On Jan. 9, state lawmakers will convene at the Capitol in Denver for the 74th Colorado General Assembly. Over the course of the 120-day legislative session, lawmakers will introduce hundreds of bills that could ultimately change state law.
This year’s General Assembly will include dozens of new legislators. PERA’s Public & Government Affairs Manager Michael Steppat will be helping those legislators get up to speed on all things PERA as the new session begins. We sat down with Steppat to discuss the upcoming session.
For those who aren’t familiar, can you explain your role at PERA and at the State Capitol?
I represent PERA at the Capitol. I monitor and report on legislative activity, build and maintain relationships with legislators and other stakeholders, and oversee lobbying efforts. I also serve as the liaison for legislative committee staff.
Tell us about some of the changes at the Capitol this year and the outreach you’ve been doing.
There are more than 30 new legislators at the statehouse this year, which is a large number even in a state like Colorado that has term limits. There have also been changes of leadership on some of the committees that provide PERA oversight. It will be important to make sure lawmakers understand how PERA works and the importance of recent legislation related to PERA.
In the days leading up to the start of the new session, I’ve been reaching out to all the newly elected legislators to introduce myself and let them know I’ll be a point of contact to help them with any questions and provide information as the session unfolds.
Why does PERA monitor and engage in the legislative process?
While the PERA Board of Trustees is responsible for administering benefits and overseeing PERA’s investments, the Colorado General Assembly is responsible for many other aspects of PERA, such as contribution rates, benefit levels, and the amount of the annual benefit increases that retirees receive.
PERA staff provide regular updates to the legislature so lawmakers can make informed decisions on issues that affect our members.
The legislative session is a busy time, but you’re active at the Capitol year-round. What kind of activities have taken place since the last legislative session?
There’s a lot of important work that happens after a session ends and before the next one begins. PERA leaders and staff routinely meet with and report to various legislative bodies that oversee PERA’s operations and financial health. Those groups include the legislature’s Joint Budget Committee and Joint Finance Committee, as well as the Pension Review Commission and the Pension Review Subcommittee.
In between sessions, there are also meetings held with various lawmakers and PERA stakeholders with an interest in PERA and the issues that can affect our members and retirees. PERA, its benefits, and legislative changes over the years can be a lot to learn, but it’s our goal to help educate stakeholders without overwhelming them.
What’s your advice for people who want to advocate for a particular bill or outcome at the legislature?
The most important thing people can do is contact their legislators about issues that are important to them. In addition, the General Assembly website has lots of great information. You can listen to committee meetings, view calendars, review the status of a bill, and sign up to testify at committee meetings.