February-May 2017  

As the underwhelming first session of the Oklahoma 56th Legislature came to an end, it became apparent that there would be no significant changes to the down-trodden path our legislature has been on for several years. The big news, of course, was the state budget (Senate Bill 806) language that just days ago, a portion was declared to be unconstitutional. The $1.50 per pack smoking cessation “fee” passed on the last day of the session was struck down by the Oklahoma Supreme Court. The bottom line is that the state budget is now not a balanced budget as required by the Oklahoma Constitution. Whether or not the Governor will call a special session remains to be seen.

Looking back over the session, however, there were some victories—and yes, in today’s political climate, defeating a bad bill is a victory! PROTECTION of our benefits is our priority and we will continue the fight!

Highlighted in this summary are some of the major bills that drew our focus this legislative session, including bills that passed and some that didn’t. Floor and committee votes are included on some of the bills on which we asked our members to make contact with their legislators.

Legislation affecting pensions and retirement that were passed and have become law:

SB 242 (Pugh/Martinez)-Adds the State Treasurer or designee to Board of Trustees to the Oklahoma Teacher Retirement System and the Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System. Effective 8/25/17.

House members voting no: Bennett (Forrest), Blancett, Cannaday, Condit, Dollens, Ford, Fourkiller, Goodwin, Griffith, Hardin, Henke, Hoskin, Inman, Kouplen, Lepak, Loring, Lowe, Meredith, Munson, Nichols, Perryman, Proctor, Renegar, Russ, Sears, Stone, Tadlock, Thomsen, Virgin, Walke, Wallace, West (Rick), Williams, Young.

House members abstaining: Bush, Casey, Dunnington, Fetgatter, McBride, McEntire, Montgomery, Murdock, Nollan, O’Donnell, Ortega, Ownbey, Ritze.

Senate members voting no: McCortney, Pederson, Pemberton, Simpson

Senate members not voting: Bass, Brecheen, David, Fields, Fry, Holt, Marlatt, Pittman, Schulz

SB 428 (Smalley/Henke)-Allows OTRS members who retire as active classroom teachers and have refrained from employment with a school district for at least one year after retiring to be re-employed as an active classroom teacher with no limitations on earnings for a three-year period beginning July 1, 2017.

HB 1162 (McDaniel/Stanislawski)-Changes the vesting period for OTRS from five to seven years for employees hired after November 1, 2017.

HB 2034 (McCall/McDaniel/Newberry)-Amends membership of the Oklahoma State Pension Commission. Language adds two members, one appointed by President Pro Temp of the Senate, one by the Speaker of the House, with the requirement that the appointee have demonstrated experience in the investment of private or public funds. These persons will replace the House and Senate member positions as members of the board. (Effective 11-1-17).

Legislation affecting retirement and pensions addressed by OREA that did NOT pass. The quick actions of our members writing and calling legislators are to be credited!

SB 329 (Smalley; Co-authors Marlatt, Thompson)-would have possibly increased HealthChoice premium rates at an even greater rate. Defeated in committee. (Voting no on the bill: Matthews, Paxton, Pederson, Quinn, Shortey, Sparks, Leewright).

HB 1172 (McDaniel/Stanislawski)-Creates an “optional defined contribution” plan for new hires, originally all education employees, and the author changed the language to include new hires to higher education employees (OU and OSU already have an alternative DC retirement plan available). This bill passed out of committee, but was not heard on the floor after higher education joined in opposition.

HB 1340 (McDaniel/Stanislawski)-Provides for a one-time stipend of 2% of the annual benefit, capped at $750, for those retired at least 3 years and receiving a benefit from OTRS. (Applies to other pension systems, the amount capped based on the current level of funding of the system.) Referred to Actuary, pursuant to OPLAAA.

HB 2382 (Osborne/Wallace/David/Fields)-Would have diverted a small portion of funds dedicated to TRS of over $800,000. Passed out of committee, but was not included in the final budget legislation.

Other Legislation of Interest to Members

SB 560 (Standridge)-This bill was, in essence, a voucher bill, allowing students to receive funds to attend private schools, using the funds from public schools.

HB 1846 (Osborn/Smalley)-would create the Gross Production Support for Education Fund. This would allow money that is currently collected from a portion of gross production tax to be under the appropriation of the legislature. Currently this money is dedicated revenue and goes to schools directly through the county treasurer. This is an attempt to control the “off the top” money we hear legislators discuss. It does not create any new revenue and takes control away from local schools. This bill passed the House by a 64-29 vote, essentially along party lines. It was referred to the Senate Appropriations Sub-Finance Committee. No action was taken after that and the bill will likely come up again next session.

SB 170 (Thompson/Sears)-This legislation put a stop to the next income tax cut trigger, and was signed into law by Governor on 5-15-2017.

Again, it is through the actions of our members that make the difference at the Capitol! Never underestimate the impact of what you do by writing a letter or email or making a phone call. Many of you take the time to invite legislators to your meetings, visit with them about our issues, and you also take the time to vote. THANK YOU FOR ALL THAT YOU DO!  

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