introduced that could impact PERA.

As is typical, the first day of session was mostly ceremonial; more substantive policy discussions will begin in the coming weeks. Legislators elected in November were sworn in, and each chamber officially approved their new leaders, who were chosen shortly after the election. The leaders of each caucus then addressed the entire body regarding their priority issues for the next 120 days. Finally, the first group of bills were officially introduced. The election’s results should drive the agenda this session, and there are many issues likely to dominate the headlines through May 3.

Education

Governor Jared Polis, sworn-in January 8, made education a key part of his campaign, particularly full-day kindergarten funding and expanded access to preschool. This pledge, coupled with Amendment 73’s failure at the ballot box and the Democratic sweep of the legislative branch, will lead to a much broader debate on education funding. Improving teacher salaries, increasing per-pupil funding, paying down the negative factor, and addressing teacher recruitment and retention are all issues that lawmakers will seek to address.

Transportation

Two measures (Proposition 109 and Proposition 110) intended to increase funds dedicated to transportation projects failed on the ballot in November. This result automatically triggers a provision contained in 2018 legislation that places another measure on the ballot in November of 2019, unless this General Assembly acts on the issue first.

Health Care

The 2019 session will surely see bills introduced dealing with health care. Many candidates campaigned on expanding access, improving quality, and driving down costs.

General Business

As a result of the State Senate flipping from Republican to Democratic control, bills from the past two years that had passed the Democratic-controlled House but were postponed indefinitely (killed) in the Republican-controlled Senate are likely to reappear. Examples include a nationwide effort to strike the criminal history box on employment applications, known as ‘ban the box;’ and the creation of a Family Medical Leave Insurance Program, or ‘FAMLI,’ that is intended to offer a state solution for paid family leave. Other proposals have included creating a state-sponsored retirement program for private sector workers and giving local governments the ability to set their own minimum wage.

Energy and the Environment

Though in November voters rejected Proposition 112, a statutory measure intended to increase setbacks for new oil and gas development to 2,500 feet from occupied structures or vulnerable areas, this will still be an issue at the Capitol. Other proposals mentioned by lawmakers and interest groups include a moratorium on new drilling permits and giving local communities more control over oil and gas projects, as regulation of them is currently a matter of statewide concern.

TABOR and Gallagher Amendments

Finally, many key policy issues are dependent on increased funding in an environment that is fiscally limited under current law. An interim committee met throughout the summer of 2018 to try and come up with solutions to address funding challenges by recommending changes to the Gallagher Amendment. It will be key to watch whether there is political appetite in the General Assembly to pass such a bill, and ultimately assess whether voters would approve any changes in November.

PERA staff will be actively tracking 2019 legislation closely, so stay tuned for updates throughout the session.

Postponed indefinitelyA motion that halts all further consideration of a bill. In practice, this means the bill has failed.

Comments

  1. Barry Thorpe says:

    Let’s hope the legislature addresses the breach of contract to fully vested retirees that occurred in 2010. Its implausible to speak of attracting and retaining teachers when history shows Colorado doesn’t honor the contractual agreements it makes.
    PERA can no longer justify the taking of pension benefits retro-actively. The arbitrary taking of all COLA for 2 years, and then capping at a rate far below that required to even earn the moniker “cost of living” is making Colorado a very rejectable option for young teachers. Colorado is now known as a state that devalued education, fails to live up to contracts, and to take earned deferred compensation from its career vested employees.

  2. Marvel Dow says:

    Was the issue of the reduction of Social Security for PERA employees discussed?

    • Colorado PERA says:

      Ms. Dow,

      The Social Security reduction for public employees called the WEP is a federal law, so the Colorado General Assembly would not be involved with any changes. We encourage PERA members to send their thoughts about the WEP to the U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee at this email address: WEP.feedback@mail.house.gov

  3. Tim Hoopingarner says:

    Any word on “WEP” at the Federal level?

    • Colorado PERA says:

      Mr. Hoopingarner,

      There has been no recent action taken on the WEP, but if/when there is, we will be sure to share it on PERA on the Issues. In the meantime, if you haven’t already, you may wish to send your thoughts to the Ways and Means Committee here: WEP.feedback@mail.house.gov

  4. Judy varnet says:

    Please keep WEP on the front burner Those of us who are being robbed of our Social Security that was deducted from our pay because we taught in and retired from the state of Colorado deserve to be paid like everyone else.

  5. SENO, MARIA ELISA says:

    WILL BE ANY INCREASE THIS YEAR IN OUR PENSION?

  6. David Ljungvall says:

    No pay increases in 2018 & 2019 is killing us, who are already retired. The price of food, utilities, insurance, and just about everything is going up. We are falling so far behind that we won’t have a retirement soon. We will all have to go back to work just to survive!! Very disappointed in what PERA has left us with. Not what I was promised with when I retired.

  7. Herbert Clevenger says:

    PERA this information needs to be out there for all PERA members and retirees. PERA you should advocate for PERA members and retirees for a complete repeal of the unfair WEP since you have made reductions to our annual increases.
    The old bills from last year and the year before that didn’t make it through Congress and finally get signed by the President are officially DEAD. New bills must be introduced.
    We are delighted that we can announce a new repeal bill in the House of Representatives! Republican Member of the House from Illinois, Rodney Davis, has quickly re-introduced the same WEP/GPO repeal bill that he sponsored in the last Congressional session. His bill, introduced on the first day of the new session, already has 57 Members signed on to co-sponsor the bill—from 24 different states.
    Retirees from every state are affected by the offsets, so we need to work for support in every state. Check this link to AB 141 to see if your Congressperson has jumped into this fight: Cosigners of H.R. 141
    (Notice that this list can be sorted in different ways by clicking on the “Sort by” box above the list.)
    We hope you already have the phone number of your Member of Congress on speed dial. Please call them and thank them for being there, or remind them it is time to step up for you by co-sponsoring AB 141!
    Find your Congressperson at http://www.house.gov.
    Those of you who have chosen a group to concentrate on–your union, your city, county, or school district, your former employer, a seniors group– please contact them and tell them it is time to stand up for their retirees. We need a broader base of support to pass the repeal bill!
    Thank you for your efforts! To make a difference we must each choose an agency or seniors group to educate. Too many current workers do not understand the devastating effects of the GPO/WEP. We will need everyone behind this campaign!
    Repeal the UNFAIR Government Pension Offset and the Windfall Elimination Provision!

  8. Herbert Clevenger says:

    Those that would like can follow H.R. 141 and sign up for alerts. Colorado at this time has only one House member that has cosigned. Republican Tipton Scott Colorado district 3. Colorado along with a few other states are impacted immensely from the Windfall Elimination Provision. Again I would urge everyone that will to call or write their local House Representative and urge them to cosponsor H.R. 141. Colorado you are looking bad when it comes to cosponsoring this bill. California has more House members because of state population but at this time have 13 cosponsoring this bill.
    H.R.141 – Social Security Fairness Act of 2019 (116th Congress) has changes in
    • Cosponsors
    To cancel or manage your selections, go to Alerts.
    Go to Congress.gov and search for H.R.141 and sign up for alerts.
    PERA please do what you can to help alert all PERA retirees and current members as well that will be impacted by this as well at retirement so they can be informed on what actions they can take. I can tell by comments that many don’t have a clue.

    • Colorado PERA says:

      Dear Mr. Clevenger,

      Thank you for this information. We’ll be sure to include any updates on this legislation as they happen.

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