The Legislators, The Judges and PERS Reform

There is a lot of discussion these days about PERS reform legislation by the 2013 legislature.  The legislators, however, point out that their ability to reform PERS is subject to approval of the Oregon Supreme Court.  Today, all of the judges of the Oregon Supreme Court are PERS members.  They are PERS members because the legislators made them join PERS, automatically, starting January 1, 1984.  It just so happens, that most legislators are also PERS members today and when the judges were forced into PERS eighty-four of the ninety legislators were PERS members.

The judges’ PERS interest predisposes them to oppose any PERS reform that would impact their personal PERS benefits and judges get many of the same benefits that all Tier One and Tier Two PERS members get.  They have a substantial conflict of interest and they have not allowed significant PERS reforms made by the people of Oregon, in 1994, nor by the legislature in 2005 to stand.  The PERS legislators also have a financial conflict of interest and are predisposed to oppose PERS reform.  Having the judges in PERS is perfect for the PERS legislators.  They can propose PERS reform until the cows come home and then they can blame the lack of PERS reform on the judges.  The PERS legislators know that any reforms they make will likely never be upheld by the judges.

The real problem with the legislators’ concern about the judges is that the judges are PERS members only because the PERS legislators made them PERS members and because the legislature allows the PERS judges to decide PERS cases.  The Oregon Supreme Court has no constitutional right to decide PERS cases and it can do so only if the legislature or the people permit them to do so.  In the public debate regarding the Supreme Court’s power over PERS reforms, no public figure has ever questioned the right of PERS judges to decide PERS cases.  That is because most of those public figures are PERS members and the last thing they want to see is PERS reform.

The Oregon legislature has not even considered requiring PERS cases to be decided by impartial, non-PERS judges.  HB 2451, however, gives them the opportunity to do that.  If you want impartial judges to decide PERS cases and to restore fundamental fairness to all Oregonians look at HB 2451 and tell your legislators to do the same thing.

Dan Re

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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.
This entry was posted in Oregon judges, Oregon legislators, Oregon legislature, Oregon PERS, public employee retirement system and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The Legislators, The Judges and PERS Reform

  1. Pingback: League of Oregon Cities Employees Eligible for PERS | Jeff Eager

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