Retirement insights from a Colorado PERA perspective

Legislation & Governance

2021 Proposed Legislation Status

Legislation - Colorado
photo credit: Nathan McDaniel – 1297253149 – GettyImages

Below you’ll find summaries of proposed legislation affecting Colorado PERA. The status of each bill will be updated regularly.

Any position the Colorado PERA Board takes on a bill will be reflected below as soon as it becomes available.

Last updated: April 8, 2021


SB 21-228

Bill Title: PERA Public Employees Retirement Association Payment Cash Fund

Concerning the creation of the PERA payment cash fund to be used for future payments to the public employees’ retirement association, and, in connection therewith, making an appropriation.

Bill Summary: The bill creates the PERA payment cash fund (fund) and appropriates $380 million from the general fund to the fund for the 2020-21 state fiscal year. The state treasurer is required to use the money in the fund for the $225 million direct distribution payment to PERA on July 1, 2022, subsequent direct distributions, and any of the state’s employer contributions or disbursements.

Sponsors: Sen. Chris Hansen and Sen. Dominick Moreno, Rep. Julie McCluskie and Rep. Kim Ransom

Bill Status: Scheduled to be heard on Senate floor on April 8

Bill History:

  • April 5: Introduced in House
  • April 6: Passes Senate Appropriations Committee with amendment

HB 21-1246

Bill Title: PERA Public Employees’ Retirement Association Divestment From Fossil Fuel Companies

Concerning divestment action by the public employees’ retirement association against companies financially involved with fossil fuel companies.

Bill Summary: The bill would require the PERA Board to create an exclusion list of all direct investments PERA has in fossil fuel companies.

Within 6 months after completing the exclusion list, the Board would be required to determine whether divestment from the companies on the exclusion list complies with the Board’s fiduciary obligations. If the Board determines that divestment from any company on the exclusion list does not comply with its fiduciary obligations, the Board will remove the company from the exclusion list.

If the Board determined that divestment from any company on the exclusion list does comply with its fiduciary duty, the Board would be required to divest from those companies on the exclusion list. And the Board would be required to cease new direct investments in any company that is a fossil fuel company.

Beginning one year after the effective date of the bill, the Board would be required to ensure that no money or assets of the fund are invested in an indirect investment vehicle unless the Board is satisfied that such indirect investment vehicle is unlikely to have in excess of 2% of its assets directly or indirectly invested in fossil fuel companies.

The Board would be required to issue periodic reports to the members of the pension review commission of the General Assembly outlining all actions taken to comply with the requirements of the bill.

Sponsors: Rep. Emily Sirota and Rep. Sonya Jaquez Lewis

Bill Status: Hearing in House Finance Committee on April 19 at 1:30 p.m.

Bill History:

  • March 25: Introduced in House

PERA Board Position: Per the Board’s Statement on Divestment, PERA serves the singular purpose of ensuring the retirement security of Colorado’s current and former public servants. Global issues are difficult to prioritize and proper recourse falls beyond the duty of the retirement system. PERA opposes divestment efforts unless such opposition is inconsistent with its fiduciary duty and recommends the legislature thoughtfully consider such proposals with caution and fiduciary care.


HB 21-1136

Bill Title: Judicial Division Retirees Temporary Judicial Duties Compensation

Concerning modifications to the policies governing judicial division retirees returning to temporary judicial duties.

Bill Summary: Retired judges may currently perform judicial duties for 60 or 90 days with written permission from the chief justice of the Colorado Supreme court. This bill would allow retired judges to do the same for 20, 30, 60, or 90 days per year. In addition, under current law a retired judge must enter into the agreement prior to retirement or within thirty days prior to the retirement anniversary in the next five years of retirement. This bill would remove that limitation.

Sponsors: Rep. Kerry Tipper and Rep. Terri Carver

Bill Status: Scheduled to be heard on the House floor on April 7

Bill History:

  • March 1: Introduced in House
  • March 10: House Committee on Judiciary refers unamended to Appropriations Committee
  • April 5: House Appropriations Committee refers to Committee of the Whole with amendments

PERA Board Position: The PERA Board does not have a position on this bill.


HB 21-1213

Bill Title: Conversion Of Pinnacol Assurance

Concerning the conversion of Pinnacol Assurance from a political subdivision of the state into a stock insurance company owned by a mutual insurance holding company.

Bill Summary: This bill would convert Pinnacol Assurance, which provides workers’ compensation insurance, into a private company. As part of this conversion, Pinnacol would disaffiliate from PERA and make a payment to PERA to cover its portion of PERA’s liabilities. Current Pinnacol employees would become inactive PERA members after the disaffiliation date but would be eligible for future benefits. Current PERA retirees who were employed by Pinnacol are not affected by this bill.

Sponsors: Rep. Matt Soper

Bill Status: Postponed indefinitely

Bill History:

  • Introduced March 5
  • Postponed indefinitely by the House State, Civic, Military, & Veterans Affairs Committee, March 22.

PERA Board Position: The PERA Board holds that all disaffiliations should be treated the same and the methodology used to determine the cost for disaffiliation should align with the framework provided by the general assembly under current statute.


Comments

  1. Marilyn Connolly says:

    When is the State going to return the $25,000,000 or $25,000,000,000 it borrowed from our PERA reserved funding?
    This should be budgeted before new plans for new spending.

  2. Chuck G says:

    PERA leadership needs to step up, take off the bus driver uniform and put on some boxing gloves and really advocate for retirees. Currently PERA is just Colorado’s piggie bank.

    I read the front page story today in the Denver Post on the Governor’s proposed budget. To me it effects PERA funding.

    Gov. Polis is proposing all kind of new and flashy things to spend a $700M+ surplus on this year from the overly aggressive budget cuts last year when he signed off on a law change that chopped off the legally obligated $225M contribution to PERA for July 1, 2020. This surplus is not to be confused with covid relief bill money. So apparently, this surplus will not be used to back fill the $225M panic cut to PERA last year (and other important line items) but on new and fun projects.

    How is this fair, ethical, moral and/or legal ?

    I would love to be able to get away with that in my personal life. Maybe not pay my mortgage, claiming anxiety of possible future financial distress, but still keep living in that house. And soon after, I buy a new car because things did not get so bad after all. I park the new car in my garage of this house that I stayed living in, because I said I can.

    Colorado has a legal obligation to adequately fund PERA, including adequate annual cost of living increases and affordable PeraCare. PERA retirees really need a strong lobbying arm like the teacher’s union – but they don’t because they are older, sicker, poorer, and less organized than other groups. So sad! Oh! Get ready for higher inflation!

    • Priscilla O'Connell says:

      How can we organize because most state legislators have washed their hands clean of PERA from a few years ago (before Polis time) when they “gave” what they could and then we were frozen and then dropped from 1.5 increase to 1.25 this year for standard of living. JOKE!!!

      • Don says:

        It was actually 3.00 originally. They took away part of it in 2006 and have just kept lowering it, pretty soon they will have it where they want it at zero. At 76 I don’t have the energy or means to fight it, and the know it. So much for promises.

    • David says:

      If you read the wring in the American Rescue act 2021. No stimulus money sent to the states can be used to fund a pension plan.

    • Sue Quam says:

      Agreed. I am shocked that PERA does so little to stand up for retirees. Management and Board members need to advocate for its members.

    • Paul says:

      Hi Chuck,
      I agree with your sentiments. Regarding the 225 M, I wrote to Representative Sirota to amplify that concern in addition to my disappointment with their failure to do anything to restore or even improve the COLA (annual increase). The following is her reply.
      Hi Paul,
      Thanks for staying in touch re: PERA. I hope you’ll be happy to know that the Joint Budget Committee has already moved to restore that $225M cut that was made in the 2020 budget in the midst of the COVID crisis. They’ve restored many of the cuts that were made last year. With regard to the COLA, I have had conversations with Secure PERA and others about how we might think about the changes that were made a few years ago and adjusting going forward. I would say those conversations are ongoing, and I welcome any of your contributions or thoughts.
      Best,
      Emily

      Emily Sirota
      CO State Representative
      House District 9

      • G M Santo says:

        Mr. Paul,

        Thank you for sharing this constituent communication from Representative Sirota (D-Denver, DU/Observatory Park area). I think many PERA members need to inform her that “Secure PERA” is a dubious group and does NOT represent me! I hope many PERA members contact her (and other legislators) and tell them directly how they feel! And remember to say “Secure PERA” and the PERA Board & Staff (PERA B.S.) don’t represent the bulk of PERA members (anymore than a phony yellow-dog union represents state workers under legislative permission and political control). Thank you again for your efforts… I hope (and urge) others to contact Ms. Sirota and other state legislators now!

    • d.m. says:

      Where is the response to this? What is PERA doing about it? No answer

  3. Ron Segul says:

    What did you expect from the Democrats

  4. John E Goddard says:

    The 225M should be paid and not allowed to just be forgiven until we don’t remember it was cut.

    • PAM STOLL says:

      True. This must be paid back AND this years monies be put in also.

    • roxana says:

      I agree. This is just a repeat of past economic crisis and PERA employees and retirees are left holding the bag and then have to try to explain why it is the State’s unfunded obligations that keep threatening the so-called unfunded liabilites which ALWAYS falls on the backs of and is taken out of the pockets of PERA members.

      Make no mistake this has been done by both Colorado Democrats and Republicans.

    • D Blesh says:

      totally agree

  5. Barry Northrop says:

    Q: What’s a politician’s promise?
    A: A lie.

  6. Judy says:

    What ever happened to the Windfall Elimination Provision Bill?

    • Robin says:

      Blown in the wind. Out of sight, out of mind. Just delayed again?

    • Joe D' says:

      …. and to add insult to injury to the WEP, any social security we do make gets taxed up to 85% of what ever PERA we make over $44K.

    • Douglas Morton says:

      We need to ban together and eliminate WEP

    • Kevin says:

      I believe (hope) you are talking about H.R. 82, the Social Security Fairness Act that would abolish GPO & WEP.
      Each year, a bill like this is introduced & gets quite a bit of support, but never gets quite enough support. Currently, the bill has 111 cosponsors. 79 of those are democrats & 32 are Republicans, so it is truly a bipartisan bill. As of this point, only one Colorado congressperson has cosponsored the bill, and that is Ed Perlmutter. Thanks to Representative Permutter.

      The only reason this bill doesn’t ever pass, despite getting close every year, is because too many retirees sit back and expect others to do something about it. EVERY single one of you needs to write to your congressperson and call them. I have contacted Joe Neguse three times already this year. I try to keep it positive and congratulate him for all the important things he is doing, but then I remind him that we need his support & cosponsorship for H.R. 82.

      I am confident that Representative Neguse and other Colorado members of Congress would become cosponsors if they heard from enough of us. It’s fine to complain on websites like this one, but it won’t get us very far. We ALL need to contact those who can actually do something about repealing GPO & WEP.

      • Kim Mutchler says:

        This is helpful — thank you. I agree, many of us need to reach out. I’m on board.

      • Randal Smith says:

        Thank you, I will contact them

      • Leslie Smith says:

        Absolutely agree. I have contacted my Rep and Senators each legislative session.

      • Greenja says:

        Remember, you can only contact YOUR Congress person if you live in his/her district. Take a minute to find out who this is and then send your correspondence!

      • BJ says:

        I agree. Though not retired, I think it’s important that all who contribute money toward PERA retirement benefits and all who contribute money toward Social Security benefits should get their fair share of both retirement benefits. To contribute to both and to receive both is just. It doesn’t make sense to contribute to both yet only receive benefits from one or the other. We live in a world that is complex and evolving- where change is the only constant and flexibility and adaptability are critical to success. Switching careers at least once in a lifetime is commonplace in this era. How could such an unjust and stagnating policy that discourages teachers from entering and leaving the profession exist? Who IS the winner? Definitely not middle class professionals. For any PERA employee, past or present, I encourage you to write your congressperson and ask them to support H.R. 82. Call or email them during you lunch break. You never know where life may lead you and where you might find yourself landing in your career. And how sad it is for all teachers and all students if personal decisions to stay in or out of the teaching profession are made as a result of an unjust retirement steal.

  7. Dave Wergin says:

    When many current retirees were hired, over 50 years ago, we were assured that the PERA retirement program would provide a 3% annual “cost of living” increase each year. A contract, if you will. PERA has, to the best of my knowledge, been managed very well over the past 60 or so years. If the State has “borrowed” from this fund, it MUST be paid back with interest. As would any lending agreement. That seems the right and Legal thing to do!

  8. Kim lack says:

    I am so frustrated that the state can not provide better insurance prices for their employees who worked their asses off for 20-40 years for them. Pre-Medicare insurance is so costly . I pray to God I don’t end up in the hospital in the next 2 years, because I can’t afford it. Some people are lucky enough to have a spouse that can get them better insurance thru their jobs, I don’t . They are making insurance cheaper for people who go to the internet to buy it, why not PERA! I agree with all other comments on here.

    • PERA On The Issues says:

      Hi Kim,

      Thank you for your comment. We understand that rising health care prices are a major concern for retirees and something PERA staff works hard to address. PERA aims to offer plans that offer quality coverage for the price. We also encourage PERA retirees to review all their insurance options to find the one that works best for them, even if it is not a PERACare plan.

      There are some key points to keep in mind when comparing PERACare pre-retiree plans to others First, PERACare plans are made up of retirees. People who are older utilize more health care on average than younger people. Plans you might find on a public exchange like Connect for Health Colorado likely have a pool of insured people who are younger on average than a retiree-only plan. Because premiums are directly related to the cost of the health care services used, this can be a factor. Second, PERA retirees have a health care subsidy to put toward PERACare plans while those shopping on the public exchange can be eligible for varying amount of subsidies based on their income levels. The amount of these subsidies vary from person to person and can certainly influence the final price.

      • Leslie Smith says:

        Thanks for your response. The post Medicare insurance plans are fairly pricey too. Additionally, we have to pay the Medicare premium PLUS the PERACare premium AND the subsidy decreases once the retiree is on Medicare. All of that increases the monthly premium cost substantially.

      • Leslie Smith says:

        I made on reply to you but forgot to say that, I believe, if a person elects to get a policy outside of PERACare they cannot come back to PERACare. Given that, it is a little risky to move away from PERACare when you can’t come back.

        • PERA On The Issues says:

          A PERA retiree who is on a PERACare plan and then leaves for a different plan outside of PERACare is welcome to return to a PERACare plan at any time in the future during the annual open enrollment period.

  9. Mike Morris says:

    Losing the $225M that the state agreed to put toward our pension plan becoming better funded was the result of PERA agreeing to that legislation back in 2018. The PERA Board and leadership knew going in to this that it was always contingent upon the ability of the State budget to fund it. 2020 was certainly an anomaly and State legislators could not have anticipated the looming state budget crisis that could have occurred during the negative economy as a result of COVID. Having said that, I agree that new found money or state budget surpluses should definitely be used to pay back the $225M owed to PERA.
    And a footnote to Mr. Segul who said “what do you expect from the Democrats”. Unfounded partisan comments are just that, unfounded partisan lies. He should know that the Democrats in the state legislature have been fighting numerous Republican attacks to defund and weaken our pension plan for decades. That comment is not intended to be partisan, just the facts. This comment is from a former PERA Trustee who knows how the sausage is made.

    • Michael J Stoffler says:

      Happy to see you aren’t being partisan.

      Can you give specifics of when either party attempted to defund our pension plan over the past two decades?

      Thanks

    • Rick Schur says:

      Either the State pays back the 225 million now or they will have to pay even more when PERA does not get fully funded in the time they have projected back in 2018 when us retirees had to pay a cut to out COLA. This means the tax payers of Colorado will have to pay more once PERA goes bankrupt because PERA is not able to take the 225 million and invest it in profitable companies unlike what the State legislature is attempting to do by requiring PERA divest in fossil fuel, a very profitable industry home to Colorado and high paying Colorado jobs!

  10. Jennifer Denning says:

    I would like an update the WEP Elimination bill please.

  11. Mary says:

    Has anyone who has written a comment checked with the governor’s office or a state representative to find out the status of this? Maybe we all should.

    • PERA On The Issues says:

      Hi Mary,

      Can you clarify which issue/bill you’re referring to? We’d be happy to provide more information if we can.

  12. Marie Valenzuela says:

    WEP elimination requires congressional action because it is a federal, not a state, law.

    HR 82, Social Security Fairness Act of 2021, was introduced on 1/4/2021 to repeal the WEP/GPO. To date, it does not have any Colorado co-sponsors.

    Please contact your congressional representative and ask them to support the bill.

    • Kevin says:

      Good news Marie… One Colorado representative, Ed Perlmutter, has cosponsored H.R.82. But you’re absolutely right. Every single PERA retiree should contact their representative and ask them to support this bill.

    • G M Santo says:

      Hi Marie, Yes you’re correct about this being federal legislation… and for the record Congressmen Perlmutter, Polis (when in Congress), Tipton (yes a Republican, replaced by a whack-job) have supported such federal legislation in the past. Representatives Neguse (D-Boulder) & Crow (D-Aurora) ought to be supporters (I just haven’t kept track), but both Buck and Degette repeatedly ignore us! There’s probably another Representative, who’s name and significance escapes me, but he’s probably against us… oh yea, Lamborn (R-Colo. Spgs.), a district with lots of PERA members who should ride him hard for support and not accept any waffling (same for Ms. Degette, D-Denver)! If the Social Security Fairness Act ever gets to the Senate, then I’m sure it will be a full court press to get Colorado’s so-called Democratic Senators to sign on… but we can always hope.

  13. Lonnie says:

    Wow! here we go. The republicans this, the democrats that. Quit bickering and get a life. Neither party is working for us and that folks is THE fact, and why is the pera board not demanding the 225mil, be put in the pera fund????? By the way is the 225mil, for this year going to other pet projects also????? Polis! must be held accountable for this money he promised. and quit playing with our future!!!!!

  14. Dennis Graham says:

    The bill to divest Pera from any hydrocarbon related companies is, perhaps not the dumbest bill encountered (although it comes strikingly close), but it is so hyper-political and nonsensical that it defies logic. It is a stark example of the economic ignorance of politicians. Would that the public could have an honest debate about issues like this.

  15. Terry C. says:

    HB21-1246 This bill is absolutely one of the worst examples of sound fiduciary policy for any size intuitional investor! As stewards of PERA members’ monies, the Board of Trustees, Staff and Legislators should NOT engage in policies that limit the opportunities that the markets provide. The Legislators that have authored and others that support such a policy should stick to managing their own pass book savings account. A passbook savings account maybe too involved for them. This bill is a demonstration of the lack of basic understanding of economics and institutional investing. This policy will not change the demand / market for such products and will negatively impact PERA’s well-being. Negative impact policies are not found in the definition of a “FIDUCIARY”!

    This is a very Foolish bill.

    • Randal Smith says:

      I agree

    • Rick Schur says:

      I agree wholeheartedly!

    • gg says:

      I agree and just emailed the Bill’s sponsors the following (also copying the House Committee members):
      ————
      HB 21-1246
      Dear Representative Sirota and Senator Jacquez Lewis,

      You both have a lot of nerve injecting your obvious personal social agendas (i.e. climate change) into PERA. I am about to be a PERA retiree and want to be sure that PERA survives. Almost every year or two or three, politicians (Democrats and Republicans alike) constantly introduce bills attacking PERA’s funds. I am so sick of it and your Bill is just another unjustifiable blatant attempt to do the same. What makes your attempt worse is that it has nothing to do with improving the financial health of PERA. To say that I am angry is an understatement.

      Personally, I have no problem with trying to clean up our environment and “make a difference,” as the case may be. However, such efforts should have absolutely NOTHING to do with PERA. “Colorado state law outlines the fiduciary responsibility that all PERA Trustees have: to carry out their functions solely in the interest of members and benefit recipients and for the sole purpose of providing benefits and defraying reasonable expenses incurred in performing such duties. This means that all Trustees, regardless if they are elected, appointed, or ex officio, serve as fiduciaries who protect the assets of the PERA trust funds.” (https://www.copera.org/sites/default/files/documents/serving.pdf). Your Bill completely interferes with that statutory mandate. Here’s an idea….let PERA do its job.

      Divesting from your targeted fossil fuel companies may result in a loss of positive financial returns thereby hurting the market value of PERA’s investments and exacerbating PERA’s current unfunded liability status. Free market forces have already caused fossil fuel companies to adapt to cleaner technologies over recent years. At present, there is absolutely nothing illegal about PERA investing in fossil fuel companies, especially if doing so is in the best financial interest of PERA. Instead, your Bill is simply a judgmental, “holier than thou,” personal social agenda statement. Nothing more, nothing less.

      I hope you will reconsider and withdraw your Bill and focus on other legislative ideas (e.g. tax incentives) to effectuate your social agenda.

  16. Donna Easdon says:

    Why can’t the $115 subsidy be portable for retirees to apply to any medical plan?

    Why can’t retirees be offered the same premium cost for dental plans as employees?

  17. Anne Cain says:

    As a PERA retiree now living in North Carolina, I wondered how NC recently was able to announce that for the 2021 year, its state retirees will receive a 2% COLA. Despite COVID-19. Presumably, the money is there for folks who often worked in less-than-favorable circumstances to qualify. Our Governor Cooper has asked for a 10% increase for teachers’ salaries. The outcome of this request is unknown as of today.

  18. Dorris Kay mcpherson says:

    The articles I read are despicable. Our board needs to step up and defend our investments. What is this about not investing in fossil fuels?

    • gg says:

      Agreed. You need to email the Bill’s sponsors and copy the entire House Finance Committee….as I already did. The hearing on the Bill is April 19th

  19. Tom says:

    Can someone please explain SB 21-228 (PERA Public Employees Retirement Association Payment Cash Fund) fully?
    It seems there is $380M being put aside from this year’s budget, with $225M being paid to PERA on 7/1/22 (next year!). 
    What happens to the balance ($155M)? 
    What is being paid on 7/1/21 to make up for not paying $225M on 7/1/20 (last year due to COVID)?
    Couldn’t the balance just be paid to PERA now to make up for last year (and apparently this coming fiscal year’s) missed payment?

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