A pre-filed bill by state Rep. Tony Bacala, R-Prairieville, would make various changes to provisions within the Municipal Police Employees’ Retirement System, all of which aim to increase participation in the system in an effort to reduce its debt.
Significantly, the proposed law would widen the pool for MPERS membership by removing the current age restriction of 50 years old or older.
Bacala, a member of the MPERS board of directors, says House Bill 21—as well as the two other pieces of MPERS-related legislation he’s pre-filed for the 2020 Regular Session—come at the request of the retirement system.
“The worst case scenario is if you have more people who are retired than working,” Bacala says. “You don’t want people holding down spots and not contributing to the unfunded accrued liability. It’s a constitutional liability that has to be paid, and participation is important.”
The legislation would also place a cap on an existing provision that removes employees from the system if they’re absent from service for more than five years and are no longer entitled to a deferred annuity other employees receive.
Another change is that, today, retirement benefits to surviving spouses end if the surviving spouse remarries before they turn 60. But Bacala’s bill would reduce that age to 55, further requiring surviving spouses under 55 to annually document their marital status.
The pre-filed legislation, which also includes other changes, comes one year after another of Bacala’s bills resolved a long-running disagreement between the city-parish and MPERS dealing with overtime pay.
In January 2018, MPERS said it would withhold retirement payments to Baton Rouge police officers who retired that year until the city-parish stopped including overtime pay in the contributions, which MPERS argued was a waste of money it wasn’t even sure the state could legally reimburse. Mayor Sharon Weston Broome shot back, saying her administration would continue including overtime pay in the calculation for retirement benefits.
However, as of mid-2018, no retirees had their retirement payments withheld, with MPERS instead handling their benefits on a case-by-case basis.