New law aims to cut
state pension delays

Interest will be paid if the ERS
takes too long to process a pension

People who retired from their state or county jobs have long complained that the state Employee Retirement System takes too long to finalize their pensions.

Starting today, if the ERS takes longer than six months, it will have to pay interest on any money owed to the retiree. The requirement is included in one of 11 new state laws that took effect at the start of the year.

When a state or county worker retires, pension payments are estimated until the ERS determines the true amount owed. If it takes longer than six months to finalize a pension, the ERS will have to pay 4.5 percent annual interest if it underestimates a retiree's pension.

While the ERS has been trying to reduce the time it takes to process pensions, administrator David Shimabukuro said some retirees will be owed interest. He said one reason for the delay is that there were more retirements in the first half of last year than in all of 2002.

Shimabukuro said 1,300 people retired in 2002. By last June more than 1,800 state and county workers had retired, he said.

State and county agencies are also often slow to submit retirees' records, he said. The new law requires the agencies to submit records within 90 days after the member retires.

But it may still take the ERS longer than six months to finalize pensions, Shimabukuro said. "Even though we had the documents, we don't have enough staff," he said.

The ERS has not had an increase in the number of examiners since 1990, Shimabukuro said.

Other laws taking effect today:

>> Require vessels more than a mile offshore to have on board a functioning EPIRB (emergency position indicating radio beacon) or VHF-FM radio.

>> Allow domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking victims paid or unpaid leave.

>> Create a new Class C felony offense for habitually operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant.

>> Require police to request of drivers involved in accidents that result in injury or death to submit to alcohol testing even if the driver is uninjured or refuses medical treatment.

>> Update the medical informed-consent law to make it consistent with rules adopted by the Board of Medical Examiners.

>> Allow nonresident aliens with certain visas who work for the state or counties to enroll in the ERS as noncontributory members.

>> Protect motor vehicle franchisees from unfair vehicle agreements and termination from franchisors.

>> Require for-profit international matchmaking organizations operating in the state to notify recruits that criminal and marital histories of clients are available on request.

>> Require the ERS to notify the spouse or partner of a retiree what method the retiree selects to receive payments.

>> Repeal the Hawaii Missing Children's Clearinghouse Trust fund and transfer the money to the private, nonprofit Friends of the Missing Child Center.


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