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Pennsylvania House of Representatives
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House of Representatives
Session of 2013 - 2014 Regular Session

MEMORANDUM

Posted: June 12, 2014 12:14 PM
From: Representative Steven J. Santarsiero
To: All House members
Subject: Spousal Consent to Pension Benefits-Two Bill Package
 
Memorandum

In the near future, I will be introducing a two-bill package to require that a public employee select a retirement plan payment structure that provides no less than a fifty percent (50%) survivor annuity to the employee’s surviving spouse. These bills are part of the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health, a comprehensive proposal to address the real health issues affecting women in the Commonwealth today. It is my sincere hope you will join me in this important effort.

Research makes it clear – women are less likely than men to have a pension. When they do, women often receive a lower monthly benefit because they have earned historically less over their lifetime and, as primary caregivers, have less consistent work records than their male counterparts. As you may know, Pennsylvania state law does not require spousal consent when a state employee chooses how his or her retirement benefits will be paid. Because of this, many women are often blindsided when they discover that they are not entitled to any of their deceased partner’s pension benefit after a spouse’s death.

The U.S. Congress enacted the Retirement Equity Act more than two decades ago to require all privately sponsored pension plans to obtain spousal consent of any benefit payment structure that does not provide at least a 50% survivor benefit. Many states, twenty-seven at last count, have adopted the federal government’s spousal consent requirement for state employee pension plans. My bills would add Pennsylvania to this list and require annuitants of PSERS, SERS, and the Pennsylvania Municipal Retirement System (PMRS) to provide no less than a fifty percent (50%) survivor annuity to the their surviving spouse, unless the spouse consents to a different benefit selection. Moreover, if no designee is made at the time of a public employee’s death, his or her spouse shall be deemed the designated beneficiary.

Pennsylvania recognizes marital property rights to employee pensions in other circumstances, such as honoring a domestic relations order. My legislation will simply close a gap in state law with regards to spousal protections and provide greater economic security to surviving spouses of public employees in the Commonwealth. This can be done at no cost to the state’s general fund. It is my sincere hope you will join me in this effort.




Document #1

Introduced as HB2307

Description: Amending Titles 24 (Education) and 71 (State Government) to require annuitants of PSERS and SERS to obtain spousal consent of any benefit payment structure that does not provide at least a 50% survivor benefit.
 

Document #2

Introduced as HB2308

Description: Amending Act 15 of 1974, also known as the Pennsylvania Municipal Retirement Law, to require annuitants of PMRS to obtain spousal consent of any benefit payment structure that does not provide at least a 50% survivor benefit.