February 27, 2015
“House Committee Votes to
Establish Retiree Stipend Fund”
In language strikingly similar to that contained in the OREA-sponsored HB 1538 passed the previous week, the House Business, Labor and Retirement Laws Committee Tuesday unanimously approved HB 1735, by Randy McDaniel (R, Edmond), committee chair.
Seen as a companion bill to HB 2200 approved by the committee last week, HB 1735 would establish a special fund in the state treasury to pay a one-time stipend benefit to certain retired members of six state retirement systems, including the Teachers’ Retirement System.
Is it the Beginning of an Attitude Change?
The committee passage of HB 1735 gives further indication there is growing sentiment among key legislators that retirees have gone long enough without receiving at least some positive adjustment in their retirement benefits. The last permanent benefits improvement, commonly referred to as a COLA, was received in 2008, when retired educators received a 2% COLA, and retired members of all other systems were given 4% increases.
If passed into law this session, HB 1735 would most likely not receive funding, given this session’s $611 million state budget shortfall. However, if the legislature were to pass some form of benefits improvement via HB 2200 next session, funds could be allocated to the stipend fund.
Readers will recall last week’s report that HB 2200 received committee approval only for the purpose of referral to the legislative actuary during the legislative interim (between the 2015 and 2016 sessions). The actuary’s report must be completed and returned to the House committee no later than December 1.
It is not known at the current time what impact the approval of HB 1735 will have on the OREA-sponsored HB 1538, by Todd Thomsen (R, Ada), passed by the same committee the week before.
Committee Deadline Reached
The 2015 legislative session completed its fourth week Thursday, running up against the important deadline to have considered all bills that will be eligible for further action this year. The result was that several hundred of the more than 2,000 bills and resolutions filed for the session are now dead, although they could be considered in 2016.
The next three weeks will witness marathon sessions in both houses to consider hundreds of bills. Those that pass out of the House of Representatives will be sent to the Senate, and Senate-passed bills will be sent to the House. The road to final passage and enactment into law is long and winding.
April 7 OREA Lobby Day: Your Participation is Important
OREA members are reminded to make plans to participate in the Tuesday, April 7 OREA Lobby Day at the Capitol. It will be a great opportunity to meet face-to-face with lawmakers to discuss the issues impacting retired educators in Oklahoma. The spring issue of the OREA News Bulletin will arrive in members’ mailboxes the week of March 21-28. It will contain all the information necessary for your participation in this important association activity. See the associated article below for additional information.
Thanks for reading this legislative update, and thanks for your continued support of the OREA legislative program.