Lawmaker Would Extend ERISA to Tribal Benefits

November 24, 2003 ( - A new legislative proposal would bring Indian tribal government employee benefits, such as 401(k) plans, under ERISA, which currently governs worker benefit programs including those provided by federal, state, and local governments.

>According to a press release, US Representative J.D. Hayworth (R-Arizona) introduced HR 3605, the Government Pension Plan Equalization Act of 2003.   The measure was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee on which Hayworth serves, and the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

“Historically,tribal retirement plans have been treated as governmental plans, but without any published guidance from the Internal Revenue Service or the Department of Labor.   If a contrary determination were made at some point in the future, these plans and their participants would have absolutely no protection,” Hayworth said in a statement. “The retirement security of tribal government plan members and employees is too important to be shadowed by this uncertainty and that is why I believe Congress should amend the definition of governmental plans to explicitly include tribal governments.”