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House passes omnibus pension and retirement bill, sends back to Senate

(House Photography file photo)

A couple changes were made to a group of largely non-controversial bills approved by the Legislative Commission on Pensions and Retirement before the entire package received strong House support.

Sponsored by Rep. Michael Nelson (DFL-Brooklyn Park) and Sen. Julie Rosen (R-Fairmont), HF4017/SF3540*, as amended, was passed 124-6 Monday.

It now returns to the Senate for concurrence. Its version was passed 66-0 May 9.

[MORE: In-depth bill summary]

The lone proposal with a fiscal impact would require the Department of Labor and Industry to study benefit adequacy for disabled or injured police officers. A report would be due the commission and Legislature by Jan. 15, 2023. A fiscal note shows a $125,000 cost in fiscal year 2023. An amendment clarified this is a onetime appropriation.

A 2008 law to help a former Minneapolis bomb squad commander who suffered a debilitating injury called for such a study by the Public Employees Retirement Association but was never conducted.

Minnesota law lets retirees return to public employers and continue to receive pension payments, provided they work less than a full-time schedule.

Similar to what was done for health care workers earlier this session to help in the fight against COVID-19, the bill would allow teachers to return to teaching at a public school without having their pension reduced.

Other provisions in the bill would:

  • expand the right to purchase up to five years of service credit for periods of military service beyond rights in current law;
  • allow residential program leads and dental hygienists, eligible to join the Minnesota State Retirement System Correctional Plan, to transfer prior eligible service from the General Plan;
  • permit the surviving spouse of a deceased state employee to purchase one month of service credit to make her eligible for an annuity death benefit;
  • to fix an administrative error, allow a Corrections Department employee to transfer prior service credit from the General Plan to the Correctional Plan;
  • exempt Duluth Transit Authority employees covered by a Teamsters pension plan from Public Employees Retirement Association membership, and non-union employees would receive vesting credit when they become public employees;
  • make several largely technical changes — recommended by the State Auditor’s Volunteer Fire Relief Association Working Group — to provisions governing volunteer firefighter relief associations;
  • require the state auditor to provide an investment report to each firefighter relief association comparing their investment returns to those made by the State Board of Investment;
  • authorize advanced practice registered nurses to provide disability assessments; and
  • make administrative and technical changes clarifying the classification of State Board of Investment professional employees.

One successfully offered amendment changed an effective date; another cost-neutral amendment would permit teachers to purchase service credit for periods of service as a teacher in another state.

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