Stuff it: Sen. Giessel shoves 52-page pension plan into governor’s one-page bill addressing teacher shortage, Senate passes it

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Sen. Cathy Giessel makes the argument for a return to a defined pension plan.

A bill that is meant to help meet the teacher’s shortage was hijacked by Sen. Cathy Giessel on Tuesday and made into an entirely different bill, which passed the Senate before she ended up withdrawing the amendment. Word in the Capitol is that her move to force her own bill into another had made her very unpopular with the Democrat-majority caucus that she has joined.

Giessel, working at the behest of the AFL-CIO and Alaska Public Employee Association, inserted the entire contents of the failing Senate Bill 88 — a return to a defined pension plan for public employees in Alaska — into House Bill 230.

Sen. Bert Stedman, who was a key lawmaker in dismantling the old pension plan, which became unaffordable for the state budget, spent 40 minutes on the Senate floor speaking against Giessel’s amendment. Next was Sen. Shelley Hughes, who agreed with Stedman, and then came Sen. David Wilson, who also agreed.

Sen. Mike Shower voiced his objection:

“This is a 52-page bill being shoved into a one-page bill. This has become one of those tur-duck-ens” said Shower. (Tur-duck-en is a turkey stuffed with a duck, stuffed with a chicken).

“When the State cuts a check for a defined contribution plan, it’s gone. That liability for future generations is gone, not on the books. However, on a defined benefit plan, then you have something where we [the State] are assuming the risk. That is something that is not insignificant in this debate,” he said.

Shower said Alaska’s children, grandchildren and their grandchildren are going to assume the liability and that today’s workers want to move around, and do not want to stay in jobs for dozens of years.

In addition, “we have billions of dollars that we are trying to make up for the previous plan,” Shower said.

HB 230 addresses the current situation in which teachers are allowed to count eight years of out-of-state teaching experience, if they have a masters’ degree, and six years of out-of-state teaching experience, if they have bachelors’ degree, for the purpose of determining the correct placement on a district’s salary scale, even if they taught out of state for much longer. Repealing these onerous conditions is a recommendation from the “2021 Teacher Retention and Recruitment Action Plan,” a product of the governor’s working group on teacher retention and recruitment that was established in 2020.

Districts across Alaska are having an extremely difficult time filling teaching positions, the governor’s working group said. First day teacher vacancies in Alaska have increased from about 155 in 2019 to about 394 in 2022 according to the Department of Education and Early Development and this shortage impacts both urban and rural districts. With the passage of this bill, state statute will no longer inhibit districts from hiring the most experienced out-of-state candidates, and in turn teachers will be fairly compensated for their experience.

During her closing remarks, Giessel mentioned to President Gary Stevens that he has a house in Kodiak, and his house might get broken into because there are not enough police. It was not a threat, but it was on the boundary of what is considered appropriate.

Voting in favor of the amendment were Senators Click Bishop, Jesse Bjorkman, Matt Claman, Forrest Dunbar, Cathy Giessel, Elvi Gray-Jackson, Scott Kawasaki, Jesse Kiehl, Kelly Merrick, Loki Tobin, and Bill Wielechowski.

Vote on Amendment 1, cramming a 52-page amendment into a one-page bill.

Voting against the bill were the two co-chairs of Senate Finance Committee, Stedman and Donny Olson, as well as Lyman Hoffman, Shelley Hughes, James Kaufman, Robb Myers, Mike Shower, Gary Stevens, and David Wilson.

The 52-page hostile amendment by Giessel transformed the governor’s bill into her own bill.

The amendment was later withdrawn after Stedman removed his name as a cross-sponsor of the bill. The original bill then passed the Senate.

34 COMMENTS

  1. Whats good for the private sector is good for state public servants. Defined pension benefits plan my bucket.
    Teachers fear unstable work environment with no discipline, and cannot control spoiled brats.

    • > Whats good for the private sector is good for state public servants.

      No, it is not. I – we – are not on the hook for what a private business does. Why do you have the most regressively stupid takes on MRAK? It is seemingly your superpower.

      It will be a wonderful day when government schools are shut down. They are predatory and poisonous institutions to young minds. No child is safe there.

    • Private sector started moving away from defined benefits plans more than 30 years ago. I know from personal experience. If you still work on such a plan, in the private sector, consider yourself blessed. I’ve been funding IRAs and 401(k)s for over thirty years, so no great burden on my neighbors.

      It will take more critical changes in our society before discipline is returned to the ‘seat’ of the student. Generationally, they may well be among the lost.

    • What private companies (or publicly traded for that matter) still have defined pensions?
      They got rid of them because they are unsustainable.

  2. Senator Stevens risk of a home break in does not go up or down depending on this bill, unless she is referring to some kind of purposeful, planned act.

    • It’s because SB88 addresses pensions for public safety officers who are in a staffing crisis. She is implying that without passing the bill, we will continue to be unable to hire quality officers for long term careers (true) and that directly correlates to increased crime such as break-ins.

  3. They can’t recruit or retain teachers because of the woke garbage that they are supposed to teach. GOOD teachers won’t do it…so they leave. It’s really not that difficult to figure out!

      • Gender is fluid.
        Critical Race Thinking
        Illegal aliens are equivalent to the people who settled this country
        White privilege
        Systemic racism
        .
        Added bonus: Teachers are no longer able to pass or fail students because it may damage their ego/self esteem.

  4. Giessel is off and running for governor. I expect it to only get worse next year. As a retiree, I have to rely on social security and on a very small pension that I essentially paid for myself. That is the environment now. Those who want a good retirement will have to invest their money wisely, and that includes teachers. Benefits plans mostly have gone the way of the dinosaur. Companies and governments simply cannot afford it.

  5. People poo-poo bringing back the pension, but have no alternative proposal for addressing the shortage of law enforcement officers.

    • When it comes to law enforcement we will continue to hire, train, hire, train. Wash rinse repeat. No one has calculated what it costs Alaska to be a law enforcement farm team. All the hiring, backround checks, academies, field training, and equipment. Millions and millions of dollars.

    • I have a proposal.
      1. Stop pushing woke crap on them. Allow them to enforce the law without fear of repercussions if they do so and the arrested person is of a protected class…
      2. Actually pay them a decent wage
      3. Support them regardless of what the social media mob says
      4. Oh… and did I mention stop the woke crap?
      5. Finally, stop the revolving door for criminals. Break the law, levy a high bail, and convict/punish them.
      .
      Last job I would want is any kind of law enforcement in today’s environment. So much as bump into a POC of any kind, and you are the monster in the public’s eyes.

  6. Suzanne, (facetiously speaking, of course, so as not to offend either the hicks or the “Frogs”) as hicks, we should at least “act” appreciative–a large, stuffed turkey helps to make a wonderful feast! Even the haughty French are cultured enough to raise their wine glasses to a cheerful “bon appétit” before ripping into some small, bony squab.

  7. So, how is it that Bjorkman even voted…..CONFLICT of interest seem quite clear!!!
    We all know it and yet no one says a word. He clearly shows his morals for all to see.

    “After working behind a meat counter, operating a crane in a paper mill and managing an archery shop, Jesse has been a teacher at Nikiski Middle/High School for well over a decade. ‘https://www.votebjorkman.com/about”

  8. Is there a State or City that has a defined pension scheme that is not getting crushed under the financial weight of it?

      • Apples to automatic transmissions comparison there Greg.
        Regardless of what the markets and gold are doing, the Cities and States with defined pensions are all under water. Significantly. Their debt is crushing, and people are fleeing because they can no longer afford the taxes.

  9. Attract and hold teachers??? Ketchikan school district is facing lay off of more than 50 teachers, admin. folks currently lest the legislature and governor allow the anticipated approval of funding amounts, then too, what the borough will contribute. Sooooooo. Those districts that are facing teacher shortage (There are those????), keep an eye toward Ketchikan, a recruiting pool may well exist shortly.
    Cheers

  10. The Defined Benefit system of TRS and PERS have financial shortages are back in the 90s employer contributions were lowered as the plans were making too much money. They were funded somewhere around 120% of what was projected for need. Mercer then came in mismanaged the funds, lied to the pension board. AG Sullivan (now Sen. Sullivan) settled the lawsuit for about 10 cents on the dollar so Mercer could skate and help fund his future campaigns.

  11. Remember when Frau Giessel initially ran as a quasi-conservative candidate? Apparently she had a price when she arrived in Juneau and the leftist unions met that demand.

  12. The 52 pages came from the pen of union attorneys. Giessel didn’t author jacksh*t. This is her IOU to the unions for cheating her way back into the Senate.

  13. Just have the public employee unions run their own pension programs using the money the state pays to employees for their defined contributions now. Employees could opt in or not. The unions can assume all the responsibility to manage the funds adequately. No responsibility for the state or taxpayers other than funding the base contributions. Why wouldn’t the unions jump at this. RISK of insolvency maybe without massive subsidies?

  14. Alaskans owe between $6 and $7 billion to the old defined benefits system. Where is that money going to come from? Giessel is a absolute idiot.

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