Lawyers brief judge for 8th time on RI pension lawsuit talks

September 30th, 2013 at 11:14 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Lawyers briefed the Rhode Island judge overseeing a union lawsuit challenging the state’s 2011 pension overhaul for an eighth time Monday about the progress of their court-ordered mediation to settle the suit.

Attorneys on both sides of the case met Monday morning at Kent County Superior Court in Warwick with R.I. Superior Court Judge Sarah Taft-Carter, who is handling the suit, court spokesman Craig Berke said. Last December, Taft-Carter ordered the state and the unions into a formal mediation process overseen by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service behind closed doors.

The latest update happened amid growing signs that the two sides are getting closer to reaching a settlement.

Last month a union leader revealed that the plaintiffs have formed a subcommittee to communicate with workers and retirees about the terms of a settlement. Gov. Lincoln Chafee has said repeatedly he hopes to avoid drawn-out litigation, despite legislative leaders’ concerns about reopening the pension debate.

“If you have an agreement with unions and management that gets us out of litigation – that if we potentially could lose and be costing us hundreds of millions of dollars – and they have to set a budget, too, the General Assembly has to set a budget – common sense will prevail,” Chafee said on Newsmakers Sept. 20.

Taft-Carter has scheduled the next status conference for later this month, on Oct. 28 at 9 a.m. The previous seven status conferences were held on Sept. 5, Aug. 6, May 17, April 22, March 25, Feb. 28 and Feb. 1.

• Related: Unions taking steps to prepare for RI pension suit settlement (Sept. 25)

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2 Responses to “Lawyers brief judge for 8th time on RI pension lawsuit talks”

  1. Al Moncrief says:

    RI will not escape its contractual public pension COLA obligations. We live under the rule of law in the United States.

    THE COLORADO LEGISLATURE’S BREACH OF COLORADO PERA PENSION CONTRACTS WILL NOT STAND.

    A PENSION COLA IS SIMPLY A METHOD OF DELIVERING A DEFINED PENSION BENEFIT.

    USE OF THIS METHOD DOES NOT JUSTIFY BREACH OF PENSION CONTRACTS.

    Three years ago, a majority of Colorado legislators decided to attempt to break state contracts to cut the debt of Colorado state and local governments. In 2010, Colorado legislators passed a bill, SB10-001, that attempts to discard the obligation of Colorado governments and the state’s pension system, Colorado PERA, to pay cost-of-living (COLA) increases due retirees under their state pension contracts.

    Like salary, Colorado PERA pension COLA benefits are compensation for work performed; specifically “deferred compensation,” presently earned. When a Colorado PERA member has completed the job, and finished earning her salary, her employer cannot retroactively take that salary from her.

    A public pension COLA is simply a method by which a defined pension benefit is provided. There is nothing inherent in this “method” (provision of a pension COLA) that negates its essence as a contractual obligation of Colorado PERA-affiliated employers.

    The Colorado Legislature has placed into Colorado law an agreement to provide an “automatic,” fixed, pension COLA “escalator” to PERA members upon retirement. When the Colorado Legislature created the Colorado PERA contract in statute, the Legislature could just as well have offered PERA members a higher total pension benefit and no COLA escalator. Instead, Colorado legislators chose to deliver accrued Colorado PERA pension benefits by means of a pension COLA “escalator.”

    If I buy an annuity from a private insurance company, and I opt to have my purchased income stream delivered via a cost-of-living escalator, does the insurance company that sold the annuity to me have the right to eliminate that purchased COLA benefit after the fact?

    The contractual obligation of an accrued pension benefit does not disappear simply because state legislators have agreed to use a particular method of delivering the benefit.

    Support public pension contractual rights and the rule of law in Colorado. Contribute at saveperacola.com. Friend Save Pera Cola on Facebook!

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