Legislature(2021 - 2022)GRUENBERG 120
04/15/2021 03:00 PM STATE AFFAIRS
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HB 55-PEACE OFFICER/FIREFIGHTER RETIRE BENEFITS 3:06:14 PM CHAIR KREISS-TOMKINS announced that the first order of business would be HOUSE BILL NO. 55, "An Act relating to participation of certain peace officers and firefighters in the defined benefit and defined contribution plans of the Public Employees' Retirement System of Alaska; relating to eligibility of peace officers and firefighters for medical, disability, and death benefits; relating to liability of the Public Employees' Retirement System of Alaska; and providing for an effective date." CHAIR KREISS-TOMKINS invited comments from committee members. 3:06:49 PM REPRESENTATIVE STORY believed that a new retirement system was desperately needed in many areas of state government, including teachers and public employees. She expressed her support for moving the proposed legislation from committee and opined that implementing defined benefits would help with recruitment and retention. REPRESENTATIVE TARR noted that when the commissioner designee for the Department of Public Safety (DPS) was in the House Special Committee on Tribal Affairs (HTRB) to discuss comprehensive public safety issues, he specifically mentioned that fixing the retirement system was an absolute necessity for recruitment and retention. The commissioner designee conveyed that there were only 52 Village Public Safety Officers (VPSOs); however, the goal was to have 120. Additionally, 36 State Trooper positions were filled, but 33 were lost to retirement and attrition. REPRESENTATIVE EASTMAN expressed his appreciation for the current language in the proposed legislation. He said he was interested to see how it progressed through the legislative process. He shared his belief that the tools, by which the [retirement] package would be adjusted for inflation, should receive higher scrutiny as a season of higher inflation was approaching. 3:09:22 PM REPRESENTATIVE KAUFMAN expressed concern about the defined benefit plan creating a future obligation. He suggested that other areas of dissatisfaction were more significant to retention, including improvements in leadership and culture. He opined that the proposed legislation was attempting to fix the wrong concern. He said he would have preferred that other departmental issues were focused on first. CHAIR KREISS-TOMKINS welcomed an opportunity to address the issues that Representative Kaufman had mentioned. He opined that the proposed legislation was extremely well crafted. He said as a younger person, he was drawn to retirement systems that made public servants and retirees "whole" in a reasonable way and provided a certain amount of security and dignity while remaining cautious about the potential of liabilities that the state would assume. He asserted that on an intergenerational basis, previous retirement systems had been grossly inequitable to younger generations that were disproportionately paying older generations' retirements. He expressed his appreciation for the risk aversion that was included in this legislation and surmised that the bill would be intergenerationally equitable while remaining fair to retirees. 3:12:23 PM REPRESENTATIVE CLAMAN moved to report HB 55 out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes. Without objection, HB 55 was moved from the House State Affairs Standing Committee.