Although legally and fiscally separate from the State of Missouri, the LAGERS system is a creature of statute. This means that anytime there is a desire to make a change to the plan’s structure, it must be done through a change in the law. Over LAGERS’ nearly 50 year history, the LAGERS staff, at the direction of the Board of Trustees, has pursued a handful of legislative initiatives which have molded the system into what it is today. For the past three years, LAGERS has been working on two primary legislative goals: Local Plan Administration and Updating of the Public Safety Officer Definition.
The desire for the Local Plans Administration bill arose years ago from employer requests. Many of these local employers operate closed pension plans that they no longer wish to administer. LAGERS, being a solution to help relieve the administrative and financial burden of closing these olds plans over the lifetime of the plan’s participants and beneficiaries, worked with interested parties, the legislative advisory committee and Board of Trustees to draft and file a bill that would help these local subdivisions transfer the administration of their closed plans into LAGERS without any adverse impact to the LAGERS system. In its first year filed, the bill made it all the way to the governor’s desk with no opposing testimony. But, in a twist at the end, the governor vetoed the bill after a group voiced concerns to his office about plan participants not having enough say in the transfer.
LAGERS sought to address these concerns the following session and filed slightly modified language emphasizing the voluntary nature of the bill. And while again, the bill moved quickly, the 2015 legislative session, wrought with scandal, PQs, and Right to Work, proved a nearly impossible path for even the best of good-governance bills.
In 2016, LAGERS retooled our legislative strategy with a focus on getting our membership and other interested parties more involved. LAGERS filed our Local Plans Administration bill early in both the House and Senate with the hopes that it could be passed prior to the final days of session. While the Senate version seemed to fly through early on, it slowed in the House and became bogged down with amendments. Its companion bill in the House, which was slower moving, eventually made it to the Senate with no amendments. As other interests saw this bill as an uncontested good-governance vehicle, proposed amendments again quickly came to the table. Thanks to the hard work of our legislators and efforts of many LAGERS members, House Bill 1443 was kept clean as it passed the Senate early in the final week of session. This bill now awaits the governor’s signature to be signed into law!
LAGERS’ second legislative item has proven to be a more arduous journey. The Updating of the Definition of Public Safety Officer bill would give member employers the option to update their definition of ‘police officer’ or ‘firefighter’ to employees. When filed in years past, challenges quickly arose as legislators view this bill as a ‘benefit enhancement’ for certain groups of employees. Although this year’s bill was whittled down to include only EMS and jailors, and while this legislation was not met with any major dissent, there still remains a tenor that this is a benefit enhancement. Like other bills that were viewed similarly, none received high priority from Senate or House leadership. LAGERS was able to amend this language on to several other bills in hopes of passing it through as an amendment, but none ever gained enough traction in the final days of session as legislators shifted their focus to some of the ‘hot’ issues the year including paycheck protection, ethics reform, and voter photo ID.
While the Public Safety bill will continue to present unique challenges into the future, LAGERS recognizes there is also a unique opportunity to help educate our legislators on the value and skills of the individuals who work in these capacities. We can’t do it without your help, and are excited to continue to work more closely with our membership on these and future issues.