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Anderson introduces bill to reform PERA board

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A local legislator has introduced a bill to change how some of the members of a board tasked with overseeing public employee pensions are selected.

Under House Bill 162, introduced by state Rep. Phelps Anderson, R-Roswell, and Candy Sweetser, D-Deming, the 12-member Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA) Pension Board, made up of a combination of state officials and members elected by PERA, would have some of its board members appointed.

Appointees to the board, under the proposed legislation, would also have to “reside in geographically diverse areas of the state and have skill, knowledge and experience relevant to the financial, actuarial or fiduciary aspects of pension or investment fund management.”

Anderson, who represents House District 66, which includes parts of Chaves, Lea and Roosevelt counties, said Monday the proposed criteria for serving on the board would bring to the board individuals versed in finance.

“I believe that long term we must bring qualified and professional managers into this pension investment equation,” Anderson said.

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Currently, board members, who are responsible for investing the roughly $17 billion retirement assets of the PERA trust fund, do not need to have any expertise in finance as a condition for serving on the board. Anderson added that studies show that public employee retirement systems which require members to have such a background have a better return on investment than those who do not.

If signed into law, the legislation would remove the New Mexico Secretary of State as a member of the board and allow the state treasurer to opt out of directly serving on the board by instead appointing a designee to it.

The 11 remaining positions on the board would be appointed by the New Mexico Municipal League; New Mexico Counties Association; labor unions; the Retired Public Employees of New Mexico; speaker of the New Mexico House of Representatives; president pro-tem of the New Mexico Senate; the governor; and the Secretary of Finance and Administration.

Anderson said the reform is not meant as a criticism of the current board’s efforts but he thinks ensuring the membership has more experience will be better for the board and public employees.

“I just think long term we can do a better job,” he said.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext, 301, or breakingnews@rdrnews.com.