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Utah Legislature: Senate committee approves retirement legislation

SALT LAKE CITY — Following hours of testimony Friday, a Senate committee approved three bills designed to revamp the state retirement system.

All three passed on a party-line vote of 3-2.

Representatives of public employee associations had lined up for a second day of testimony about the bills. On Wednesday, so many people wanted to speak that the committee met again to hear more testimony before voting on the proposals.

The committee room was packed with public employees, including teachers, police officers and firefighters. Most urged lawmakers to hold off on any retirement reform for at least a year.

"Do not make drastic changes to retirement without significant consideration," said Utah Education Association President Kim Campbell.

The bills' sponsor, Sen. Dan Liljenquist, R-Bountiful, said a fourth bill that would have extended the number of years an employee must work before collecting retirement benefits is effectively dead and will not be considered.

Opponents of the changes say the proposals will drastically impact their ability to attract and retain employees.

"The unintended consequences could be dire as far as our ability to attract and retain qualified firefighters," said Utah Firemen's Association representative Ryan Mellor.

e-mail: jsmith@desnews.com