Retirement Committee Hears But Doesn’t Vote on Controversial TRS Bill
The House Retirement Committee heard, but did not vote on, changes to  HB 109  this afternoon. The version of HB 109 discussed today is not available online as of this writing. The current legislation allows educators employed after July 1, 2020, to use a maximum of one year of accrued sick leave for retirement purposes. The bill’s sick leave provisions would not impact current educators, who are able to use all unused sick leave for retirement purposes. The legislation, sponsored by House Retirement Chair Tommy Benton (R-Jefferson), would also limit TRS cost of living adjustments (COLAs) to three percent or less once annually. Currently, TRS retirees receive a 1.5 percent COLA twice each year. Benton mentioned when presenting the bill today that the legislation’s proposed COLA limitation would save $17 million annually. When presenting the bill, Benton thanked his fellow committee members for enduring the emails of many concerned TRS members. He announced his intention not to move HB 109 forward for a committee vote today and mentioned that legislative leaders requested he not pursue a vote at this time. 

During public comment, several PAGE members effectively articulated concerns about HB 109. Craig Harper, PAGE Executive Director, spoke on behalf of PAGE and respectfully asked committee members to define the problem they are attempting to solve with proposed TRS reforms, to study the impact of proposed changes on current and future TRS members, and to involve educators in the process. It is not clear if the committee will vote on HB 109 at a later date. 

The committee delayed action on several bills listed on the agenda, including a return to work bill,  HB 336 . The committee did pass  HB 830 , which seeks to raise the five percent alternative investment cap on public retirement systems to ten percent. Though the bill as currently written does not impact TRS because TRS is specifically excluded from investing in alternatives, Margaret Ciccarelli from PAGE testified before the group and alerted them to  SB 294  that would allow TRS to invest in alternatives. Ciccarelli warned that if both bills passed as currently written, up to ten percent of TRS could be invested in alternatives. She suggested that if both bills begin moving through the legislative process, one be amended to ensure that TRS alternatives are capped at only five percent.
-Margaret Ciccarelli