Government Relations team works for members

OPERS conducts issues advocacy at both state and federal levels

Members of the OPERS Government Relations team include Gordon Gatien (left), Anthony Tedesco-Nichols, Christopher Collins and Matthew Overturf. Not pictured: Debbie McCarthy.

Jan. 25, 2017 — The Ohio Public Employees Retirement System was created in state law back in 1935. Today, OPERS’ ability to provide a pension, health care coverage, disability benefits and all of the other functions we perform is a result of changes made over the past 82 years in both state and federal law.

That’s why the OPERS Government Relations team plays an important role in preserving your retirement system. We work closely with state and federal lawmakers, educating them and advocating to them for the best interests of the system and its members.

We do this in multiple ways. It begins by building and maintaining relationships with legislators and stakeholder groups who have interest in the retirement system. Through those relationships we share information about the system, monitor pension related legislation and update and advise internal staff about legislative and stakeholder activities.

One vital component of this work is being able to connect our experts within the organization with key decision makers to help them act in the best interest of the retirement system.

Following the guidance of the OPERS Board of Trustees, we work with internal staff on ways to strengthen the retirement system over the long term. In collaboration with other OPERS staff, we help turn ideas into workable legislative proposals. We then assist in crafting the messages to help explain the need for change.

There are a variety of forums and tools the Government Relations staff uses to get the message out to multiple audiences. They include one-on-one meetings, informal conversations, legislative hearings and public stakeholder meetings. In addition, we provide written summaries and analyses of relevant legislation, draft testimony, letters and legislative alerts, and we make presentations to groups about OPERS-related issues.

One of our goals is to give people outside of the retirement system a clearer picture of how OPERS is able to provide a secure retirement to our members. We also want lawmakers to understand how their decisions will impact our operations.

Lastly, there are times when Government Relations urges our members and retirees to reach out to their elected officials to help us advocate on important legislative issues. OPERS Government Relations staff works to alert members and retirees at these times about how to communicate with those lawmakers who we need to act.

Through our advocacy, OPERS Government Relations staff strives to protect your secure retirement. We do that by encouraging the adoption of legislation to benefit the long-term solvency of the fund while defending against proposals that would be harmful to the system.

Christopher Collins

Chris Collins is an assistant government relations officer at the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System, advocating for our legislative agenda. Prior to joining the OPERS team, Chris was Ohio legislative director for the Service Employees International Union State Council for seven years.

Christopher Collins

Assistant Government Relations Officer

13 thoughts on “Government Relations team works for members

  • January 25, 2017 at 4:55 pm
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    Thanks for the update about how OPERS legislates and advocates for their retirees. We have been over some rocky roads and the system seems to be running quite smoothly. I thank all of you for your hard work and wise choices. I wish you well with our country’s current unsettled condition. Thanks.

    Reply
  • January 26, 2017 at 7:24 am
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    Get the unfair increase in Medicare Part B reduced for those who did not contribute to SS, this is terrible that this group had the highest increase. Or give them extra funds to help pay for this unfair increase.

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  • January 26, 2017 at 1:18 pm
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    “We also want lawmakers to understand how their decisions will impact our operations.” “while defending against proposals that would be harmful to the system”. ((And the members)) May I ask, why isn’t the WEP & the GPO repealed yet. Now you get that done, and you’ll have something that others failed to do, to talk about. Thank you for all that you have done & are doing:) Keep up the good work.

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  • January 27, 2017 at 9:57 am
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    I don’t like the “hold harmless” law. People whose medicare Part B premiums are deducted from their social security benefits will not see an increase in Part B that is more than their raise in social security benefits. Although that might have been a well-intentioned law, it increases premiums for everyone else. Many of those people can’t afford the Part B increase any more than those people getting social security benefits. I wish something could be done to change the “hold harmless” provision of the law.

    Reply
  • January 31, 2017 at 11:38 am
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    Is there ever going to be a time when OPERS Board (and whoever else is involved) might reconsider and revert back to the 3% COLA / year? This question refers to COLA now being based on CPI (for new retirees). As I understand it, under the CPI guidelines, COLA will ever to go above 3% / year and never below 0% / year. Thanks.

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    • January 31, 2017 at 3:03 pm
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      Cheryl,

      The new COLA was one of the hallmarks of pension reform in 2012, but hasn’t begun yet. It won’t start until 2019 and affects those whose effective date of retirement came on or after Feb. 1, 2013. It’s actually based on the CPI-W, which is the consumer price index for urban wage earners and clerical workers.

      We’re going to release a new video soon that explains how the COLA works. Look for it to be posted to our YouTube channel and also on PERSpective.

      –Ohio PERS

      Reply
  • January 31, 2017 at 7:23 pm
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    Do you have any ideas about what will happen with the Cadillac tax and OPERS insurance rates?
    Also anything new on HR711?
    Thanks,

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    • February 1, 2017 at 9:17 am
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      Gerri,

      The federal legislation you are referring to was HR 711, the Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act, sponsored by US Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX).
      Generally, HR 711 would have revised the existing Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) formula to include service performed for non-Social Security-covered employers, such as Ohio’s public employers. We fully intend to continue that work if the bill is reintroduced.

      Julie, Ohio PERS

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      • March 15, 2017 at 12:28 pm
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        Who do we need to contact to get Hr 711 reintroduced

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        • March 17, 2017 at 9:48 am
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          Mr. Lee – Thank you for your question about HR 711. We recommend that you contact your representative in Congress and express your support for legislation reforming the windfall elimination provision, also referred to as WEP.

          Reply
  • February 2, 2017 at 11:32 am
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    I am concerned about January media reports indicating in a recent vote the OPERS board voted to continue using hedge funds/managers as part of its overall investment strategy. I don’t get it. This seems to be a very ill advised investment decision. Why continue throwing more good money after bad? Our returns would certainly be better if we weren’t paying hedge fund managers $428 million dollars. Can someone provide an explanation? Thx.

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    • February 3, 2017 at 12:18 pm
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      John,

      After the market downturn in 2008, OPERS adjusted its asset allocation to shift away from stocks and lower volatility. Stocks now make up a smaller share of our portfolio, while allocations to real estate, private equity and hedge funds have increased.

      OPERS’ hedge fund portfolio is not designed to mimic the returns of stocks. It is designed to reduce volatility in a down market, and it is a fact that risk, as defined by volatility, has been reduced in the OPERS portfolio.

      We have been working hard to reduce the fees we pay to hedge fund managers. Our fees have fallen to an average of 1.25 percent, well below the 2 percent level that’s considered standard for hedge funds. We continually look very carefully at all elements of our portfolio in the context of market conditions.

      Thank you for giving us the opportunity to explain our hedge fund investment.

      Julie, Ohio PERS

      Reply
      • February 21, 2017 at 11:21 am
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        It doesn’t seem like the right time to have stocks making up a smaller share of the OPERS portfolio! I understand that the portfolio is designed to reduce volatility in a down market, but the market is booming and has been for a good bit of time. Maybe OPERS needs to be a little more fluid and in tune with market strategies? When the organization takes forever to make changes in investments, it makes members suffer the consequence. Regards.

        Reply

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