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Is The Election Over, Yet?

  • By: admin
  • On: 11/19/2020 11:23:56
  • In: News
  • Comments: 0

Everyone knows that the Associated Press and other major news outlets, including Fox, have called the presidential race for former Vice President, now President-elect Joe Biden, who is expected to have an Electoral College total of 306, pending recounts. That would be two more electoral votes than President Trump received in 2016.

 

Is The Election Over, Yet?
 

 
Everyone knows that the Associated Press and other major news outlets, including Fox, have called the presidential race for former Vice President, now President-elect Joe Biden, who is expected to have an Electoral College total of 306, pending recounts. That would be two more electoral votes than President Trump received in 2016.
 
Everyone also knows that President Trump has not conceded the race and is pursuing legal challenges to the vote counts in several states. While it is not expected that these legal challenges will be successful, the litigation already has been enough to cause a major slowdown in the traditional federal funding for the transition. This has all the hallmarks of the last tense transition between defeated President Herbert Hoover and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, where it was reported that on Inauguration Day the two men sat side-by-side in an open horse drawn carriage, shared a blanket, but shared no words.
 
President Elect Joe Biden

All of this will end. States have until December 8 to certify their elections. The electors of the Electoral College meet on December 14. Inauguration Day is January 20.
 
The ratio of the U.S. Senate for the next Congress currently stands at a Republican majority of 50-48.  The final two Senate races are both in Georgia, with incumbents David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler facing Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, respectively, in run-off elections on January 5. These races will determine the Senate majority for the upcoming 117th Congress.
 
The U.S. House will remain in Democratic control in the next Congress, but with a diminished majority. From the current numbers we expect the House margin to be 226-209 or 225-210 in favor of the Democrats.
 
Members of Congress who are important to the public pension community met with mixed results in the elections. Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL) lost his primary earlier in the year. Rep. Lipinski is the author of H.R. 4897, which would double the tax exclusion amount under the Healthcare for Local Public Servants Act (HELPS). Rep. Kendra Horn (D-OK), who lost in the general election, is the lead Democratic cosponsor of H.R. 6436, which would remove the direct payment requirement from HELPS.
 
The author of H.R. 6436, Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH), was reelected, as was Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ), NCPERS Legislator of the Year, who introduced H.R. 4527, legislation to allow retired first responders who have reached age 50 to buy into Medicare. Also, Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (MA) and Ranking Republican Kevin Brady (TX), the leaders of the effort to reform Social Security's Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP), both easily won reelection.
 
In addition, two leading critics of public plans, Reps. Devin Nunes (R-CA) and David Schweikert (R-AZ), both Members of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, were reelected.
 
The good news is that retirement and pension legislation has never been a partisan affair, so either divided party government or single-party government will provide an opportunity for positive legislation in the next Congress. In that regard, H.R. 8696, the Securing a Strong Retirement Act of 2020, was introduced on October 27, by Ways and Means Chairman Neal and Ranking Member Brady. It is the leading retirement measure in the House and will likely set the debate for the next round of federal retirement legislation. It is also one of the future legislative targets for changes to the HELPS provision.
 
The key sections of the bill that would affect governmental DB or DC retirement plans or are closely related to public plans or workers are as follows:
  • Section 104 would allow 403(b) plans to use collective investment trusts;
  • Section 105 would increase the age trigger for Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) to 75 for years 2021 and later;
  • Section 108 would increase the catch-up contribution limit to $10k per year for those over age 60 who are participating in an employer-sponsored plan;
  • Section 109 would allow unrelated public education employers to participate in multiple employer 403(b) plans;
  • Section 116 would allow non-profit volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel who work indirectly for the government through a public safety agency to join state and local governmental pension plans;
  • Section 307 would exclude individuals with smaller retirement accounts (all DC plans aggregate $100k or less) from the RMD rules;
  • Section 309 would allow 457(b) plan participants more flexibility in changing their contribution rates, i.e., repeal the first-day-of-the-month rule;
  • Section 312 would include private sector firefighters in the exclusion from the early withdrawal penalty, which is currently available only to public sector first responders; and
  • Section 313 would exclude disability payments to first responders from income.
Please be assured that NCPERS will monitor leadership elections, key committee assignments, and relevant legislation as the 117th Congress and the Biden Administration begin their work next year.
 
 

Tony Roda is a partner at the Washington, D.C. law and lobbying firm Williams & Jensen, where he specializes in federal legislative and regulatory issues affecting state and local governmental pension plans. He represents NCPERS and statewide, county, and municipal pension plans in California, Colorado, Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, and Texas. He has an undergraduate degree in government and politics from the University of Maryland, J.D. from the Catholic University of America, and an LL.M (tax law) from Georgetown University.

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