SB 634 – Makes Clarifying And Technical Changes To Public Retirement Laws

CATEGORY: Client Update for Public Agencies, Fire Watch, Law Enforcement Briefing Room, Public Education Matters
CLIENT TYPE: Public Education, Public Employers, Public Safety
DATE: Nov 03, 2021

SB 634 makes technical clarifying changes to various portions of the Education and Government Codes regulating the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), and the County Employees Retirement Law of 1937 (‘37 Act) retirement systems. The most notable changes in the law applicable to public agencies are discussed below. The bill also makes stylistic and non-substantive changes.

1. CalSTRS

Under existing law, CalSTRS may accept a digital signature on an application for the Defined Benefit Program, but the same provision does not apply to the applicable to the Cash Balance Benefit Program or the Medicare Premium Payment Program. SB 634 clarifies that CalSTRS may accept digital signatures on forms in all three programs.

Existing law allows STRS members to purchase service credit prior to membership for various forms of prior employment that was excluded at the time of service, including service on a part-time or substitute basis, adult education service, and service as a school nurse. SB 634 clarifies that members cannot purchase service credit prior to membership for any given school year if the purchase would result in more than one year of service for that school year.

SB 634 also clarifies that if a member wishes to change or cancel their retirement application, they must return the total gross distribution amount of all payments for any canceled benefits.

2. CalPERS

Under the PERL, CalPERS membership excludes specified appointees, elective officers, and legislative employees from membership in the system unless such a person affirmatively elects to file with the Board an election in writing to become a member.

SB 634 clarifies that if CalPERS receives an optional member’s written election within 90 days of the applicable appointment, current term, or start date for the position, CalPERS will enroll the employee as of the member’s start date. Otherwise, CalPERS will enroll the member on the first day of the month it receives the enrollment form.

SB 634 further clarifies that CalPERS has authority to recover any overpayment of benefits after the death of a member, retired member, or beneficiary, by deducting the overpayment from any payment or benefit that is payable as a result of that death.

3.’37 Act

The ’37 Act vests management of each county retirement system created pursuant to its provisions in a board of retirement. The ’37 Act requires the county health officer to advise the board on medical matters and, if requested, attend its meetings. SB 634 clarifies that a duly-authorized representative of the county health officer may advise a ’37 Act retirement board on medical matters on behalf of the county health officer, and that a ’37 Act retirement board may contract with a private physician to provide medical advice related to processing disability claims.

SB 634 also clarifies that a ’37 Act retirement system member’s unmarried children enrolled full-time in school are eligible to receive the member’s death benefit up to the children’s respective 22nd birthdays.

(SB 634 amends Sections 22011, 22302, 22802, 24204, and 26804 of the Education Code, and amends Sections 20309, 20320, 20322, 20324, 22820, 31530, 31565.5, 31680.2, 31680.3, 31732, and 31781.2 of, and adds Section 21499.1 to the Government Code, relating to retirement.)

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