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Since 1972, advocating for the rights and value of South Dakota state employees.
Category: South Dakota Retirement System

Second round for BHR today, SDRS bills tomorrow

Wednesday, January 29, 2014
The SDSEO has been at every hearing of the Joint Committee on Appropriations this session. There were two hearings today, one from 8 a.m. to noon and one later in the day. The first was Day 2 of the Department of Social Services briefings, and the second was a second round for the Bureau of Human Resources. BHR basically went through the present state health plan today, with assistance from contractors like Dakotacare. The 2015 proposed health plan was mostly not a topic. The materials presented are here, under "1/29 BHR Follow-up Presentation." This was the fourth day, overall, for BHR hearings with JCA.

More links:
JCA agendas
JCA minutes

Tomorrow, you can find the SDSEO at the morning JCA hearing, which is Day 3 for Social Services. The agenda is here. You can listen in here. And we'll also be at the 3 p.m. Senate Retirement Laws hearing, where the four South Dakota Retirement System bills will be heard. The agenda is here. The SDSEO will testify in support of each of those bills, all of which are supported by the SDRS Board of Trustees, including the support of the state employee and BOR employees on the board. You can listen to the hearing here.
CategoriesAppropriations Committee, Bureau of Human Resources, Legislative, South Dakota Retirement System

Two great news items: SDRS funds up 14.9%; SDBOR offering reduced tuition to state employees at CUCs

Friday, April 5, 2013
The South Dakota Retirement System's board concluded its meeting in Pierre yesterday. The great news out of that meeting was that the SDRS is up 14.9% for the first 9 months of the fiscal year. There's one quarter (3 months) left. We'll see what shakes out over the next few months. Here's a couple story links: KELO TV, Rapid City Journal.

Also meeting was the South Dakota Board of Regents, and we had some great news out of that meeting as well. The BOR adopted a "State Employee Reduced Tuition" program for those employees that attend University Centers in Sioux Falls (website, Facebook), Pierre (website, Facebook), or Rapid City (website, Facebook).

Tuition reductions are substantial, subtracting $66.55 per undergrad credit hour and $100.95 per grad credit hour. Undergrad tuition for state government employees will be $235.15, while grad tuition will be $299.10. The rates are effective this summer semester.

This action by the BOR is extremely welcomed by the SDSEO. Former State Representative Tad Perry worked pretty hard to get the Legislature to support reduced tuition for state employees at the university centers, and the SDSEO supported his efforts. Though Rep. Perry was not successful in those efforts, his work there had to be integral in getting state employees this benefit. Thank you to the BOR and to Rep. Perry.
CategoriesBenefits, Board of Regents, Facebook, South Dakota Retirement System

SDRS to meet April 3-4, 2013

Tuesday, April 2, 2013
The South Dakota Retirement System board of directors will meet in Pierre on April 3 and April 4. That's a Wednesday and a Thursday. The agenda for the meeting is here (sheet 1) and here (sheet 2). Looks like quite a bit of reviewing of 2013 and preparing for 2014. Lots of important items, including the effective rate of interest for FY 2014 and quite a few "state of the system" topics. SDSEO executive director Eric Ollila will attend the meetings.
CategoriesMeetings, Member, South Dakota Retirement System

SDRS state employee representative review of Oct. 18 SDRS meeting

Thursday, October 18, 2012

After all was said and done very little changed at the South Dakota Retirement System meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 17. Benefits were left untouched and will probably remain that way this year. The day was spent trying to get a clear picture of where the system stands. In a system that has so many variables, it is difficult to determine if we currently have enough invested and are collecting enough contributions to sustain the system into perpetuity. Assumptions such as investment returns, retirement ages, final average salaries, mortality rates and many others have been set. The problem is we are trying to determine what will happen over the next 30 to 40 years. If our estimates miss even slightly when it is multiplied by the size of our system, the numbers become huge.

In the past, SDRS had reserves that could be tapped when assumptions were not met, but after several years of tough economic conditions, those reserves are gone. This makes our assumption more important. In the end, the investment returns, final average salary and the numerous items we give an “educated guess” to will either be higher or lower than what we assumed. If we are wrong in a good direction, such as investment returns at 8% rather than 7.5%, we will have more money to pay benefits. But if we are wrong the other way, we better have contingency plans in place to handle the shortfall.

Over the next year and possibly longer we will try to formalize these contingency plans. We also will be looking at each benefit to see if we have any benefits that would be considered “over generous” or “inequitable”. It is possible that there could be changes in the system to help build more of a comfort level or conservatism into the system. This process should be tracked by all SDRS members, and this is a good point to add our opinions about the direction the system should go. We can have a lot more influence at the early stages of the process than later, after other ideas have built momentum.

In the current political climate of our nation, pension systems such as SDRS are under attack. If we cannot make this system work within our current resources, the system will go away. SDRS is viewed as a model system on the national scene. We have shown that a pension system run wisely can work and provide a good value to its members and to taxpayers. We must continue to be proactive to maintain the system and to provide the best possible benefit to our members.

- Eric Stroeder, State Employee Representative, SDRS Board of Trustees

CategoriesMeetings, Member, South Dakota Retirement System

Workers' Compensation Advisory Council okays combined trial lawyer proposal

Thursday, September 6, 2012
I've been at meetings of the South Dakota Retirement System's board of trustees and the Workers' Compensation Advisory Council over the last couple days. Actions taken at both meetings will ultimately end up as proposed legislation. I'll do an SDRS recap later, as it's fairly dense, complicated material. However, the Workers' Compensation Advisory Council recap is fairly short.

Workers' Compensation Advisory Council (agenda)
  • Last legislative session, HB 1054 was introduced. HB 1054 failed to pass committee during the last session. It was a State Bar Association bill. It had a few parts. The Bar said it was a "package deal," in that if all the parts weren't included in the legislation, the Bar didn't want the bill to continue (usually, when an outfit or person is the key behind a bill, the "understanding" is that the bill must not be modified, at least without that entity's support). One part was an increase in the notice an employee must give to an employer when injured on the job, from 3 days to 7 days. During the legislative session, in committee, a boatload of business people and business lobbyists testified against that portion of HB 1054. Lots of those same folks testified the same before the Council today. The Council later today decided to pass that part, 4-2. Another part would allow "out-of-state practitioner[s]" to be used in Workers' Compensation cases. The rationale the Bar used today was that there is a shortage of doctors in the state, doctors that can provide the kind of testimony that can be useful for insurers in claims filed against them by employees who claim their injury occurred due to work. One proponent indicated doctors were giving so much testimony that they were contradicting themselves in different court cases, leading to impeaching themselves as witnesses. (Has the impeaching of doctors as witnesses led to a shortage of South Dakota doctors willing to testify for workers' compensation insurers in certain cases? Or has it simply made the case that honesty is always the best policy, regardless of who's paying the bill?) I testified against the issue today, stating, among other things, that any "lack" of South Dakota doctors was not really backed with any facts, and that South Dakota Workers' Compensation should be kept in South Dakota. Another point I made is that this proposed change wasn't limited to geographic areas or medical specialties where a lack of doctors would make out-of-state doctors useful. Another person, from a South Dakota medical organization, also opposed the issue. It passed 4-2. So, expect to see a bill with those two things in it at the next legislative session. One difference this time will be that the bill actually has the Council's support this time. HB 1054 was introduced without the approval of the Council at the last session, a fact that probably guaranteed it wouldn't go anywhere. The bill will have the Council's support next go-round.

CategoriesMember, South Dakota Retirement System, Worker's Compensation

Represent and support all

Friday, August 31, 2012
SDSEO members occupy all sorts of roles in state employment. From support staff to supervisors to top administrators, we represent and support all. We ask all SDSEO members, regardless of role, to step up and be positive, productive employees that do the right things. But, really, when talking about who can really affect state employees and state employment for the better, I think it's the supervisors that matter most. If you treat your employees great, they'll be great. If you selectively treat them based on if you like them personally, you'll get greatness of nobody: those you don't like know they don't have a chance with you, and those you do like will take advantage of you, as that's the system you have put into place. Think about it.

The Argus Leader ran a story about South Dakota's rating for managing money. I have a quote in the story. The story link is here.

The South Dakota Retirement board meets next Wednesday and Thursday. A little writeup from reporter Bob Mercer's blog is here.

I've been talking forever about a new website design. Well, it's almost here. Stay tuned...
CategoriesBlogs, Media, Member, South Dakota Retirement System

SDRS Board of Trustees meeting review

Friday, July 20, 2012
I spent most of yesterday at the South Dakota Retirement System's board of trustees meeting. Lots of things happened with one vote that will affect state employees and the rest of the members of the SDRS. The vote was taken on "recommended actuarial assumption changes." Here's the breakdown:
  1. The board voted 8-3 to reduce the long-term investment return assumption from 7.75% to a short-term/long-term assumption of 7.25% for five years, then to 7.50%. This action will reduce the total dollars available when system planning. There is no date for implementation, but expect something within the next couple months.
  2. Specific assumptions that will be looked at: post-termination mortality, pre-termination mortality, salary scale, retirement, termination, disability, inflation, COLA, and interest on accumulated contributions. "Assumptions" are things the SDRS considers when planning the system (e.g., fewer terminations than planned for leads to system financial losses, as the SDRS plans for, or assumes, those terminations).
  3. With the same vote, the board elected to look at changes to nearly all SDRS benefits. COLA, special early retirement, early retirement, vested benefits, and nearly everything else will be looked at. So, the overall SDRS plan design (i.e., its goals) will also be looked at.

The next meeting of the SDRS board will be Sept. 5-6.

CategoriesMeetings, South Dakota Retirement System

Two blogs about South Dakota politics

Wednesday, July 18, 2012
I suppose one might consider this blog to be a political blog, inasmuch as pretty much everything that involves state employees involves politics, but I don't think Notes is at its core a blog about politics. To me, Notes is more a blog about the SDSEO and state employee issues. However, there are a couple political blogs I go to regularly. One thing to know about blogs is they are not "news"; there's more of the writer in a blogpost than there is in a news article (news articles generally go through an editor or two or three). Here's two blogs by South Dakota political reporters that I go to:

Pure Pierre Politics - Written by Bob Mercer, a longtime political reporter in South Dakota and the former press chief for Gov. Janklow. Mercer also does reporting for the Aberdeen American News; you can read his news pieces by clicking on the story titles at the right side of his blog.

Political Smokeout - Written by David Montgomery, formerly a reporter for the Rapid City Journal and now at the Argus Leader. He has some pretty good stuff there, and he seeks opinions and knowledge from his readers, so it's a good place to visit.

The South Dakota Retirement System board of trustees meets tomorrow at View 34 in Pierre. The meeting starts at 9:30 a.m. I'll be there, working for you.
CategoriesBlogs, Media, South Dakota Retirement System
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