Legislation would eliminate potential conflict of interest between policymakers, judges and their pensions

State Rep. Ron Noble announced last week his plan to introduce legislation in next year's short session that would bar future legislators and higher court judges from receiving benefits from two retirement programs.

The legislator from District 24, who represents Dundee and parts of Yamhill and Washington counties, said his proposed legislation is designed to eliminate potential conflicts of interest between politicians and juNobledges who are sometimes faced with making decisions regarding the future of public employee retirement programs they themselves are enrolled in. Specifically, those are the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) and the Oregon Public Service and Retirement Plan (OSPRP).

According to a press release from Noble's capitol office, if the legislation is adopted it would take effect in July 2018 and move future legislators and Oregon Court of Appeals and Oregon Supreme Court judges into approved deferred compensation plans. It would also prohibit public officials from enrolling in retirement programs on which they hold decision-making power.

"Any objective observer can see that a conflict of interest exists when legislators and judges are in the position of making decisions that can have a direct impact on their own retirements," Noble said. "Although this bill will have a minimal impact on the current unfunded liability, I believe removing policymakers from public pension plans will go a long way toward restoring some level of trust and credibility to our state government."

Noble —who serves on the House committees on Higher Education and Workforce Development, Human Services and Housing, Transportation Policy and the Joint Ways and Means Subcommittee on Transportation and Economic Development — said his legislation is consistent with the 2015 Oregon Supreme Court decision that forbade any impacts on benefits already earned through PERS/ OSPRP.

"(I) believe we need to need to keep our promise to current PERS employees, but we must also consider the long-term impact on our state and future generations," he said.

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