A flurry of bills introduced this session of Congress and the looming November elections are raising hopes on the prospects for expanding retirement security, Capitol Hill watchers say.
"Elections have a way of shaking things up," said Andrew Remo, director of legislative affairs for the American Retirement Association in Arlington, Va., which represents plan sponsors, service providers and other retirement professionals.
"It has been 12 years since Congress has done a comprehensive retirement bill, so there's a lot of pent up demand," Mr. Remo said.
Barbara Van Zomeren, St. Cloud, Minn.-based senior vice president of the ERISA team at third-party administrator Ascensus LLC, agreed. "It seems ripe for something to happen. I think retirement is more of an issue than it has been in the past," she said.
Hopes for action on retirement issues were first raised in March, when Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and ranking member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., reintroduced the Retirement Enhancement and Savings Act, which the committee had already passed unanimously in the previous session of Congress. (The session ended before floor votes could be scheduled.)
A House counterpart bill was introduced March 15 by Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis., and Mike Kelly, R-Pa.
Among other provisions, RESA would make it easier for smaller employers to join open multiple employer plans, ease non-discrimination testing rules for plan sponsors, lift a 10% safe-harbor cap on default contributions for automatic enrollment and auto escalation in defined contribution plans, and give cooperatives and small-employer charities smaller Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. premiums.
While these ideas enjoy bipartisan support, more controversial provisions include annual "lifetime income" disclosure by plan sponsors to show participants the annuity value of their defined contribution accounts, and a ban on "stretching out" defined contribution and individual retirement account payments to non-spouse beneficiaries of larger accounts beyond five years.