Legislation is before the New York state Senate that would allow certain employees of the city of New York to be automatically enrolled in the New York City Board of Education Retirement System.
The state Assembly has passed the legislation; a third committee of the state Senate is now considering it.
Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-South Queens) introduced A7156, the version in the New York state Assembly. S6861 was introduced in the state Senate by Sen. Robert Jackson (D-Manhattan).
The legislation would amend Section 2575 of the Education Law to require the automatic enrollment into BERS of certain new and existing employees of New York City who are:
1. eligible for BERS coverage;
3. not currently mandated to join BERS; and
4. who are not otherwise already a member in a public retirement system within the state.
Eligible employees would be able to opt out of membership.
As Things Stand
Current law provides that certain BERS-eligible employees—including provisional employees and employees in non-competitive and exempt class titles—may join BERS; to do so, they must apply for membership with a BERS-participating employer. Permanent employees who are employed in BERS-eligible positions are automatically covered by BERS.
Under current optional enrollment rules, 55% of eligible employees eventually join BERS. According to Jackson’s office,
It is not unusual to learn the story of many employees who each day provide vital public services alongside coworkers who are covered by a full pension only to discover, after many years on the job, that they missed their opportunity to enroll and end up losing time earned pension benefits when they register many years after entering the system. This class of public employees loses valuable pension benefits with some of them never knowing that they were entitled to a pension plan that could have provided economic assistance which often leaves them impoverished when they can no longer work.
What the Legislation Would Do
The legislation provides that beginning July 1, 2023, BERS would be required to enroll new nonprovisional and nonpermanent eligible employees into BERS within 90 days of their hiring unless the employee opts out within those 90 days. Eligible employees would be able to enroll before automatic enrollment kicks in.
Existing nonprovisional and nonpermanent employees who are not already BERS members would be enrolled on Oct. 1, 2023, unless they opt out. Those who do would be able to apply to rejoin if they change their minds.
Employers participating in BERS and affected unions would be required to provide multiple scheduled written notices of the applicable provisions to new employees. BERS itself would be required to provide written notice to an employee's union within 30 days of the employee's enrollment into BERS.
If enacted as currently written, the measure would be effective on July 1, 2024.
A7156 was referred to the Assembly Governmental Employees Committee on May 11, 2023; five days later it reported the bill. The Ways and Means Committee reported the bill on May 24; it was then reported and referred to the Rules Committee, which reported it on May 30. The Assembly passed it on May 31.
S6861 was reviewed by the Senate Civil Service and Pensions Committee, which reported the bill on May 23. It was then referred that day to the Finance Committee, which discharged it a week later. The bill is now before the Senate Rules Committee.