June 28--The state Board of Regents might vote Monday on a policy change that would bring the system's Optional Retirement Plan into compliance with new Internal Revenue Service rules on same-sex marriages.
Following last year's Supreme Court decision overturning the federal Defense of Marriage Act, the IRS issued new orders governing so-called qualified retirement plans. Participants in such plans and their beneficiaries are eligible for certain tax benefits if the plans comply with the federal Internal Revenue Code.
The Court struck down the provision in the Defense of Marriage Act that held marriages can only be between a man and a woman.
After the Windsor case, the IRS issued notices in September and in April spelling out how IRS rules would be changed to comply with the Supreme Court ruling, and how qualified retirement plan policies must be change. The IRS also specified that marriages will be recognized under a "place of celebration" rule; that is, a same-sex marriage is valid in the eyes of the IRS if it's legal in the state or country where the marriage was performed.
Georgia doesn't recognize same-sex marriage, so Monday's vote won't affect other University System of Georgia benefits denied to same-sex spouses, such as health insurance coverage.
"The board is legally required to amend the ORP as a result of the court case to recognize domestic partners. The board's agenda item is restricted to the ORP and does not affect any other benefit programs," said University System of Georgia spokesman John Millsaps on Friday.
The decision also does not affect the Teachers Retirement System of Georgia, which many university system employees are enrolled in.
The TRS is a defined-benefit system. The amount of retirement pay workers get is computed with a formula which takes into account their earnings while employed and their years of service.
State lawmakers authorized the Optional Retirement Plan as an alternative in the 1990s. In the ORP, a defined contribution plan, participants have investment choices. The state contributes a portion, as it does with the TRS, but the value of their retirement savings can go up or down depending on how well their investments perform.
The policy change is one of just four items on the Regents' agenda for Monday's meeting.
Also in the agenda is a pay raise for University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby of 5 percent of his base pay, or $21,250, to be paid as deferred compensation.
Follow education reporter Lee Shearer at www.facebook.com/LeeShearerABH or https://twitter.com/LeeShearer.
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