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House passes bill to reform Birmingham Pension System

The would increase the pension contribution of Birmingham city employees from 7 percent of their gross pay to 7 and a half percent.

A view of downtown Birmingham. STOCK

The Alabama House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a bill to reform the Birmingham pension system. House Bill 510 was sponsored by state Rep. Allen Treadaway, R-Morris.

“The unfunded liabilities are $400 million,” Treadaway said. “They are $400 million short of the benefits that have been promised the employees.”

“The Birmingham Pension Fund Board voted for it unanimously, the Birmingham City Council voted for it unanimously, and the Mayor of Birmingham all support this bill,” Treadaway said. “I would not have brought this otherwise.”

Treadaway explained that HB510 will take employees’ contribution from 7 percent to 7.5 percent.

“The city will double its contribution,” Treadaway said. “This has taken years to get to this point.”

Rep. John Rogers, D-Birmingham: “The garbage workers are all opposed to this bill. What your doing is hurting the least of these. The retired employees are against this bill.”

“For years, the city did not put in what they were supposed to put in,” said Rep. Mary Moore, D-Birmingham.

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Treadaway said that the employees used to contribute 7.5 percent in the past, but it was reduced to 7 percent during good economic times. Treadaway said that he is retired from the city of Birmingham Police Department with over 30 years of experience. He also served 20 years on the pension board.

“I have brought a half a dozen bills to get us in compliance with federal law and to allow us to invest in other options,” Treadaway said. “We missed out on the tech bubble. We were hurt when the market dropped.”

“The federal government has stepped in and required these city government to put their unfunded liabilities on their balance sheet,” Treadaway said. “This has hurt Birmingham’s bond rating.”

“That cost the government entity a lot of money when it came to floating bonds,” Treadaway said. “The city has been trying to deal with this for years. They could not get everybody on board until this bill.”

“The mayor has promised a one percent COLA to offset the increase,” Treadaway said. “This will require the city to pay their required portion.”

State Rep. Jim Carns, R-Vestavia, said: “Thank you being the tip of the spear on this. You have explained it very well.”

Juandalynn Givan, D-Birmingham, said: “Treadaway, you were a longtime union leader, and you garnered a lot of respect in that role”

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“I am alarmed that you were asked to bring this bill on behalf of the city of Birmingham,” Givan said. “This is not a perfect deal.”

Givan said that she has received a text from a city employee who says that Treadaway “is lying.”

“Don’t tell me that I am being untruthful,” Treadaway said. “I have talked with all of the employee associations in the city and they all support this. I have been representing employees in that city for a lot of years, and I have improved their benefits, and I have improved their working conditions.”

“What system would you have?” Treadaway asked. “This protects the employees. This is a good bill.”

“The only other option is to reduce benefits,” Rep. Tommy Hanes, R-Bryant. “I am going to vote for the bill. It is a good bill.”

Rep. David Wheeler, R-Vestavia, brought a motion in writing to cloture debate and vote.

That vote passed the House 58 to 23.

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Following the successful cloture vote, Rogers vowed to fight everyone’s bills who supported cloture.

“At the end of the day, the city of Birmingham employees are not looking at you or Carns or Wheeler,” Givan said. “They are looking at us. This puts us in a quagmire because of this fricking vote.”

“At the end of the day it is probably a good bill, but the employees don’t understand it,” said Rep. Mary Moore, D-Birmingham. “We are backed into a corner and at the end of the day we probably have to pass it.”

“The biggest problem is that the city of Birmingham did not make their contribution,” Moore said.

Moore asked for the bill to be carried over to give the employees time to understand it. That request was ignored and the House voted. House Bill 510 passed the Alabama House of Representatives on a 23 to 3 vote. It now goes to the Alabama Senate for their consideration.

HB510 passed the Alabama House by a vote of 24 to 3. It now goes to the Alabama Senate for their consideration.

Wednesday will be day 20 of the 2021 Legislative Session. The Legislature can only meet 30 legislative days during a regular session. The session started on Feb. 2. The session must end after 105 calendar days have passed by May 17. The Legislature does not need to use all 30 of their days. The Legislature can end the session at any time after they pass both of the budgets.

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Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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