August 14, 2018

HB 17-1176: Modifying PERA Service After Retirement Provisions to Benefit Rural Areas

On February 6, 2017, Rep. Jon Becker and Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg introduced HB 17-1176, “Concerning an Extension of the Employment after Retirement Limitations for Retirees of the Public Employees’ Retirement Association Employed by a Rural School District After Retirement.”

Current law allows a service retiree of any division of the public employees’ retirement association (PERA) to work for a PERA employer for limited periods and to receive a salary without reduction in benefits under certain circumstances. Several rural school districts in the state have recently experienced a shortage of teachers, school bus drivers, and school food services cooks and would ideally address the shortages by hiring service retirees. PERA’s employment after retirement provisions, including the limitation on the number of days in a calendar year that a service retiree may work for a PERA employer without a reduction in benefits, make it difficult for school districts to fill their vacancies with retired teachers, school bus drivers, and school food services cooks.

The bill modifies the current PERA employment after retirement provisions for certain retirees hired by an employer in the school division if:

  • The employer that hires the service retiree is a rural school district as determined by the department of education based on certain criteria and the school district enrolls 6,500 students or fewer in kindergarten through 12th grade;
  • The school district hires the service retiree for the purpose of providing classroom instruction or school bus transportation to students enrolled by the district or for the purpose of being a school food services cook; and
  • The school district determines that there is a critical shortage of qualified teachers, school bus drivers, or school food services cooks, as applicable, and that the service retiree has specific experience, skills, or qualifications that would benefit the district.

A service retiree who is a teacher, a school bus driver, or a school food services cook and who is hired by an employer in the school division that satisfies the criteria above may receive salary without a reduction in benefits for any length of employment in a calendar year if the service retiree has not worked for any PERA employer during the month of the effective date of retirement.

In addition, the bill requires the employer that hires the service retiree to provide full payment of all PERA employer contributions, disbursements, and working retiree contributions.

A service retiree may not receive salary without reduction in benefits and without limitation in a calendar year for more than 6 consecutive years.

The bill was introduced in the House and assigned to the Finance and Appropriations committees.

Traffic Camera Bills Vetoed; PERA Reduction, School Safety, and More Bills Signed

On Wednesday, June 3, 2015, Governor Hickenlooper signed six bills into law and vetoed two bills. To date, he has signed 296 bills into law and vetoed two bills. The bills on which he took legislative action Wednesday are summarized here.

Signed

  • HB 15-1391 – Concerning an Adjustment to the Total Employer Contribution Rate of the Denver Public Schools Division of the Public Employees’ Retirement Association in Connection with the Equalization Status of the Association’s Denver Public Schools Division with the Association’s School Division as Required by the Merger of the Denver Public Schools Retirement System with the Association, by Reps. Lois Court & Jim Wilson and Sen. Pat Steadman. The bill reduces the employer PERA contribution rate, effective January 1, 2015, and allows adjustment of the employer contribution rate every five years.
  • SB 15-213Concerning the Limited Waiver of Governmental Immunity for Claims Involving Public Schools for Injuries Resulting from Incidents of School Violence, by Sens. Bill Cadman & Mark Scheffel and Reps. Dickey Lee Hullinghorst & Crisanta Duran. The bill allows schools and school districts to be held liable if they fail to exercise reasonable care in protecting students and staff from reasonably foreseeable acts of violence.
  • SB 15-214 – Concerning Creating a Legislative Committee on Safety in Schools, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Sens. Mark Scheffel & Bill Cadman and Reps. Crisanta Duran & Dickey Lee Hullinghorst. The bill establishes the School Safety and Youth Mental Health Committee to study issues related to school safety and prevention of threats to safety.
  • SB 15-221 – Concerning Public Transit Officers, by Sen. John Cooke and Reps. Jessie Danielson & Kevin Priola. The bill clarifies that a public transit officer who is classified as a peace officer through his or her job is a peace officer at all times, even when off-duty.
  • HB 15-1359 – Concerning the Creation of the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Savings Program for Individuals with Disabilities, by Reps. Jessie Danielson & Lois Landgraf and Sens. John Kefalas & Beth Martinez Humenik. The bill allows the Department of Higher Education to create the ABLE Savings Program for people with disabilities so they may create accounts exempt from federal taxable income.
  • SB 15-288Concerning the Compensation Paid to Certain Public Officials, by Sens. Randy Baumgardner & Mary Hodge and Reps. Millie Hamner & Bob Rankin. The bill aligns the salaries of legislative branch officials with the salaries of judicial branch officials.

Vetoed

  • SB 15-276 – Concerning the Elimination of the Use of Automated Vehicle Identification Systems for Traffic Law Enforcement, by Sens. David Balmer & Morgan Carroll and Reps. Kevin Van Winkle & Stephen Humphrey. The bill would have prohibited the issuance of citations from traffic cameras with specific exceptions for toll roads and toll highways.
  • HB 15-1098 – Concerning the Elimination of the Use of Automated Surveillance Camera Vehicle Identification Systems for Traffic Law Enforcement, by Reps. Kevin Van Winkle & Steve Lebsock and Sen. Tim Neville. The bill would have required local governments to obtain voter approval before utilizing red light cameras, and would have required existing programs to receive voter approval in 2017 in order to continue.

In addition to the bills signed Wednesday, Governor Hickenlooper signed six bills into law on Thursday, bringing the total number of signed bills to 302. The bills signed Thursday are summarized below.

  • HB 15-1367 – Concerning Retail Marijuana Taxes, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Rep. Millie Hamner and Sen. Pat Steadman. The bill refers a ballot issue to voters regarding whether the state may retain and spend revenue created from retail marijuana excise taxes.
  • HB 15-1249 – Concerning Amendments to the Fees Associated with Water Pollution Control, and, in Connection Therewith, Making and Reducing Appropriations, by Rep. KC Becker and Sen. Mary Hodge. The bill recodifies fees for clean water and drinking water programs, and adds fees for pesticide application activities and CDPHE certifications.
  • HB 15-1341 – Concerning Increasing the Penalty from a Class 6 Felony to a Class 5 Felony for Sexual Exploitation of a Child by Possession of Sexually Exploitative Material, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Reps. Kathleen Conti & Rhonda Fields and Sens. John Cooke & Michael Johnston. The bill increases the penalty for possession of certain sexually exploitative material and modifies terms concerning electronic media.
  • HB 15-1033 – Concerning Long-Term Strategies to Address Colorado’s Aging Population, and, in Connection Therewith, Creating a Strategic Action Planning Group to Develop a Comprehensive, Long-Term Action Plan for Colorado’s Aging Population and Making an Appropriation, by Rep. Dianne Primavera and Sen. Larry Crowder. The bill creates a strategic planning group to study issues facing Coloradoans age 50 and older, and outlines specific study areas.
  • HB 15-1335 – Concerning Access to Personal Records Relating to a Person’s Family History, by Reps. Lori Saine & Jonathan Singer and Sens. Vicki Marble & Linda Newell. The bill allows an adult adoptee to obtain access to a non-certified copy of an original birth certificate and amended birth certificates of adult siblings or half-siblings.
  • SB 15-206 – Concerning Phased Conservation Easement Donations for Conservation Easements Donated On or After January 1, 2015, and, in Connection Therewith, Lowering Transaction Costs for Agricultural Producers, Facilitating Endangered Species Mitigation, and Making an Appropriation, by Sens. Ellen Roberts & Mary Hodge and Reps. Alec Garnett & Jon Keyser. The bill increases the credit awarded for the first $100,000 of a conservation easement tax credit and also increases the maximum credit for a single donor.

Vetoed

  • HB 15-1390 – Concerning an Increase in the Allowable Finance Charge for Certain Consumer Credit Transactions, by Reps. Jovan Melton & Jack Tate and Sens. Chris Holbert & Cheri Jahn. The bill would have increased the unpaid balance limit for current tiered maximum finance charges allowed on certain supervised loans and consumer credit sales.

For a complete list of Governor Hickenlooper’s 2015 legislative decisions, click here.

Colorado Supreme Court: PERA Members Have No Continual Right to Cost of Living Adjustments

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Justus v. State of Colorado on Monday, October 20, 2014.

Colorado Public Employee’s Retirement Association Pension Plan (PERA)—Cost-of-Living Adjustment—Contracts Clauses of U.S. and Colorado Constitutions.

In this decision, the Colorado Supreme Court determined whether Colorado PERA members have contractual rights for life without change to the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) formulas in place at their respective retirements. On summary judgment, the district court ruled that PERA retirees had no such contract right to an unchangeable COLA formula.

The court of appeals disagreed. It determined that the retirees have a contract right, and remanded for further review to determine whether Senate Bill 10-001 violated the Contract Clauses of the U.S. and Colorado Constitutions.

The Court held that the 2010 PERA legislation did not establish any contract between PERA and its members entitling them to perpetual receipt of the specific COLA formula in place on the date each became eligible for retirement or on the date each actually retires. The judgment of the court of appeals was reversed and the trial court’s summary judgment order dismissing this case was upheld.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Plaintiffs Not Entitled to PERA Disability Benefits Because They Could Work for 75% of Pay

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Lawless v. Standard Insurance Co. on Thursday, November 21, 2013.

Colorado Public Employees’ Retirement Association—Short-Term Disability Benefits.

This consolidated appeal arose from the denials of plaintiffs’ applications for benefits under the disability program established by PERA. Plaintiffs argued that the district court erred in finding that PERA Rule 7.45(E) and the insurance policy do not violate CRS § 24-51-702(1). Specifically, plaintiffs argued that although § 702(1)(a) provides that members who are incapable of performing their jobs are entitled to short-term disability benefits, Rule 7.45(E) and the insurance policy do not provide benefits to this class of people. Under the authority delegated to it, PERA determined that an employee would not be considered “disabled” for the purpose of short-term disability benefit eligibility if the employee was medically able to perform any job, based on the employee’s existing education, training, and experience, that would earn the employee at least 75% of the employee’s pre-disability earnings. Additionally, because § 702(1)(a) provides for a “reasonable” short-term disability benefit for a period to be determined by PERA, it is reasonable to provide for no benefit in the circumstance where an employee is medically capable of earning substantially the same income. Because PERA’s interpretation and implementation of the statute are reasonable, the district court correctly held that Rule 7.45(E) and the policy comply with the statutory requirements.

Summary and full case available here.

HB 13-1040: Changing the Way in Which PERA Benefits are Calculated

On Wednesday, January 9, 2013, Rep. Kevin Priola introduced HB 13-1040 – Concerning an Increase in the Number of Years Used to Calculate the Highest Average Salary of a Member of the Public Employees’ Retirement Association for the Purpose of Determining the Amount of the Member’s Retirement Benefit. This summary is published here courtesy of the Colorado Bar Association’s e-Legislative Report.

Current law averages the three highest annual salaries of a member of the public employees’ retirement association (PERA) when calculating that member’s retirement benefit amount. The bill increases the number of highest annual salaries used from three to seven for anyone who was not a member, inactive member, or retiree of PERA as of Dec. 31, 2013. The bill is assigned to the Finance and Appropriations Committees.