Catching up with… Martella A. Turner-Joseph

By Alan Stone • May 11, 2018 • 0 Comments
Recently I spoke with Martella A. Turner-Joseph, a partner at Joseph & Turner Consulting Actuaries, LLC in New York City. Martella chairs the Legislative Relations Committee (LRC), a subcommittee within the American Retirement Association’s Government Affairs Committee. I asked her about the Committee’s role and work.

Q: What is the Legislative Relations Committee? And what is your role?

A: The Legislative Relations Committee is a subcommittee within the larger American Retirement Association’s Government Affairs Committee (GAC) that serves as a forum for the development of legislative proposals that improve the private employer-provided retirement plan system. 

I am the committee Chairperson and my job is to manage and organize the committee and its work.

Q: Who comes up with ideas as far as proposed changes?

A: Ideas arrive to the LRC in a variety of different ways, but most typically they originate from the members of the LRC.

Q: How do the proposals end up in the hands of the lawmakers? Is there a connection to a Senate pension committee?

A: The main purpose of the LRC is to create and publish a legislative proposals document that the Government Affairs staff at the American Retirement Association can use in their advocacy efforts on Capitol Hill. This document is the essential ingredient to ensure that the proposals are properly socialized to lawmakers on Capitol Hill by the American Retirement Association’s lobbying team.   

Q: What role does the LRC have with Andrew J. Remo, Director of Legislative Affairs at the American Retirement Association?

A: Andrew is the American Retirement Association’s staff liaison to the Legislative Relations Committee. He helps me manage the regularly scheduled Committee calls and works with me to create a call agenda which contains the various topics up for discussion.   

Q: What proposals from the LRC are now rules we have come to know and love?

A: We have been fortunate that many proposals that stemmed from our original document issued in 2013 are now either the law or rules of the land. This despite the polarization and Congressional inaction on a new comprehensive retirement policy bill now nearly 12 years after the enactment of the Pension Protection Act of 2006. For instance, the IRS in recent years has issued new rules permitting amendments to a safe harbor 401(k) plan during the plan year and clarifying that forfeitures can fund safe harbor employer contributions. Congress in the recent bipartisan budget agreement included our proposals to simplify the rules for hardship distributions. In fact, most of our proposals have found their way into introduced legislation on Capitol Hill that have been patiently waiting for a moment to hitch a ride on a legislative vehicle that will become law. So even given those political headwinds, we have made significant progress towards getting these rules done and are excited to achieve even more successes in the months and years ahead.         

Q: Are proposals done every 3 years, as they are needed, or any other timing involved, such as what happens when a new president is elected or Senate elections?

A: I would say that our proposals document is updated as needed. Our last finished and public document was December of 2013. Since then, the Committee has updated the 2013 40-page document by removing proposals that have either become law or are no longer relevant as well as add new proposals. Additionally, we may update the proposals document to coincide with the natural turnover of elected and administration officials in Washington D.C.

Q: What are the general steps from LRC proposal to new laws?

A: The first step is to get our proposal into an introduced bill so we can examine the legislative language to see if it achieves our desired policy result. The second step is to continue to educate lawmakers about the necessity of the proposals in these piece of legislation with the goal of building bipartisan political support for eventual legislative action. The third step is enactment into law and monitoring regulatory implementation.

Q: Do you have upcoming proposals to be presented to lawmakers?

A: The LRC is currently working on a fresh update to our 5-year-old original proposals document. We are currently in the midst of that process and hope to have that update finalized soon.

Q: How much of the LRC’s work is volunteer driven?

A: Nearly all of the LRC’s work is volunteer driven from our dedicated members and we are always on the lookout for new perspectives and fresh thinking. So please, if you ever were frustrated by a nonsensical rule and thought to yourself, “Why does it have to be this way?”, it doesn’t! We have the power to make constructive changes and achieve results that improve our industry and increase the retirement security of the American workforce.     

Q: If I am an actuary who wants to get involved in this process, how would I get started?

A: Please contact Andrew Remo at aremo@usaretirement.org. We would love to get your input and imprint on our new proposal document.

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