Bill would close loophole allowing church-run pensions to hide information from members
STATE HOUSE -- Committees in both legislative chambers will hold hearings today on legislation sponsored by Senate President Dominick Ruggerio and House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi to 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.
"All Rhode Island workers and retirees deserve to know the truth about the health of their pension plan," said Senate President Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence). "Too many hard-working caregivers and health professionals, who spent their careers serving their communities, have been hurt by a lack of transparency. We must ensure that this never happens again."
The federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) requires most 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.
Until all pension plans in Rhode Island are required to provide this information, there remains a risk that other church-run pension plans could conceal vital financial information from plan members.
"This common-sense legislation will ensure members and retirees of all Rhode Island pension plans have information about the health of their pension plans," said House Majority Leader Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick). "It is the members of these pension plans, many of whom have spent decades serving their community, who are directly impacted. Members and retirees have a right to know about the health of their plan."
Today at the rise of the House and Senate sessions (around 4:45 p.m.), the House Judiciary Committee and the Senate Finance Committee are holding separate public hearings on the bills.
Rhode Island General Treasurer Seth Magaziner is scheduled to testify for the legislation.
"There are thousands of Rhode Islanders, including more than 2,700 current and retired employees of St. Joseph's and Our Lady of Fatima hospitals, who have been kept in the dark regarding the health of their pension plan because of this loophole," said Treasurer Magaziner. "Church plans should be required to be transparent with their members, just like other pension plans."
For more information, contact:
Legislative Press Bureau,
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903