Buried in the two-year budget deal emerging from the SenateWednesday is language creating a bipartisan commission to addressthe impending insolvency of collectively bargained multiemployer pension plans and the governmentagency that insures them.

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The budget creates a joint select committee on multiemployer pensions, including six membersfrom the Senate and six from the House. Each cohort will be splitevenly among Republicans and Democrats.

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The commission is tasked with reporting a bill by the last weekof November.

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If the majority from each chamber on the commission can reach alegislative solution, the bill will get an expedited vote in bothchambers without amendments to the bill, according to GeoffManville, a principal with the government relations team atMercer.

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“We’ve known this is the most pressing issue among retirementpolicy for this year,” Manville told BenefitsPRO.

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The success for a host of other retirement policy initiatives,most of which have bipartisan support, could be contingent on asolution for troubled multiemployer plans.

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“If the commission can get legislation to the floor, and itpasses, that could unlock the dam for other retirement policyinitiatives,” said Manville. “A lack of a solution for themultiemployer retirement system has held up other retirementproposals in previous legislative sessions.”

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Democrats have been negotiating for a fix for troubledmultiemployer plans throughout the contentious budget debate.

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Last year, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-OH, introduced the Butch LewisAct, which would create a new agency in the Treasury Department toissue government backed debt instruments. Proceeds on the sales ofthe new Treasury bonds would be used to channel funds to imminentlyinsolvent plans.

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Many have speculated that Republicans would be hard pressed tosupport the bill. Rep. Peter King, R-NY, has lent hissupport.

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But Manville noted that other Republican lawmakers from stateswith constituents invested in multiemployer plans also have much atstake, and have signaled intent for a solution. Manville cited Sen.Rob Portman, R-OH, and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-WV, asexamples.

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Nick Thornton

Nick Thornton is a financial writer covering retirement and health care issues for BenefitsPRO and ALM Media. He greatly enjoys learning from the vast minds in the legal, academic, advisory and money management communities when covering the retirement space. He's also written on international marketing trends, financial institution risk management, defense and energy issues, the restaurant industry in New York City, surfing, cigars, rum, travel, and fishing. When not writing, he's pushing into some land or water.