Oklahoma Senate Approves House Bill 1805, expanding state retirement system to include first responders

Oklahoma City – The Oklahoma Senate passed House Bill 1805 on Tuesday, a measure that will affect the retirement benefits of licensed emergency medical personnel employed by the state.

The measure, authored by Representative Neil Hays, designates licensed emergency medical personnel hired on or after November 1, 2023, as hazardous duty members of the Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS).

“Emergency medical personnel are designated hazardous duty members of the retirement system under this legislation,” Hays said. “The goal is to support emergency workers, ensuring they receive enhanced retirement benefits and increased contributions, which more accurately aligns with the hazardous nature of their occupation.”

Qualifying emergency medical personnel includes emergency medical responders, technicians and paramedics working for a participating OPERS employer.

Under H.B. 1805, hazardous duty members of the OPERS receive increased retirement and pension benefits than non-hazardous duty employees.

Specifically, employees contribute 8% of their compensation toward their retirement benefits, while employers contribute at a higher rate of 16.5%.

After completing 20 years of service, members can receive full, un-reduced retirement benefits.

Retirement benefits are calculated using a multiplier of 2.5% per year for the first 20 years of service and a 2% per year multiplier for service exceeding 20 years.

Senator Casey Murdock, R-Felt, carried the measure in the Senate, which passed 41 – 0.

It went from the House to the desk of Governor Kevin Stitt, chief executive officer for the state, for consideration.

If he signs it the measure will become state law.

Representative Hays serves eastern Oklahoma’s District 13 in the House. Born in Muskogee, and after graduating from college, Hays returned to Muskogee as a high school teacher and coach. After 12+ years in education, he left teaching to start his own insurance agency, which has grown and now serves clients in multiple states. Neil’s agency has achieved his carrier’s prestigious Toppers Club Award multiple times and has been consistently in the top five in sales.

Rep. Hays is vice chair for the Alcohol, Tobacco and Controlled Substances Committee, and serves as well on the Committee for Banking Financial Services and Pensions, and Transportation. He is also on the House Appropriations Education Subcommittee.

Hays serves eastern Oklahoma’s District 13 in the House. Born in Muskogee, and after graduating from college, Hays returned to Muskogee as a high school teacher and coach. After 12+ years in education, he left teaching to start his own insurance agency, which has grown and now serves clients in multiple states. His agency has achieved his carrier’s Toppers Club Award multiple times and is consistently in the top five in sales, according to his legislative biographical sketch.

Rep. Hays serves as well on the Committees for Banking Financial Services and Pensions, and Transportation. He is also on the House Appropriations Education Subcommittee. He served on two conference committees this session – legislators appointed by the Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate to reconcile differences in language for measures that have cleared both chambers of the Legislature.

https://www.okhouse.gov/representatives/neil-hays

According to a House document, citing a Senate report, “OPERS states that the Unfunded Actuarial Accrued Liability should not increase, but there will be a slight increase in the overall normal cost rate as new people come in as hazardous duty.”

The words “slight increase” were not explained in the document(s).

http://webserver1.lsb.state.ok.us/cf_pdf/2023-24%20SUPPORT%20DOCUMENTS/impact%20statements/fiscal/Senate/HB1805%20ENGR%20FI.PDF

Note: Pat McGuigan, founder and publisher of CapitolBeatOK.com, prepared this story utilizing a State House press release, adding additional information about Rep. Hays’ background, and a link to legislative reports that did not define the measure’s fiscal impact, near- or long-term. CapitolBeatOK.com is an independent, non-partisan and locally-managed news service, based in Oklahoma City.