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When Rep. Kristin Phillips-Hill would bring up the topic, even some of her fellow state legislators didn't know that employees of an association that lobbies lawmakers on behalf of school boards are included in the state pension system.

But when lawmakers learned the statewide nonprofit Pennsylvania School Board Association (PSBA) employees are entitled to a state pension, some jumped on board with a measure, House Bill 1084, to keep all future association employees from receiving a state pension, said Phillps-Hill, R-York Township.

"It's just not appropriate for them to be on our pension system," she said.

Support: The PSBA is throwing its support behind Phillips-Hill's bill — even though it would exclude its future employees from the pension plan — and previously backed similar ones proposed during past legislative sessions, said Steve Robinson, an association spokesman.

"We're supported those bills and we're backing this one as well," he said.

PSBA employees have been included in the state pension system since 1939, when the state attorney general added the association's then lone full-time employee to the system, Robinson said.

Now it will take an act of the Legislature and a signature from the governor to remove all future employees from being part of the system. PSBA has 58 employees enrolled in the system, he said.

Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover Township, a co-sponsor of the bill, noted the PSBA is largely seen as a lobbying organization that petitions members of the House and Senate.

"If you're not a public employee, you don't belong on the public pension system," Phillips-Hill said.

Employees of no other associations, including the Pa. Association of Boroughs, are part of the state pension system.

Gaining momentum: Republicans in Harrisburg have for years been trying to get pension reform bills passed in the House and Senate but have had no luck.

They have generally been met with push back from Democrats. But some Democratic members of the House State Government Committee crossed the aisle when they voted Phillips-Hill's bill out of committee.

Phillips-Hill said tackling the pension crisis one bit at a time, such as removing future PSBA employees from the state system, may be the best approach to achieving statewide reform.

"Maybe we just need to address this pension problem one bite at a time," she said, referring to the oft-used saying: How do you eat an Elephant? One bite at a time.

— Reach Greg Gross at ggross@yorkdispatch.com.

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