Senate advances local pensions bill

Both bills allowing local governments to move their closed pension plans to the LAGERS system now are in the other house.

Missouri senators sent Mike Kehoe’s version to the House on Thursday on a 33-0 vote.

And the House-passed version, sponsored by Rep. Mike Leara, R-St. Louis County, was sent Thursday to the Senate’s Seniors, Families and Pensions Committee.

Both bills would let governments, like the Jefferson City Council, ask LAGERS — the state’s Local Government Employees Retirement System — to take over management of older pension funds.

Both bills would allow the transfer only for older pension plans operated by cities and counties that already have current employees on the LAGERS plan.

And it’s not a mandate — the local governments must volunteer to transfer the local pension’s operational duties to the LAGERS staff, and LAGERS doesn’t have to accept the request.

The closed pension plan must be fully funded before LAGERS will agree to take it, and the local government remains responsible for paying into the fund.

But LAGERS staff takes control of the investing and payments, freeing local government staff to do other jobs.

“This permits the local governments to get out of the pension business,” Keith Hughes, LAGERS’ director, told the Senate committee last month.

He also told both the House and Senate committees that the bill has the unanimous support of the LAGERS board of trustees.

Norm Robinson, vice chairman of the Jefferson City Firefighters Pension Board, has testified for the bill in both chambers.

On a 32-0 vote, the Senate also sent the House Kehoe’s bill allowing school board members and district employees to sell goods and services to their districts, as long as they are the low bidder in a competitive bidding process — even if part of the district is in a first-class county like Cole, Callaway, Boone and Camden counties in Mid-Missouri.

That’s already the law for districts in second-, third- and fourth-class counties, but state law makes that action a misdemeanor crime — and requires the school board member to forfeit the office — in Missouri’s 18 first class counties, which have the highest property value assessments.

Kehoe said the law created problems in the Owensville School District, which mostly is in Gasconade County but includes a small part of Franklin County.

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