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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

Retirement bill fends off opposition, but more resistance might be on the way


Another obstacle has been cleared for Railroad Retirement and Survivors' Improvement Act of 2001 (S. 697), giving supporters hope that the bill soon will reach a Senate vote.
Senators Dec. 3 voted 94-1 to defeat a bill amendment introduced Nov. 29 by Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), which sought to enhance energy conservation, research and development, and provide for security and diversity in the nation's energy supply, as well as place a six-month moratorium on human embryo cloning.
Senators then voted 81-15 in favor of an amendment introduced Nov. 29 by Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), which calls for the Senate to proceed with a vote on the measure, holding the bill's language similar to the retirement legislation (H.R. 1140) passed by the House July 31.
"The legislation still has a few hurdles to clear before final passage, but [yesterday's] action allows the Senate to vote on the merits of the bill," said Association of American Railroads President and Chief Executive Officer Edward Hamberger in a prepared statement.
United Transportation Union officials believe some of those hurdles might be additional amendments — designed to slow or kill the bill — introduced by opposing Senators Dec. 4.
Pending the inclusion — and Senate approval — of any of these amendments, S. 697 might reach a final vote by week's end.
If enacted, the legislation would provide full retirement annuity at age 60 (instead of age 62) after 30 years of service, eliminate artificial caps on benefits, establish new-employee vesting in the Railroad Retirement System after five years (instead of 10 years), and raise a widow’s Tier II annuities to equal those paid by Social Security (current law sets a widow’s Tier II annuity at 50 percent of a retiree’s Tier II annuity).
The bill also would allow the railroad pension to be invested in a mix of public and private securities.