Requested Emergency Regulation
Due to the Governor’s Declaration of State of Emergency and Existence of Catastrophic Health Emergency, issued on March 5, 2020, and most recently renewed on September 8, 2020, the Board of Trustees for the State Retirement and Pension System is requesting an emergency regulation to amend COMAR 22.03.01.06A(2)(a), to temporarily reduce the number of signed nominations needed to be placed on the ballot as a candidate for election to the Board of Trustees.
At this time, two trustees on the Board have terms expiring on July 31, 2021. One trustee must be an active member of the Employees’ Pension and Retirement Systems, the Judges’ Retirement System, the Correctional Officers’ Retirement System, the Law Enforcement Officers’ Pension System or the Legislative Pension Plan. The second trustee must be an active member of the Teachers’ Pension System or Retirement System.
The State Retirement Agency is currently in the process of accepting nominations for these two trustee positions. COMAR 22.03.01.06 states that potential candidates are required to obtain 500 signatures from their membership in order to be eligible for a nomination to the Board. These signatures must be received by the Agency on or before January 29, 2021. Following receipt of a potential candidate’s nomination form, the Executive Director verifies that the individual has satisfied each of the requirements necessary to qualify as a candidate for Trustee. This process includes staff for the Agency confirming that each of the 500 signatures collected are valid.
In light of the current public health crisis, the Department of Budget and Management requiring mandatory telework for State employees, and many schools only providing remote learning at this time, the Board is concerned that requiring a potential candidate to gather signatures of 500 individuals between November 1, 2020 and January 31, 2021, could be nearly impossible while creating unnecessary health risks for both the candidate and the individual signing the candidate’s nomination form. Potential candidates typically obtain nominations at employee gatherings, but due to the current state of emergency, such gatherings are not appropriate at this time. To mitigate the public health risks for the candidate and signatory, the Board is seeking a temporary reduction to the signature requirement from 500 to 150.
The Board believes this amendment would support the Governor’s effort to control and prevent the spread of COVID-19, as provided in his Declaration of State of Emergency and Existence of Catastrophic Health Emergency. Moreover, the Board also believes that reducing the number of signatures to 150 would maintain the spirit of the existing provision in COMAR 22.03.01.06.
To address the public health risk that may remain with regard to still having to collect 150 signatures, the Agency has notified eligible potential candidates that it will permit potential candidates to email the nomination forms to individuals to sign. After the individual has signed the document, they may fax or scan and email it back to the potential candidate. This modification of the Agency’s past practice of requiring all signatures to be made in person between the potential candidate and the individual signing the nomination form, is in acknowledgement that the safest and preferred method for candidates to gather signatures during this time would be by using electronic methods (e.g. email or fax) so that face-to-face interactions are greatly reduced or eliminated altogether. Nevertheless, these new procedures will take additional time, likely making it impossible to meet the current requirement of 500 signatures during the allotted time. The Board believes 150 signatures would be more reasonable under these circumstances.
The Agency wishes to have this modification in place as soon as possible in order to advertise the change to our members in hopes that it will ease worries for existing potential candidates and also attract additional interest in potential trustee candidates for the Board of Trustees.