Legislation to demand healthcare transparency

AB 1310 provides liability facts, fails to pass Senate vote

By Robert Clinton, Opinion Editor

In an attempt to protect the retirement assets of nearly 300,000 civil servants, Republican State Assemblyman Travis Allen from Huntington Beach introduced legislation to clarify the financial uncertainty that many in the state face.

AB 1310 requires public retirement systems to disclose the unfunded liability and health care debt of the system on each statement that retirement management systems provide to their members.

Allen proposed the bill to offer, what he believes is, a more clear financial portrait of an employee’s retirement portfolio. According to Allen’s comments in the text of AB 1310, most of these employees are unaware of the magnitude of the mounting pension gaps and the potential impact these gaps could have on their family’s future financial security. He also believes the additional information would help these employees understand this financial uncertainty, and will allow them to actively engage in the process to minimize that uncertainty.

The bill was voted on by Assembly members on April 19 and failed by a 5-2 margin, in a vote that was split down party lines.

Two Republicans of the seven-member committee voted in favor of the measure, which would have sent the bill up the legislative pipeline to an appropriations committee, while all of the Democrats on the committee voted no.

AB 1310 garnered no support from workers or public institutions that claim to have the best in mind for average Americans. “I haven’t even heard of the bill. I’d have to look it up before I made any comment about it,” librarian and Distance Education Coordinator Judith Flum said.

However, Democratic members of the committee were not the only ones in opposition to the bill. CalSTRS, the California State Teachers’ Retirement System which provides retirement, disability and survivor benefits for California’s 914,454 elementary through community college level instructors, also opposes AB 1310.

CalSTRS is the largest teachers’ retirement fund in the U.S. and is one of the largest public pension funding institutions in the world. Cost effectiveness is not the reason for public opposition to the bill. If implemented, the operating cost of the proposal is $18,000 according to its own public bill analysis would not significantly affect the fund’s operating budget.

According to CalSTRS public investment portfolio, as of Jan. 31, the institution manages a portfolio of public funds worth $198.7 billion at market value.

CalSTRS says it provides an annual member statement, or Retirement Progress Report, in early September to every active and inactive member of the Defined Benefits Program and all participants of the Cash Balance Benefit Program.

“I’ve heard of the bill, but haven’t read it yet,” health education professor Sandra Everhart, who is retiring in June after 29 years at Contra Costa College, said. “It may be redundant, but it is important to have as much information as possible so potential retirees can be well informed.”