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WV House Committee on Pensions and Retirement advances five Senate bills dealing with public employee benefits

By Autumn Shelton, WV Press News Service

CHARLESTON, W. Va. – The House Committee on Pensions and Retirement recommended five Senate bills for passage during a brief meeting on Monday. 

The first bill recommended by the committee was Senate Bill 442. This bill had been passed unanimously by the Senate on Feb. 16. 

As read by counsel, this bill sets language that members of the Teachers Retirement System, who have been contributory members for at least three years, may only transfer service credit to the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) if they first became a member on or after July 1, 2015, when the tier two benefit was created. 

SB-442 would also eliminate language that had authorized retirement contribution refunds in equal installments, and gives members who leave their employment, but are entitled to retire with an annuity payment that is subject to a reduction due to the 105% provision, the ability to be paid accumulated contributions upon request. 

The second bill recommended for passage is Senate Bill 443. The committee substitute of this bill was passed unanimously by the Senate on Feb. 16. 

The bill deals “with the old municipal and police and fire pension and relief funds,” counsel explained. It authorizes members of the closed funds to vote for trustees of those funds. 

Next, committee members recommended passage of Senate Bill 641, which requires the Consolidated Public Retirement Board to set contributions for the Deputy Sheriff’s Retirement System. A committee substitute of this bill was unanimously passed by the Senate on Feb. 22. 

According to counsel, the bill would remove the current cap on employee contributions. That cap is currently set at 13% of payroll. The bill would also require the total amount of the contributions of county commissions, to be set actuarially by the Consolidated Public Retirement Board effective July 1, 2023. 

In response to a question from Del. Dave Pethtel, D-Wetzel, regarding employee contribution and cap rates, counsel responded that this bill will not affect employee contributions. Further, counsel noted that the 13% cap was set during a volatile year when the return on investment was “not so great.” 

Committee members then recommended passage of the engrossed version of Senate Bill 669, which amends the section of WV Code pertaining to the contribution levels of judges who participate in the retirement system. The bill was unanimously passed by the Senate on Feb. 22. 

Counsel explained that current law requires contributions to be set actuarially and be between 7-10.5% of annual compensation. This bill would change the contribution rate to between 3-10% of the participant’s annual compensation, also to be set actuarially, effective July 1, 2023. 

Additionally, the bill allows the board of trustees to grant service credit to any judge who transfers service from the Judges’ Retirement System to PERS, provided that the amount transferred is sufficient to equal the contributions that would have been made had the employee been a PERS member, plus interest at the actuarial interest rate. 

In response to a question from Del. Ed Evans, D-McDowell, counsel said that the Judges’ Retirement System is a well-funded program and that it would not be financially hurt if a couple of judges left the system to join PERS.

Lastly, committee members recommended passage of Senate Bill 670. 

This bill would permit 911 personnel hired on or after July 1, 2022, to participate in the Emergency Medical Services Retirement System.

Each bill recommended for passage by the Committee on Pensions and Retirement has now been referred to the House Committee on Finance.

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