By Bivins                                        S.B. No. 529

      75R423 GCH-D                           

                                A BILL TO BE ENTITLED

 1-1                                   AN ACT

 1-2     relating to participation in and benefits from a statewide

 1-3     retirement system for volunteer firefighters and other emergency

 1-4     services personnel.


 1-6           SECTION 1.  Section 1, Texas Statewide Volunteer Fire

 1-7     Fighters Retirement Act (Article 6243e.3, Vernon's Texas Civil

 1-8     Statutes), is amended by amending Subdivisions (1), (7), (9), (10),

 1-9     (11), and (13) and adding Subdivisions (14) and (15) to read as

1-10     follows:

1-11                 (1)  "Qualified service" means [fire-fighting] service

1-12     for a participating department that is recognized as an emergency

1-13     services department by its governing body and that conducts at

1-14     least 48 hours of drills in a calendar year performed by a member

1-15     who is in good standing and either attends at least [rendered

1-16     without monetary remuneration while a member in good standing of a

1-17     fire-fighting  unit that has no fewer than 10 active members, and a

1-18     minimum of two drills each month, each drill two hours long, and

1-19     each active member present at] 40 percent of the minimum number of

1-20     hours of annual drills and at least 25 percent of the department's

1-21     emergencies in a calendar year or is absent because of [fires.

1-22     Absence caused by] military duty [does not affect qualified

1-23     service].

1-24                 (7)  "Fund" means the Texas statewide emergency

 2-1     services personnel retirement fund [Fire Fighters' Relief and

 2-2     Retirement Fund] created by this Act.

 2-3                 (9)  "Member [fire fighter]" means a volunteer or

 2-4     partly paid employee [fire fighter] who participates in the pension

 2-5     system under this Act.

 2-6                 (10)  "Participating [Member fire] department" means a

 2-7     public entity that performs fire, rescue, or emergency medical

 2-8     services and [fire department that] participates in the pension

 2-9     system under this Act.

2-10                 (11)  "Current pension plan" means a pension plan in

2-11     which a participating [fire] department is participating when it

2-12     elects to join the pension system created by this Act.

2-13                 (13)  "Governing body" means the governing body of any

2-14     political subdivision of the state [within which a rural fire

2-15     prevention district created pursuant to the provisions of Chapter

2-16     794, Health and Safety Code, is situated or the governing body of

2-17     any city or town within which a fire department subject to the

2-18     provisions of this Act is situated].

2-19                 (14)  "Volunteer" means a person who performs service

2-20     for a participating department for civic, charitable, or

2-21     humanitarian reasons and is not subject to the compensation

2-22     requirements provided by the Fair Labor Standards Act of  1938 (29

2-23     U.S.C. Section 201 et seq.) for employees.

2-24                 (15)  "Partly paid employee" means a person who

2-25     receives compensation from a political subdivision of this state

2-26     and is certified by the political subdivision as being regularly

2-27     engaged in the performance of duties for a participating department

 3-1     in an appointive office or position that normally requires services

 3-2     from the person for less than 1,000 hours a year.

 3-3           SECTION 2.  Section 1A, Texas Statewide Volunteer Fire

 3-4     Fighters Retirement Act (Article 6243e.3, Vernon's Texas Civil

 3-5     Statutes), is amended to read as follows:

 3-6           Sec. 1A.  SHORT TITLE.  This Act may be cited as the Texas

 3-7     Statewide Emergency Services [Volunteer Fire Fighters] Retirement

 3-8     Act.

 3-9           SECTION 3.  Sections 2(a), (c), and (f), Texas Statewide

3-10     Volunteer Fire Fighters Retirement Act (Article 6243e.3, Vernon's

3-11     Texas Civil Statutes), are amended to read as follows:

3-12           (a)  The Texas statewide emergency services personnel

3-13     retirement fund [Fire Fighters' Relief and Retirement Fund] is a

3-14     trust fund in  the state treasury.

3-15           (c)  Every governing body of a department that is eligible to

3-16     participate in the pension system and that is not currently exempt

3-17     under Subsection (b) of this section shall contribute for each

3-18     member [fire fighter] at least $12 for each month of service

3-19     beginning on the date the member [fire fighter] enters the pension

3-20     system.  Contributions must be paid at least every 12 months.  If

3-21     the participating [member fire] department is situated in more than

3-22     one political subdivision, the governing bodies of such political

3-23     subdivisions shall contribute equally towards a total of at least

3-24     $12 for each member [fire fighter] for each month of service.

3-25           (f)  Any contribution made and any benefits provided pursuant

3-26     to this Act shall not be considered compensation,  and members who

3-27     are volunteers [member fire fighters] shall not be deemed to be in

 4-1     the paid service of  any governing body.

 4-2           SECTION 4.  Sections 2A, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, and 10, Texas

 4-3     Statewide Volunteer Fire Fighters Retirement Act (Article 6243e.3,

 4-4     Vernon's Texas Civil Statutes), are amended to read as follows:

 4-5           Sec. 2A.  MEMBERSHIP.  (a)  Except as otherwise provided by

 4-6     this section, each person [fire fighter] who performs service for a

 4-7     participating [fire] department is a member of the pension system.

 4-8           (b)  A person is not a member of the pension system:

 4-9                 (1)  if the governing body [of the fire department] is

4-10     exempt from this Act under Section 2(b) of this Act;

4-11                 (2)  if the person is less than 18 years of age [a

4-12     minor];

4-13                 (3)  during a probationary period of service before

4-14     becoming a regular member of a participating [fire] department, if

4-15     the governing body of the [fire] department is not making

4-16     contributions for the probationary service; [or]

4-17                 (4)  if the person does not receive a certification of

4-18     physical fitness or assignment to support duties under Section 8 of

4-19     this Act; or

4-20                 (5)  if the person is retired under this Act, whether

4-21     or not the person continues to participate in emergency

4-22     service-related [fire-related] functions for a department from

4-23     which the person retired.

4-24           (c)  A member who performs qualified service for more than

4-25     one participating [fire] department under this Act may become

4-26     eligible to receive service retirement benefits for service for

4-27     each department, but, if the person dies while a member, the

 5-1     member's beneficiary must choose between an on-duty and off-duty

 5-2     death benefit.

 5-3           Sec. 3.  RETIREMENT BENEFITS.  (a)  A member [fire fighter]

 5-4     shall receive a retirement annuity payable in monthly installments

 5-5     on reaching retirement age, subject to the vesting provisions in

 5-6     Section 6 of this Act.

 5-7           (b)  The monthly retirement annuity is equal to six times the

 5-8     governing body's average monthly contribution over the member's

 5-9     [member fire fighters's] term of qualified service under this Act.

5-10           (c)  For each year of additional qualified service in excess

5-11     of 15 years, a member [fire fighter] is entitled to receive an

5-12     additional seven percent of the member's [his] monthly pension

5-13     compounded annually.  A member [fire fighter] may receive a

5-14     proportional credit for days or months of qualified service that

5-15     make up less than a year.

5-16           Sec. 4.  DISABILITY BENEFITS.  (a)  A member [fire fighter]

5-17     must, at the time of disability, elect between retirement or

5-18     disability benefits if eligible for both.

5-19           (b)  A member [fire fighter] who is disabled during the

5-20     performance of emergency service duties [as a fire fighter] is

5-21     automatically vested 100 percent as of the date of disability, if

5-22     the disability occurs before the member has completed 15 years of

5-23     qualified service.  Benefits under this subsection are payable if

5-24     the member [fire fighter] is unable to perform the person's duties

5-25     for the member's participating department [as a fire fighter] or

5-26     the duties of any other occupation for which the person is

5-27     reasonably suited by education, training, and experience.

 6-1           (c)  A member [fire fighter] whose disability results from

 6-2     performing emergency service duties [as a fire fighter] is

 6-3     guaranteed a disability benefit of $300 a month.

 6-4           [(d) A member fire fighter whose disability results from

 6-5     performing duties as a fire fighter is guaranteed a disability

 6-6     benefit of $300 a month.]

 6-7           Sec. 5.  DEATH BENEFITS.  (a)  The beneficiary of a deceased

 6-8     member [fire fighter] whose death did not result from the

 6-9     performance of emergency service duties [as a member of the fire

6-10     department] shall receive a lump-sum benefit that is the greater

6-11     of:

6-12                 (1)  the sum contributed to the fund on the decedent's

6-13     behalf; or

6-14                 (2)  the sum which would have been contributed on the

6-15     decedent's behalf from whatever source at the end of 15 years of

6-16     qualified service.

6-17           (b)  The beneficiary of a member whose death results from

6-18     performing emergency service duties [as a fire fighter] is

6-19     guaranteed a lump-sum benefit of at least $5,000.

6-20           (c) [(1)]  If the death of a member [fire fighter] results

6-21     from the performance of emergency service duties [as a member of

6-22     the fire department], in addition to the lump-sum death benefit,

6-23     the deceased member's spouse and dependents are entitled to receive

6-24     in equal shares a survivor's benefit equal to two-thirds of the

6-25     monthly retirement annuity the decedent would have been entitled to

6-26     receive if the decedent had been able to retire, vested at 100

6-27     percent, under Section 3 of this Act on the date of the decedent's

 7-1     death.  As long as both spouse and one or more dependents survive,

 7-2     an additional one-third of that monthly retirement annuity shall be

 7-3     paid to the dependents in equal shares.

 7-4           (d)  If a person [member fire fighter] dies after retirement,

 7-5     the surviving spouse shall receive two-thirds of the monthly

 7-6     pension the decedent was receiving at the time of death.  If a

 7-7     member [fire fighter] dies before retirement but after meeting the

 7-8     minimum age and service requirements for service retirement, the

 7-9     surviving spouse is entitled to receive two-thirds of the monthly

7-10     pension the decedent would have received if the decedent had

7-11     retired on the date of death.

7-12           (e)  The spouse is eligible to receive benefits as long as

7-13     the spouse remains alive.

7-14           (f)  Lump-sum death benefits are subject to the laws of

7-15     descent and distribution if the decedent has not provided for

7-16     testamentary disposition.

7-17           (g)  When a member [fire fighter] names more than one

7-18     beneficiary for the lump-sum death benefit, the benefit shall be

7-19     divided equally among the named beneficiaries unless the member

7-20     [fire fighter] designates a proportional division.  If the member

7-21     [fire fighter] designates a proportional division, each beneficiary

7-22     shall receive the proportion of the lump-sum benefit designated by

7-23     the member [fire fighter].

7-24           (h)  The surviving spouse of a deceased member who dies after

7-25     terminating service with all participating departments and meeting

7-26     a vesting requirement under Section 6 of this Act but before

7-27     attaining the age of 55 is entitled to a monthly pension, beginning

 8-1     on the date the decedent would have attained that age, that is

 8-2     two-thirds of the monthly pension to which the decedent would have

 8-3     been entitled on that date.

 8-4           Sec. 8.  CERTIFICATION OF PHYSICAL FITNESS.  A prospective

 8-5     member [fire fighter entering service in a member fire department

 8-6     after the effective date of this Act] shall present to the local

 8-7     board of trustees a certification of physical fitness by a

 8-8     qualified physician.  If the local board accepts the certification,

 8-9     the person [fire fighter] becomes a member of the pension system.

8-10     If the local board does not accept the certification or if the

8-11     person [fire fighter] does not present a certification, the person

8-12     [fire fighter] becomes a member of the pension system only if the

8-13     local board assigns the person [fire fighter] to support duties

8-14     [other than fighting fires].

8-15           Sec. 9.  TRANSFER OF ACCRUED BENEFITS.  A member [fire

8-16     fighter] who terminates service and later resumes service with the

8-17     same participating [fire] department or transfers to another

8-18     participating [member] department may transfer all accrued benefits

8-19     to the new or resumed service.


8-21     (a)  An election must be held within a [the local fire] department

8-22     to merge its current pension plan with the pension system.

8-23           (b)  The election must be held within 14 days after:

8-24                 (1)  a petition calling for an election and signed by

8-25     50 percent of the active emergency services personnel [fire

8-26     fighters] in the department is filed at the local department; and

8-27                 (2)  the disclosure required by Section 16 of this Act

 9-1     is made to the emergency services personnel [fire fighters] in the

 9-2     local department.

 9-3           (c)  If the current pension plan of the [fire] department is

 9-4     not solvent, the election to enter the pension system in this Act

 9-5     must be decided by a majority of the votes cast by qualified

 9-6     emergency services personnel [fire fighters] in the department.

 9-7           (d)  If the current pension plan of the [fire] department is

 9-8     solvent, the election to enter the pension system in this Act must

 9-9     be decided by at least 60 percent of all votes cast.

9-10           (e)  In the election required in this section, a person's

9-11     [fire fighter's] vote must be multiplied by the number of years of

9-12     participation in the current pension plan.

9-13           SECTION 5.  Sections 11(a), (d), (e), and (f), Texas

9-14     Statewide Volunteer Fire Fighters Retirement Act (Article 6243e.3,

9-15     Vernon's Texas Civil Statutes), are amended to read as follows:

9-16           (a)  When a [fire] department under a current pension plan

9-17     elects to participate in the pension system in this Act, the

9-18     current pension plan is merged with the pension system.

9-19           (d)  Following merger, a member's retirement benefits in the

9-20     pension system are determined by either the future-service method

9-21     or the buy-back method.  [The options are available only to fire

9-22     fighters participating in the current pension plan.]

9-23           (e)(1)  In the future-service method, the qualified service

9-24     required to earn retirement benefits in the pension system begins

9-25     as of the date of merger.  For determining a person's retirement

9-26     benefits in the pension system, a department [fire fighter] may

9-27     choose the formula for benefits used in the current pension plan or

 10-1    the formula for benefits as outlined in this Act.  Any retirement

 10-2    benefits accrued prior to the date of merger will also be paid on

 10-3    retirement according to the formula for benefits under the current

 10-4    pension plan.

 10-5                (2)  In the buy-back method in determining the member's

 10-6    [fire fighters'] retirement benefits in the pension system, a

 10-7    department [fire fighter] may choose the formula for benefits used

 10-8    in the current pension plan or the formula for benefits as outlined

 10-9    in this Act.  A member [The fire fighter] who has less than 15

10-10    years of service remaining before retirement as of the date of

10-11    merger may count time served under the current pension plan before

10-12    the date of merger as qualified service if the service complies

10-13    with the [minimum drill and fire] attendance requirements provided

10-14    for qualified service.  The time period necessary to make 15 years

10-15    of service before retirement may be used.

10-16          (f)  A person [fire fighter] who terminates service prior to

10-17    the date of merger of the person's [his fire] department's current

10-18    pension plan with the pension system is entitled to receive at

10-19    retirement age the retirement benefits vested under the pension

10-20    plan in effect during the person's [his] service.  The pension

10-21    system pays the person's [his] benefits.

10-22          SECTION 6.  Sections 11A, 12, 12A, 15, and 16, Texas

10-23    Statewide Volunteer Fire Fighters Retirement Act (Article 6243e.3,

10-24    Vernon's Texas Civil Statutes), are amended to read as follows:


10-26    BEFORE PARTICIPATION.  A governing body that wishes to participate

10-27    [is participating] in the fund and whose [fire] department did not

 11-1    have a pension plan in effect immediately before the date of

 11-2    participation may purchase, on terms acceptable to the

 11-3    commissioner, credit for prior service by its emergency services

 11-4    personnel [member fire fighters].  The commissioner, after

 11-5    consultation with a qualified actuary, shall determine the amount

 11-6    required to purchase prior-service credit under this section.  The

 11-7    requirements of Section 11 of this Act apply to the purchase of

 11-8    prior-service credit under this section to the extent that they are

 11-9    applicable.  The value of prior service purchased under this

11-10    section is the same as if it had been performed as a member of the

11-11    fund.

11-12          Sec. 12.  WITHDRAWING FROM THE PENSION SYSTEM.  (a) A current

11-13    pension plan that merges with the pension system may withdraw from

11-14    the pension system within five years after the date of merger on a

11-15    majority vote of the emergency services personnel [fire fighters]

11-16    in the department voting in the same manner as provided in Section

11-17    10 of this Act.

11-18          (b)  On withdrawal from the pension system, the allocated

11-19    assets and liabilities as apportioned by an actuary retained by the

11-20    pension system must be transferred to the plan chosen to replace

11-21    the pension system.

11-22          (c)  If a member [fire fighter] terminates service before

11-23    retirement, vested retirement benefits must be paid to the member

11-24    [fire fighter] at retirement age.  There is no penalty for

11-25    nonconsecutive years of service.


11-27    EXIST.  (a)  The commissioner shall continue to administer benefits

 12-1    of the pension system for members and retirees who performed

 12-2    service for a former [member fire] department that has not

 12-3    withdrawn from the pension system under Section 12 of this Act and

 12-4    has ceased to exist.

 12-5          (b)  The governing body of a political subdivision in which a

 12-6    former [member fire] department described by Subsection (a) of this

 12-7    section was located shall perform the duties provided by Section 23

 12-8    of this Act for the members and retirees who performed service for

 12-9    the former [member fire] department.

12-10          Sec. 15.  Pension plans required to be solvent.  (a)  Every

12-11    person who performs emergency service duties [fire fighter] in the

12-12    state and who serves without monetary remuneration must be a member

12-13    of a solvent pension plan.

12-14          (b)  After the effective date of this Act, an insolvent

12-15    pension plan for emergency services personnel [fire fighters] who

12-16    serve without monetary remuneration must become actuarially sound

12-17    within three years.  An insolvent pension plan must demonstrate to

12-18    the commissioner within six months after becoming insolvent that

12-19    steps are being taken to become actuarially sound.


12-21    (a) The governing body shall disclose to each person [fire fighter]

12-22    who [serves without monetary remuneration and who] is eligible for

12-23    participation in the pension system the information required by

12-24    this section.

12-25          (b)  The commissioner shall distribute to each emergency

12-26    services [fire] department and each governing body the following

12-27    information:

 13-1                (1)  all benefits that are available in the pension

 13-2    system in this Act;

 13-3                (2)  the contributions required by the pension system;

 13-4                (3)  the expected return on the investment for [of] a

 13-5    member [fire fighter];

 13-6                (4)  when benefits vest;

 13-7                (5)  the transferability of benefits;

 13-8                (6)  rights of withdrawing members;

 13-9                (7)  procedures for filing claims and appeals; and

13-10                (8)  [tax consequences; and]

13-11                [(9)]  changes in the law.

13-12          (c)  Each [The local fire] department shall disclose to all

13-13    personnel [each fire fighter in the department and to each new fire

13-14    fighter on his commissioning] the information in Subsection (b) of

13-15    this section.

13-16          (d)  After a petition for an election as required in Section

13-17    10 of this Act has been filed and before the election occurs, the

13-18    directors of a current pension plan must disclose to its members

13-19    the information required in Subsection (b) of this section about

13-20    the current pension plan.

13-21          SECTION 7.  Section 19(a), Texas Statewide Volunteer Fire

13-22    Fighters Retirement Act (Article 6243e.3, Vernon's Texas Civil

13-23    Statutes), is amended to read as follows:

13-24          (a)  The commissioner may not administer any [fire fighters']

13-25    pension plan other than the pension system created by this Act and

13-26    the system created by Chapter 125, Acts of the 45th Legislature,

13-27    Regular Session, 1937, as amended (Article 6243e, Vernon's Texas

 14-1    Civil Statutes).

 14-2          SECTION 8.  Section 21(b), Texas Statewide Volunteer Fire

 14-3    Fighters Retirement Act (Article 6243e.3, Vernon's Texas Civil

 14-4    Statutes), is amended to read as follows:

 14-5          (b)  The board shall establish rules [and regulations]

 14-6    necessary for the administration of the fund.  The board shall

 14-7    adopt rules to provide a proration of the requirements for

 14-8    qualified service for a member who performs service for only a

 14-9    portion of a calendar year and may provide by rule for the manner

14-10    in which member attendance or drill hours are to be computed.

14-11          SECTION 9.  Sections 22(a) and (d), Texas Statewide Volunteer

14-12    Fire Fighters Retirement Act (Article 6243e.3, Vernon's Texas Civil

14-13    Statutes), are amended to read as follows:

14-14          (a)  The local board of trustees is composed of the

14-15    following:

14-16                (1)  one representative selected by the governing body;

14-17                (2)  five members representing a participating [of the

14-18    local fire] department chosen by a majority of the emergency

14-19    services personnel in the department who are eligible to

14-20    participate in the pension system [fire fighters in qualified

14-21    service]; and

14-22                (3)  two persons [tax-paying voters] who are chosen by

14-23    the other members of the board.

14-24          (d)  On the first local board, the [fire department]

14-25    representatives of the participating department shall serve

14-26    staggered terms.  These [The fire department] representatives shall

14-27    draw by lot at the first board meeting to determine the length of

 15-1    term to be served.  Three representatives shall serve two-year

 15-2    terms, and two representatives shall serve one-year terms.  The

 15-3    first appointments of the [tax-paying or citizen] representatives

 15-4    appointed by other members of the board shall be one appointed for

 15-5    a two-year term and one appointed for a one-year term.  Thereafter,

 15-6    all appointments are for two-year terms.

 15-7          SECTION 10.  Sections 23(a) and (e), Texas Statewide

 15-8    Volunteer Fire Fighters Retirement Act (Article 6243e.3, Vernon's

 15-9    Texas Civil Statutes), are amended to read as follows:

15-10          (a)  The local board of trustees shall monitor the timely

15-11    submission of required [collect all governing body contributions at

15-12    least annually and send the] contributions to the commissioner.

15-13          (e)  The local board shall require a member [fire fighter]

15-14    who is receiving temporary disability benefits to file a disability

15-15    rating report from a physician every three months.  The board may

15-16    choose the physician.  When the reports indicate a significant

15-17    change of condition, the local board, after notice and a hearing,

15-18    may enter an order to terminate benefit payments or place the

15-19    member [fire fighter] on permanent disability.  The order is sent

15-20    to the commissioner.  If the board terminates benefits, the member

15-21    [fire fighter] is presumed able to perform the person's duties for

15-22    a participating department [as a fire fighter] or perform the

15-23    duties of another occupation for which the person is reasonably

15-24    suited by education, training, and experience.

15-25          SECTION 11.  Section 25, Texas Statewide Volunteer Fire

15-26    Fighters Retirement Act (Article 6243e.3, Vernon's Texas Civil

15-27    Statutes), is amended to read as follows:

 16-1          Sec. 25.  ACT NOT TO REPEAL STATUTORY AUTHORITY.  This Act

 16-2    does not repeal the statutory authority for any existing or current

 16-3    pension plan.  This Act is intended to provide a pension system and

 16-4    death and disability benefits for emergency services personnel who

 16-5    are volunteers or partly paid employees [fire fighters who serve

 16-6    without monetary remuneration].  The provisions of this Act are not

 16-7    to be interpreted to affect fully paid emergency services personnel

 16-8    [fire fighters] or their pension systems in any way.

 16-9          SECTION 12.  This Act takes effect September 1, 1997, except

16-10    that the definition of "qualified service" in Section 1, Texas

16-11    Statewide Emergency Services Retirement Act (Article 6243e.3,

16-12    Vernon's Texas Civil Statutes), as amended by this Act, takes

16-13    effect January 1, 1998.

16-14          SECTION 13.  The importance of this legislation and the

16-15    crowded condition of the calendars in both houses create an

16-16    emergency and an imperative public necessity that the

16-17    constitutional rule requiring bills to be read on three several

16-18    days in each house be suspended, and this rule is hereby suspended.