Disability Pension Bill Advances, With Major Amendments

A bill to requiring county and municipal pension systems to provide certain disability retirement allowances is advancing, but only with several amendments submitted by the Maryland Association of Counties and the Maryland Municipal League.

The Maryland Association of Counties opposes legislation in the General Assembly that is a mandate on local pension systems to make certain disability retirement payments. The bill represents an overreach into county personnel management and a threat to county budget security.

Until this week, HB 971 had been sitting in its House Committee. MACo and MML staff testified against the legislation in its House Appropriations hearing. Later, MML and MACo were called to the table to present suggested amendments at a meeting of the Pensions Oversight Committee on the bill.

Then, this week, the Pensions Oversight Committee met again and voted the legislation, including many of the MACo amendments favorable. MACo is grateful to Delegate Ben Barnes, Chair of the House Appropriations Pension Oversight Committee for his consideration of county concerns.

The amendments MACo submitted incorporated feedback submitted by the several counties that maintain their own pension systems. The bill as amended takes systems that collectively bargain benefits into account, limits the minimum recovery to 50% of an employee’s average final compensation plus an annuity of his accumulated pension contributions. The amount of the allowance maybe offset by other workers’ compensation and long-term disability benefits.

The amended bill is limited to sworn law enforcement, firefighters and EMTs. It defers to county pension system authorities on the determination of disability. It also allows for a county system to find alternative employment, such as light-duty work, for injured officers, as long as the position has similar pay. Finally, the amendments remove a portion of the bill that would have made it retroactive to 2015.

For more information see the reprint of HB971 that the House Pensions Subcommittee moved favorable and MACo’s testimony.

The legislation will now move to the House floor. Since there was no crossfile for the bill, when it passes the House, it will have its initial hearing in the Senate and must then be passed by its assigned Senate Committee, and the Senate floor. The clock is ticking, as the Session ends April 9th. For further updates on this legislation and its progress, stay tuned to Conduit Street.