Rep. Gene Whisnant outlines his 2 'short session' bills

Both involve PERS-related issues

SALEM, Ore. - Rep. Gene Whisnant, R-Sunriver, said Tuesday he has submitted his two allowed bills for the 2018 legislative session.  Both bills were introduced in the 2017 session but did not receive hearings.

 The first bill (HB 3473/2017) would prevent professors from spiking their PERS retirement amounts with outside employment, which has been allowed under laws passed this year and previously. 

In 2017, Senate Bill 206 was passed which allows community college professors to have outside work if approved by the institution.  House Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee members had concerns with SB 206, which mirrored previous bills passed that allowed professors at OHSU and state 4-year universities to have outside work if approved by the institute. 

The PERS board advised that the bill would not allow PERS retirees to use this income to spike their retirement, as occurred with the former University of Oregon athletic director. However, Rep. Knute Buehler, R-Bend, asked legislative counsel to advise if this work could be used to spike retirement amounts and the answer was “maybe.” 

 Whisnant stated, “I worked with legislative leadership and the governor’s office to try to find a way to be sure that this type of spiking did not occur again.  We could not find a bill which could be used to address this concern; thus, I drafted HB 3473 but was unable to get it through the system as time ran out.”

 The second bill (HB 3215/2017) requires school districts to receive Department of Education approval before entering into funds diversion agreements to finance their pension liabilities.  Currently, school districts may issue Pension Obligation Bonds (POBs) to finance their PERS obligations.  School districts issue POBs to prevent reducing teachers or school days but incur more debt. 

The Legislative Fiscal Office reports, “The risk of POBs is that they could actually increase total employer costs related to PERS if investment returns fall below debt service costs.”

 Whisnant said, “This bill is to ensure that school districts are not exercising risky financial behavior and requires no additional school district reports.”

The lawmaker added, “The ‘short’ session was created to have non-controversial bills and bills which are needed to correct 2017 legislative bills, I believe these bills meet these criteria.”

Whether this will be Whisnant's last legislative session is not yet known. A spokesman said the lawmaker has not yet announced whether he plans to seek re-election.

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