The Rhode Island House of Representatives today joined the State Senate in passing legislation that would require pension plans managed by religious organizations in Rhode Island to send regular updates on the financial health of the pensions to their plan participants, which would close a loophole which allows "church run" pensions to hide information from members.
"Any member of a pension plan, no matter who administers the plan, should have access to information about their pension," said General Treasurer Seth Magaziner. "I thank the General Assembly for taking steps to close an unnecessary loophole. Retirees and employees of St. Joseph's and Our Lady of Fatima hospitals were kept in the dark about the poor health of their plan and are facing significant cuts to their pension benefit. This must never happen again in Rhode Island."
Rhode Island Senate President Dominick Ruggerio and House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi introduced pension transparency legislation in their respective chambers, with public hearings held earlier in the spring.
"Hundreds of nurses and other caregivers, many of whom spent their entire careers serving vulnerable Rhode Islanders, have been hurt by a lack of pension transparency," said Senate President Ruggerio. "We are taking steps to ensure that this never happens again."
The federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) requires private pension plans to send members a letter each year outlining the health of their plan. Pension plans administered by religious organizations claim exemption from both ERISA and GASB reporting standards. Members of these plans often have no ability to access information regarding the financial health of their pensions.
"This is common-sense legislation that will help protect Rhode Island workers," said House Majority Leader Shekarchi. "Members and retirees of all Rhode Island pension plans, whose lives and families are directly impacted, have a right to know about the health and status of their plan."
Each chamber will now consider and vote on the other's legislation. If passed by both the House and the Senate, the legislation will be sent to Governor Raimondo.
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