State legislative sessions are in full swing across the nation. NPPC is working with several state coalitions to protect pensions and pass proactive policies to improve public employee retirement security. NPPC’s state coalitions are working hard to deliver for public employees, and so far, we’ve seen some great progress.

In a post in early February, we wrote about the situation in Alaska. For years, Alaska has had tremendous trouble recruiting and retaining public employees like teachers, police officers, firefighters, bus drivers, and state and local government workers. Alaska’s public employees have been denied a defined-benefit pension plan since 2005–which has caused an exodus of teachers, police officers, and other public employees. 

Last week, to considerable fanfare, Alaskan Senators introduced SB 88, which creates a new defined-benefit pension system for future public employees. The bill also allows existing employees who participate in the defined-contribution-only plan to opt into the new defined-benefit pension plan. SB88 is co-sponsored by half of the Senate, including Senate President Gary Stevens. 

In Oklahoma last week, the Oklahoma House Appropriations and Budget Committee passed HB 2854 23-7. The bill would re-open the now-closed Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS). Since 2015, all new state employees have participated in a defined-contribution-only plan. This bill would allow existing and future employees to join the defined-benefit plan. This bill will better the recruitment and retention of highly qualified state employees. As of this writing, there are currently over 1100 vacant state jobs on the Oklahoma job board. Additionally, according to the Oklahoma Office of Management & Enterprise Services 2021 Annual Compensation Report, retirement offered by the state of Oklahoma is 33% below the market average

In other news, the public pension systems in two additional states have landed on our watchlist. As we covered before, HB 1040 in North Dakota passed the State House of Representatives. The bill would close the North Dakota Public Employee Retirement System (NDPERS) to future public employees and force them into a defined-contribution plan–further exacerbating the state’s ability to recruit and retain public employees, retirement security, and local communities. There are over 225 vacant state jobs in the state currently. Eliminating pensions for state employees will only increase vacancies. The bill will be heard tomorrow, March 9th, in the Senate State and Local Government Committee. 

In New Hampshire, the House of Representatives is considering HB 559, a bill that, much like in North Dakota, would establish a defined-contribution plan for new state employees who begin service after July 1, 2024. Action is expected on the bill today in the House Executive Departments and Administration Committee.

NPPC remains vigilant in protecting public employees’ pensions during this legislative session. Be sure to check back regularly for updates on the battle for retirement security.