Saturday, March 10, 2012

VRS Disaster/Sine Die

Upon leaving the GA yesterday, I thought consideration of the retirement legislation was going to be delayed until the special session; however, last night a general assembly staff member called me to tip me off to the fact that the Governor had called Senator Watkins and Delegate Jones to the mansion, and at his request the conference reports on SB 498 and HB 1130 were considered today.

I spent the morning working with the lobbyists from the Virginia Governmental Employees Association in a futile effort to line up votes to kill the bills.

The last day of the session dragged on. The remaining contentious issues were retirement and transportation. At 4 pm, there was still no released report on the retirement legislation. Apparently, the first report did not reflect what the House felt that they had agreed to and the bill was rewritten.

They wrote the bill on the fly the last day of the session.

This issue seems a little too important to handle in a last minute scramble!

I was able to attend the Senate briefing. Interestingly, the analysis of the bill included everything except any information regarding the impact of the legislation on future retirees. I asked several Senators to ask what the impact of the bill on future retirees would be, and Tommy Norment was the only one willing to ask the question.

In response to Norment’s question, VRS Director Bob Shultz said one thing that was helpful, "That's where the savings are - reducing the benefits of retirees." But he indicated that the reductions were "slight." Do you consider a $9,000 a year reduction slight?

Click here to see the Senate briefing documents.

I was able to speak before the House Democratic Caucus, and among other things, I asked them if future teachers caused the VRS current shortfall.

In the Senate HB 1130 passed on a 34-6 vote. Here are the few who stood by us:

Carrico, Deeds, Edwards, Garrett, Puckett and Puller.

Five were with us on SB 498:

Carrico, Deeds, Edwards, Puckett, and Puller.

I love Senator Janet Howell, but she served on the conference committee for this bill, and she said on the Senate floor that this bill had "no impact on current employees" and that is not only not true, it may have led some of her fellow Senators to vote based on a false understanding of the impact of these bills.

The Senate also passed SB 497 which requires local government employees to pay the 5%employee contribution and requires off-setting raises. This can be phased in one percent a year over 5 years.

Had Edd Houck still been in the Senate, he would have held his caucus together for us. Some of those who we worked the hardest to elect turned their backs on us today.

In the House Delegate Toscano did an excellent job of asking that the decision be delayed until the special session. Delegate Surovell made the point that this legislation makes workers pay for the irresponsibility of the General Assembly. Delegate McClellan protested that this complex bill was provided just minutes before the vote. Delegate Kory questioned voting in the "dead of the night" on such an important piece of legislation.

HB 1130 passed the House on a 60-34 vote. Here are the Delegates who voted with us:

Alexander, BaCote, Brink, Bulova, Carr, Crocket-Stark, Dance, Filler-Corn, Helsel, Herring, Hope, James, Joannou, Johnson, Keam, Kory, Lewis, Lopez, McClellan, McQuinn, Morrissey, Plum, Rush, Jim Scott, Sickles, Spruill, Surovell, Torian, Toscano, Tyler, Ward, Onzlee Ware, Watts and Yost

The House adjourned Sine Die at 9:37 pm.

We are told that there will be an opportunity to address the structure of the Hybrid Plan in the Special Session.

Both chambers convened the special session after adjournment and will next meet on March 21.