The 2023 Legislative Session ended on Monday, May 8. Lawmakers worked nearly non-stop (especially in the closing days). In the end, lawmakers debated 617 bills, 311 in the House and 306 in the Senate. Several of these bills were top priorities for Secure PERA. You can review all of the bills we followed plus our positions here.
SB23-056 is on its way to the Governor’s desk. The bill by Sen. Chris Kolker and Rep. Shannon Bird makes an additional $14.5 million direction distribution to PERA. This funding will help to chip away at PERA’s unfunded liability. The Governor has until June 7 to act on the bill (sign or veto). If no action is taken, the bill becomes law by default. Once it is law, the funding will transfer to PERA.
Earlier this session, legislators defeated HB23-1176 (in legislative speak, it was “postponed indefinitely”). The bill by Rep. Don Wilson would have require PERA to implement a DC plan for the School Division and allow anyone hired after Jan 1, 2024 to participate. Proponents said the bill was needed to help recruit new teachers and staff, especially to help recruit people to teaching from other professions. Secure PERA has long fought to maintain PERA as a defined benefit plan. While the State and Local divisions have defined contribution programs, the school division never has had one. Now with the added complication of the auto-adjust provision to keep PERA on track, any efforts to divert new employees out of the defined benefit program contributes to the unfunded liability for all participants. We were happy to see this bill defeated.
Unfortunately, HB23-1016, Temporary Tax Credit for Public Service Retirees, did not pass. This bill was intended to help provide a limited amount of relief to retirees who receive a public pension. High rates of inflation and small to no annual COLA increases have taken a big toll on retirees. However, advocates could not overcome the $120 million price tag for the bill in a very tight budget year. Despite Rep. Shannon Bird’s ongoing advocacy for the bill, the bill “died on the calendar” as it did not pass the House Appropriations Committee.
Several other bills related to PERA were also unsuccessful. Two bills focused on PERA’s investing strategies. HB23-1092 by Rep. Rod Bockenfeld, would have prohibited PERA from using environmental, social or governance (ESG) strategies to direct their funding. SB23-016, by Sen. Chris Hansen, focuses on the reduction of greenhouse gases and within the bill, requires PERA to include climate related risks in their annual Investment Stewardship Report.
Lawmakers also postponed a bill (SB23-104) to allow Denver Public Schools to reduce their employer contribution amount. While they are allowed to do this under the law that merged the former DPS retirement system into PERA, there was great concern about the impact of this reduction on the whole pension system. Lastly, a bill (HB23-1144) that would have put new limitations on how pension benefits are managed in divorce was also defeated.