Re­tire­ment board changes get Se­nate panel’s ap­proval

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - MICHAEL R. WICKLINE

A leg­isla­tive com­mit­tee on Thurs­day ad­vanced a bill chang­ing re­quire­ments for six of the Ar­kan­sas Pub­lic Em­ploy­ees Re­tire­ment Sys­tem’s nine trustees and limit to two the num­ber of trustees re­tired from the sys­tem.

The Se­nate Com­mit­tee on Pub­lic Re­tire­ment and So­cial Se­cu­rity Pro­grams en­dorsed an amended ver­sion of House Bill 1258 by Speaker Jeremy Gil­lam, R-Jud­so­nia, after it voted to add an amend­ment pro­posed by Sen. Terry Rice, R-Wal­dron.

The sys­tem’s board is com­prised of six ap­pointees from the gov­er­nor and one each from the state trea­surer, the state au­di­tor and the di­rec­tor of the state Depart­ment of Fi­nance and Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The sys­tem is state gov­ern­ment’s sec­ond-largest re­tire­ment agency, with more than $7 bil­lion in in­vest­ments and more than 75,000 work­ing and re­tired mem­bers from state and lo­cal gov­ern­ments.

The gov­er­nor ap­points three state em­ploy­ees and three lo­cal gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees. Each ap­pointee must have 10 years of con­tin­u­ous ser­vice with a pub­lic em­ployer and be a work­ing or re­tired mem­ber of the sys­tem.

HB1258 would re­duce the 10-year ser­vice re­quire­ment to five years, re­quire the ap­pointees to be sys­tem mem­bers and elim­i­nate lan­guage al­low­ing them to be re­tired mem­bers.

Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Gail Stone warned a House com­mit­tee last month the bill could af­fect the con­tin­ued ser­vice of trustees Ar­tee Wil­liams, Ouida Wright and Bill Gaddy. Gil­lam coun­tered he in­ter­prets state law to mean the trustees should have been re­placed when they left state em­ploy­ment.

The amended ver­sion of the bill states, “No more than one of the three mem­bers who are non­state em­ployee trustees and no more than one of the three mem­bers who are state em­ployee trustees may be a re­tired mem­ber of the sys­tem.”

HB1258 states “this act ap­plies to a mem­ber cur­rently serv­ing on the board of trustees of the Ar­kan­sas Pub­lic Em­ploy­ees Re­tire­ment Sys­tem as of the ef­fec­tive date of this act.” If ap­proved by the Leg­is­la­ture, the bill would be­come ef­fec­tive when the gov­er­nor signs it.

Wil­liams is a for­mer di­rec­tor of the state Depart­ment of Work­force Ser­vices. Repub­li­can Gov. Asa Hutchin­son re­placed him in 2015. Wil­liams’ ini­tial term on the board started in 2003 and his cur­rent term ex­pires in 2020, ac­cord­ing to sys­tem records.

Wright for­merly worked for the Con­way Hu­man De­vel­op­ment Cen­ter. Her ini­tial term on the board started in 1989 and her cur­rent term ex­pires March 17 of this year, ac­cord­ing to sys­tem records. Gaddy for­merly worked for the Depart­ment of Fi­nance and Ad­min­is­tra­tion. His ini­tial term started in 2007 and his cur­rent term ex­pires in March 2019, ac­cord­ing to sys­tem records.

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