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Omnibus pension and retirement bill gains committee approval

Firefighters, 911 operators and teachers would be affected by the omnibus pension and retirement bill.

Sponsored by Rep. Michael Nelson (DFL-Brooklyn Park), HF1758, was amended and approved Friday by the House State Government Finance and Elections Committee.

Its next stop is the House Ways and Means Committee.

Sen. Julie Rosen (R-Fairmont) sponsors the companion, SF1712, which awaits action by the full Senate.

The requested changes in the bill come from the Legislative Commission on Pensions and Retirement.

Among its provisions, the bill would create a working group to consider changes to the pension benefits for 911 operators. A report would be due to the pension commission by March 1, 2022.

“Currently, 911 operators are not in the police and fire plan, which has early retirement, full retirement dates. These people are working side by side with the first responders, the police and fire, and they’re looking at whether they should be in a plan similar to that,” Nelson said.

The bill would delay until July 1, 2023, the required employee contribution rate increase from 7.5% to 7.75% of their salary in the St. Paul Teachers Retirement Fund Association.

“This is to be consistent with timing of a similar increase of the Teachers Retirement Association,” Nelson said. “The St. Paul teachers are a separate plan.”

[MORE: Bills in the omnibus bill; bill summary]

Other provisions in the bill include:

  • extending until June 30, 2022, the application of pre-2017 factors used in converting a lump sum to an annuity under the unclassified plan for legislative employees;
  • reducing the Judges Retirement Plan postretirement adjustment, or COLA, from 1.75% per year to 1.5% per year and removing automatic funding triggers;
  • compliance with federal law regarding Minnesota State Retirement System and Public Employees Retirement Association eligibility for certain visa holders;
  • extending the minimum period from one to three years during which an employee returning from military service can purchase service credits for a period of military leave;
  • a working group is to study options for allocating firefighter supplemental aid and report to the commission by Dec. 31, 2021;
  • recommendations from the state auditor’s Fire Relief Association Working Group, including relief associations could eliminate service credit for former firefighters who leave active service before being vested in their pension benefit and do not return to active service within five years; and
  • providing full vesting and distribution of accounts to firefighters assigned to the new Nowthen Fire Department, whose employment with Ramsey is terminated in 2021.

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