Alaska Lawmakers Set to Try Again on Pension Reform

May 20, 2005 ( - Alaska lawmakers have scheduled another attempt to pass pension reform legislation amid an increasingly tense and combative atmosphere.

>The state Senate on Thursday named another set of negotiators for a bill that would partly privatize the state’s retirement systems for new employees (See  Alaska Grapples With Pension Reform ) – the third such grouping to focus on that controversial measure, the Associated Press reported.

>The contentious legislative debate in Alaska is being closely watched by government worker pension groups as a telling example of a growing nationwide trend away from defined benefit programs to defined contribution arrangements (see  Taking It Personal ).

>The main stumbling block this week at the Alaska Statehouse is that the House of Representatives failed to name its representatives to the conference committee – a move that infuriated Senate Republican leaders, the news report said.  Earlier this week the House voted down the last conference committee versions of the retirement bill, with detractors complaining that the proposed retirement measure’s 401(k)-type accounts were too risky.

>Senate Republican leaders accused the House leadership of stalling and being controlled by the “union thugs” who work the second floor Capitol hallway between the House and Senate chambers, according to the news report.

>According to the news report, the sharp comments on all sides are indicative of the strain that lawmakers are under after nine days of the special session and continued deadlock on the major bills, including next year’s capital and operating budgets.

>Senate appointees to the retirement bill are Senate President Ben Stevens, Senate Majority Leader Gary Stevens and Senator Gretchen Guess.