WRS News Online

Legislative Update

by Tarna Hunter, ETF Legislative Liaison

Tarna Hunter
Tarna Hunter

The Wisconsin Legislature has adjourned its 2015-2016 session. One significant piece of legislation affecting the Wisconsin Retirement System that was enacted is 2015 Act 174. The law provides municipalities interested in participating in the WRS the option to join and only enroll newly-hired employees, while allowing current employees to finish their careers under their existing retirement plans.

Specifically, the law:

  • Permits an employer to elect to participate in the WRS and choose to only enroll employees hired on or after the date that the employer elects to participate in the WRS. Employees hired before the date of election would not participate in the WRS.
  • Permits the municipal employer the option to offer current employees a one-time choice of becoming participating employees in the WRS. The law also provides that the employee shall make the election in writing on a form provided by ETF before the effective date that the employer becomes a participating employer.
  • Permits any municipal employer that elects to be included under the above provision to exclude its public utility employees.

The legislature also enacted 2015 Act 187, legislation proposed by the Department of Employee Trust Funds through the Law Revision Committee. The law made a number of remedial changes to the WRS the operation of ETF. The changes clarify current law or codify current practice. These technical changes may require minor modifications to procedures and forms for members and employers, but do not make substantive changes.

Some changes included in this legislation:

  • Clarifies the treatment and uses of moneys credited to memorandum accounts of WRS participants who suspend their annuities in order to return to covered employment.
  • Enables the ETF Secretary to require retirees to receive their benefit payments electronically.
  • Clarifies ETF’s Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) law to more closely mirror federal law.
  • Clarifies and distinguishes initial eligibility to receive an annuity and return to work requirements.
  • Eliminates a requirement under the WRS that an application for an annuity may not be filed more than 90 days before the employee’s anticipated termination date from employment.

Other WRS-related bills were introduced this session, but they were not passed by the full Legislature. Unless the bills are considered in a special or extraordinary session, they will need to be reintroduced next session if the Legislature intends to take action on them. We will continue to monitor developments and provide updates.

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