AB 1971 – Expands Retirement Benefits For Certain County And District Employees

CATEGORY: Client Update for Public Agencies, Fire Watch, Law Enforcement Briefing Room
CLIENT TYPE: Public Employers, Public Safety
DATE: Oct 18, 2022

AB 1971 enacts several changes to the County Employees Retirement Law of 1937 (’37 Act), which governs independent county-run retirement systems. These changes generally expand the retirement benefits available to members of the ’37 Act systems.

Currently, a member who returns to active service after an uncompensated leave of absence due to illness or parental leave can receive retroactive service credit for the period of the absence upon the payment of the contributions they would have paid but for the absence (plus interest). AB 1971 expands these provisions to allow service credit for a period of absence due to the serious illness of a family member if the leave would be eligible for coverage under the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or California Family Rights Act. The bill would also authorize the governing board of a ’37 Act system to grant similar retroactive service credit to members who were subject to a temporary or mandatory furlough, subject to receipt of the additional employer or member contributions as the board deems necessary.

The ’37 Act generally prohibits a member retired from service from being paid for service rendered to a participating agency of the same retirement system while also receiving retirement benefits. AB 1971 authorizes a retired annuitant to serve on a board or commission for a participating agency without reinstatement or loss of benefits, so long as the appointment is part-time on a non-salaried basis, and does not result in the retiree acquiring additional benefits, service credit, or retirement rights. The bill would allow the retiree to receive any per diem that is authorized to all members of the board or commission.

The ’37 Act currently allows a member who has previously filed for disability retirement to later file for service retirement and allows the retirement system’s governing board to make appropriate adjustments to the member’s service retirement allowance retroactive to the effective date of the disability retirement. In some cases, the member also has the option to change the type of optional or unmodified allowance that they elected at the time the service retirement was granted. AB 1971 grants similar authority in cases where a member who is already retired from service subsequently files an application for disability retirement. In these cases, the bill again allows the board to adjust the service retirement allowance retroactively to the date of the disability retirement and similarly allows the member to change their optional or unmodified allowance.

(AB 1971 amend Sections 31646, 31725.7, and 31760 of, and adds Sections 31646.2 and 31680.16 to the Government Code.)

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