At the Statehouse
Ohio 134th General Assembly Convenes; House Reelects Speaker Cupp, Senate Selects Huffman as its President
The 134th Ohio General Assembly convened in early January. There are 22 new members of the House of Representatives where Republicans are in the majority, holding 64 of the 99 seats. The House reelected Speaker Robert Cupp (R-Lima) as its leader. Speaker Cupp rose to the House’s top position last summer. In the upper chamber, control also rests with the Republicans, as it has since 1985, currently by a margin of 25 seats to eight. There are six new members of the Senate, four of whom are previous members of the House. The Senate also selected a Lima Republican, Matt Huffman, as its leader. Senate President Huffman was elected this past November to his second term in the Senate.
Ohio Retirement Study Council to Meet Feb. 18
The Ohio Retirement Study Council (ORSC) is scheduled to meet on Feb. 18. With a new General Assembly, ORSC members are appointed by the speaker of the House and the Senate president. President Huffman has appointed Sens. Kirk Schuring (R-Canton), Jay Hottinger (R-Newark) and Hercel Craig (D-Columbus), all of whom served on the Council in the previous General Assembly. House appointments have not yet been announced. The ORSC’s meeting agenda is available at www.orsc.org.
Amended Substitute House Bill 442 Changes Licensure Requirement
Gov. Mike DeWine signed House Bill 442 into law in January. The bill eliminated licensing requirements for several pupil services positions that currently require a license from the State of Ohio in the specific area of expertise and a separate Ohio Department of Education (ODE) pupil services license to work in the schools. The new law removes the ODE license requirement but sets up a registration process with ODE instead. STRS Ohio Governmental Relations staff worked with members of the General Assembly to ensure continued STRS Ohio membership for these positions by incorporating the ODE registration language into the STRS Ohio definition of teacher in Ohio Revised Code 3307.01. Without this change, several thousand speech therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, nurses and audiologists could have lost membership in STRS Ohio.
STRS Ohio Finance staff is working with the School Employees Retirement System of Ohio on items of mutual interest and is preparing communication materials for employers to help guide them through this change.
Legislative Activity in the 134th General Assembly
House Bill 14 — Rep. Diane Grendell (R-Geauga County) has introduced H.B. 14, which contains similar provisions to House Bill 530 from the 133rd General Assembly, also sponsored by Grendell. H.B. 14 discusses a number of items related to the retirement systems, including fiduciary duty, salaries and fees paid to investment managers. The bill has been assigned to the House Financial Institutions Committee.
House Bill 43 — Reps. Lisa Sobecki (D-Toledo) and James Hoops (R-Napoleon) introduced H.B. 43 which would allow public bodies to meet and hold hearings via teleconference or video conference on a permanent basis. At present, public bodies have temporary authority pursuant to H.B. 404 of the 133rd General Assembly to hold virtual meetings and hearings until July 1, 2021. The bill has been assigned to the House Government Oversight Committee. STRS Ohio Governmental Relations staff will convey to the committee that STRS Ohio would be supportive of the ability to continue to meet virtually on a permanent basis..
On Capitol Hill
117th Congress and Biden Administration Get to Work
As the new administration and the 117th Congress get underway, here are some of the items STRS Ohio is following:
- Staff is monitoring President Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan, dubbed the American Rescue Plan, for any kind of prohibitions attached to the use of state/municipal aid ($350 billion) that may be included. In stimulus legislation last year, there had been discussion of placing restrictions on the receipt or use of such funds in connection with governmental retirement systems. While these bills did not pass last year, possible inclusion of these restrictions in current initiatives bears watching.
- Legislation to address funding issues with multi-employer pension plans (MEPs), known as the Emergency Pension Plan Relief Act, may be taking shape. Two bills have been introduced in the U.S. House that contain similar provisions. HR 409 was introduced by Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA) and HR 423 is sponsored by Robert Scott (D-VA). Public retirement system advocacy organizations pay attention to these bills because there has been confusion on the Hill that they pertain to public systems. There has been some discussion of including the MEP fix in the next COVID-relief bill.
- An effort to do away with the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) could gain traction. Information received from public retirement system advocacy organizations in Washington, D.C., is that Congressmen Neal and Kevin Brady (R-TX) are likely to revisit their respective plans to modify WEP. Congressmen Neal and Brady have pursued legislation over the last several years to replace the current WEP formula with a new, proportional formula, as well as provide a rebate to those currently affected by WEP. The two lawmakers had separate, but similar pieces of legislation in the last Congress.
View a report from the National Association of State Retirement Administrators (NASRA) on reforms to public pension plans in progress around the country. We will include this report monthly as part of the Legislative News.