The 2011 Oregon Legislature And PERS Reform

The 2011 Oregon legislature started with the hope of meaningful PERS reform.  At least 40 different bills dealing with PERS were introduced this year.  When it came to making PERS changes, from shifting more of the cost of funding PERS to the PERS employees to prohibiting legislators from joining PERS, the 2011 legislators showed they were willing to talk the talk.  Unfortunately, however, they proved unable to walk the walk.

With less than two weeks left in the 2011 Regular Session, none of the 40 PERS bills has been voted on and only one of them, HB 5039, has received a Do Pass recommendation.  And wouldn’t you know it, HB 5039, does not make any reform to PERS.  If it passes, HB 5039 authorizes PERS to spend $77,000,000 on administrative expenses.

It is easy to understand why no PERS reform will happen this year.  The 2011 Oregon Senate is controlled by senators who are PERS members.  Out of the 30 senators, over 20 of them are PERS members  and those PERS senators hold every senate leadership position.  For PERS reform legislation to be enacted, it requires the approval of the House, the Senate and the Governor, who is also a PERS member.   Under those circumstances, PERS reform is just not going to happen in the Oregon legislature.

The only hope for PERS changes is through the courts and since all regular Oregon judges are PERS members, federal court is the only place the people of Oregon who are not PERS members have a chance.  That is the reason why I have initiated litigation to reinstate Ballot Measure 8.  Ballot Measure 8 was passed by the people of Oregon in 1994.  It amended the Oregon Constitution and made significant changes to PERS.  The Oregon Supreme Court, though, threw out Ballot Measure 8 in 1996.  My lawsuit argues that the Supreme Court’s 1996 decision is void because all of the justices were PERS members and that disqualified them from hearing the case.

I have already had this argument rejected by the Oregon Tax Court once and the Oregon Supreme Court twice.   My new lawsuit has been filed in the Oregon Court of Appeals and I expect the same rejection from that court and, again, from the Oregon Supreme Court.  But that will open the door to federal court action.

If you believe that the people of Oregon have the right to change the PERS laws and if you support the concept of having court cases decided only by judges who are unbiased,  I need your help.  The PERS employees who run Oregon, from the legislature to the governor to the judges to the attorney general, have millions of dollars of public funds they can use to fight me.  They have already done that and they will continue to do so to protect their personal financial interests.   SEND A NON-TAX DEDUCTIBLE CONTRIBUTION TO:  IN RE THE PEOPLE, INC., 70 SW CENTURY DRIVE, STE 100-365, BEND, OR 97702. YOUR CONTRIBUTION WILL BE USED TO PAY THE LEGAL FEES ASSOCIATED WITH THIS FIGHT.

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About Dan Re

I am an attorney who has lived in Bend and practiced law since 1981. In educating myself about the Oregon Public Employees Retirement System (PERS), I was shocked at how the PERS laws were changed by the legislature, once legislators were allowed to join PERS in 1971, 26 years after PERS was first created. Those changes personally benefitted the legislators who made them at the direct financial expense of the people they were elected to represent. That is wrong and I intend to change it. In 2009, I started a non-profit 501(c)(4) corporation, In RE The People, Inc., for the purpose of informing concerned citizens of what happened regarding PERS and other issues of social and civic importance. I then created this blog to further that objective.
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