Joint Select Committee on Solvency of Multiemployer Pension Plans (JSCMPP) / Butch Lewis Act of 2017 Frequently Asked Questions
This FAQ concerns topics about this bill, which was introduced in Congress on November 16, 2017 looking to address financially insolvent multiemployer pension plans.
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The “Butch Lewis Act of 2017” is a bill that was introduced in Congress on November 16, 2017 by Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Representative Richard Neal (D-MA-1) to address financially insolvent multiemployer pension plans. The Senate bill is designated as S. 2147 and the House bill is designated H.R. 4444. Both the Senate bill and the House bill remain in Committee. There was speculation that the Butch Lewis Act might be included in the Bipartisan Budget Act that the President signed into law on February 9, 2018, but it was not.
Instead, the Budget Act established a Joint Select Committee on Solvency of Multiemployer Pension Plans. The bipartisan Committee will be composed of members from both houses of Congress in an attempt to “significantly improve solvency of multiemployer pension plans and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation”. The Committee is to vote on a report, not later than November 30, 2018, containing a detailed statement of findings, conclusions, and recommendations and proposed legislative language to carry out their recommendations.
The Committee will include 16 members, consisting of 8 members from the House and 8 members from the Senate and an equal number of Democrats and Republicans. If a majority of members from each party agree on a compromise (5 Democrats and 5 Republicans), the Committee’s recommendation is guaranteed an expedited vote in both the House and the Senate with no amendments. This expedited vote would occur no later than the last day of the 115th Congress (January 3, 2019).
The Senators appointed to the Committee are Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Michael Crapo (R-ID), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Rob Portman (R-OH), and Tina Smith (D-MN). House representatives appointed to the Committee are Vern Buchanan (R-FL), Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Richard Neal (D-MA), Donald Norcross (D-NJ), Phil Roe (R-TN), David Schweikert (R-AZ) and Bobby Scott (D-VA). Senators Brown and Hatch are the Committee’s co-chairs.
I have personally written letters to all 16 of these committee members to offer my viewpoint. You can take action too by writing letters to any or all of these committee members and we have provided you with a sample letter, along with their addresses, and emails here:
The “Butch Lewis Act of 2017” is a bill that was introduced in Congress on November 16, 2017 by Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Representative Richard Neal (D-MA-1). The Senate bill is designated as S. 2147 and the House bill is designated H.R. 4444.
If passed into law as drafted, the Butch Lewis Act would rescue retirees of troubled pension plans, like you and me, by providing federal loans to the plans enabling them to avoid pension cuts. I encourage you to read more about the Butch Lewis Act at the IBT's website.
I wanted to provide some updates regarding the Butch Lewis Act since my first FAQ about it:
- H.R. 4444 was referred the Congressional Committee on Education and the Workforce and the Committees on Ways and Means, and Appropriations, where it is currently being considered
- S. 2147 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Finance, where it is being considered
- On December 20, 2017, Senator Robert Casey (D-PA) cosponsored S. 2147, the Senate version of the Butch Lewis Act
- Congressman Mike Doyle (D-PA-14) is not yet a cosponsor of H.R. 4444, the House version of the Butch Lewis Act, but his office confirmed that he has asked to be a cosponsor
- I’m not getting political, just reporting the facts: as of this post, S. 2147 been cosponsored by 13 Senators – all Democrats, and H.R. 4444 has been cosponsored by 106 Congressmen and women – all Democrats
- Although the Butch Lewis Act does not currently have a single Republican cosponsor, I have been contacted by the offices of Congressmen Mike Kelly (R-PA-3) and Keith Rothfus (R-PA-12)
- The representatives of Congressmen Kelly and Rothfus indicated that they are aware that the MPRA pension cuts are an important issue to many of their constituents (i.e., you and me) and that they are open minded to legislation that would address the issue
- Also, on January 2, 2018 Congressman Peter King (R-NY-2) publicly announced his support for the Butch Lewis Act
I strongly encourage you to go to our Letter Campaign page for a model letter you can send to your Congressmen and women and Senators in support of the Butch Lewis Act. Also, please visit my website at www.wpatrr.com to see the letters I recently sent to Western Pennsylvania Congressmen in support of the Butch Lewis Act.
There is also a petition in support of the Butch Lewis Act you can sign online at Change.Org here. I am not endorsing Change.Org, but several of you have asked me about starting a petition and Change.Org already has one, so if you’d like to sign a petition supporting the Butch Lewis Act, you can do so there.
I have received a number of calls lately regarding the “Butch Lewis Act of 2017”, which is a bill that was introduced in Congress on November 16, 2017 by Senator Sherrod Brown (Democrat-Ohio) and Representative Richard Neal (Democrat-Massachusetts). If passed into law as drafted the Butch Lewis Act would rescue retirees of troubled pension plans, like me and you, by providing federal loans to the plans and prohibiting pension cuts. I encourage you to read more about the Butch Lewis Act at the IBT's website.
Personally – and unfortunately – I am not optimistic that the Butch Lewis Act will become law as drafted, at least not right now. Let’s be realistic. The Butch Lewis Act is co-sponsored by two Democrats, Congress and the White House is controlled by Republicans, and we live in an era where bipartisanship is rare. In fact, as of the date of this posting, I am not aware of a single Republican that has publicly supported the Butch Lewis Act.
If you want to see pension rescue legislation like the Butch Lewis Act passed into law you must make your voice heard, not by me but by your Congressmen. In this regard, I would like to share some interesting facts:
- On August 14th, 2017 I launched my website, wpateamstersretireerep.com
- My website includes a “LETTER CAMPAIGN” page – this page includes a model of a letter for you to send to your Congressmen advocating for legislation that would save us all from pension cuts.
- I encouraged all of you – and still encourage you – to send these letters and provided the mailing addresses for all of the Congressmen and Senators representing Western Pennsylvania.
- As of August 14th, 2017, the “LETTER CAMPAIGN” page has been viewed just 621 times, even though there are more than 17,000 retirees and deferred vested participants in the Pension Fund.
- Also available on my “LETTER CAMPAIGN” page are copies of letters I sent to all of the Congressmen and Senators representing Western Pennsylvania and President Trump explaining our dire circumstances and pleading for legislation to right this wrong – I sent this letter on September 22, 2017.
- As of December 11th, 2017, only Representative Mike Doyle’s office (Democrat-PA 14th District) has responded to that letter.
I accepted the responsibility of serving as your Retiree Representative because I am willing to do my part to avoid pension cuts that would significantly impact my life and yours. But, brothers and sisters, I am but one voice and one voter. We all need to do our part if we want to see pension rescue legislation like the Butch Lewis Act passed into law. And to do our part, we must make our voices heard in Congress. No one is coming to save you – we must band together in solidarity and save ourselves.
Please visit my website at wpatrr.com to see the letters I have just sent to Western Pennsylvania Congressmen in support of the Butch Lewis Act. You can also go to www.wpatrr.com for a model letter you should send to your Congressmen in support of the Butch Lewis Act.
Yes. Retirees who are age 80 or over cannot have their pensions cut. Retirees age 75-79 also have a prorated age-based pension cut limitation. This limit is based on a percentage obtained by dividing how many months there are between the month the pension cuts become effective and the month you turn age 80, divided by 60. For example, if – and only for the sake of illustration – the pension cuts took effect April 1, 2018 and you are 77 years and 0 months old as of that date, your pension cut would be reduced by 60% (36/60) on account of your age.
The Pension Fund provides a burial benefit. If you died after April 1, 1979 but before October 1, 1998, the amount of the benefit was $1,000. If you died on or after October 1, 1998, the amount of the benefit is the greater of $1,000 or one monthly benefit payment.
The Pension Fund’s Trustees prospectively eliminated the burial benefit in the 2010 Rehabilitation Plan. Accordingly, if you retired prior to February 1, 2011, your beneficiary will receive a burial benefit when you die. If you retired after February 1, 2011, no burial benefit will be paid after your death.
Yes. If you are receiving a disability pension from the Fund your pension is protected from any benefit cut. Be advised, however, that the Fund’s rules provide that if you are receiving a disability pension, the disability pension becomes a normal or early retirement pension as of the earliest of your normal or early retirement age (generally between age 55-65). Once a disability pension becomes a normal or early retirement pension it is no longer protected from a pension cut, although it cannot be cut below the amount of the original disability pension.
I have a favor that I’d like to ask from you…
Please do not spread information regarding the Pension Fund’s MPRA application that you do not personally know to be true. It helps no one and may actually cause others to become upset. If you hear a rumor about this process that worries you, e-mail me at email@example.com or call me at 724-382-4956 and ask me about it before you pass it along. Please. Thank you.