135-7. Management of funds.

(a) Vested in Board of Trustees. - The Board of Trustees shall be the trustee of the several funds created by this Chapter as provided in this section and in G.S. 135-8.

(b) Regular Interest Allowance. - The Board of Trustees annually shall allow regular interest on the mean amount for the preceding year in each of the funds with the exception of the expense fund. The amounts so allowed shall be due and payable to said funds, and shall be annually credited thereto by the Board of Trustees from interest and other earnings on the moneys of the Retirement System. Any additional amount required to meet the interest on the funds of the Retirement System shall be paid from the pension accumulation fund, and any excess of earnings over such amount required shall be paid to the pension accumulation fund. Regular interest shall mean such per centum rate to be compounded annually as shall be determined by the Board of Trustees on the basis of the interest earnings of the System for the preceding year and of the probable earnings to be made, in the judgment of the Board, during the immediate future, such rate to be limited to a minimum of three per centum (3%) and a maximum of four per centum (4%), with the latter rate applicable during the first year of operation of the Retirement System.

(c) Custodian of Funds; Disbursements; Bond of Director. - The State Treasurer shall be the custodian of the several funds and shall invest their assets in accordance with the provisions of G.S. 147-69.2 and 147-69.3.

(d) Deposits to Meet Disbursements. - For the purpose of meeting disbursements for pensions, annuities and other payments there may be kept available cash, not exceeding ten per centum (10%) of the total amount in the several funds of the Retirement System, on deposit with the State Treasurer of North Carolina.

(e) Personal Profit or Acting as Surety Prohibited. - Except as otherwise herein provided, no trustee and no employee of the Board of Trustees shall have any direct interest in the gains or profits of any investment made by the Board of Trustees, nor as such receive any pay or emolument for his service. No trustee or employee of the Board shall, directly or indirectly, for himself or as an agent in any manner use the same, except to make such current and necessary payments as are authorized by the Board of Trustees; nor shall any trustee or employee of the Board of Trustees become an endorser or surety or in any manner an obligor for moneys loaned or borrowed from the Board of Trustees.

(f) Retiree Health Benefit Fund. - It is the intent of the General Assembly that the Retiree Health Benefit Fund be a trust that provides an irrevocable source of funding to be used, to the extent the Fund's assets are sufficient, only for health benefits to retired and disabled employees and their applicable beneficiaries. Accordingly, the following provisions apply to the Retiree Health Benefit Fund:

(1) For the purposes of this subsection, the term "eligible Plan members" means eligible retired and disabled employees, and their applicable beneficiaries, who are members of the North Carolina State Health Plan for Teachers and State Employees as provided by this Chapter.

(2) The Retiree Health Benefit Fund is established as a trust fund in which accumulated contributions and any earnings on those contributions shall be used only to provide health benefits to eligible Plan members, after payment of any accrued reasonable investment and administrative expenses. The Retiree Health Benefit Fund shall be administered in accordance with the provisions of subsection (a) of this section.

(3) Employer and non-employer contributions to the Fund and earnings on those contributions are irrevocable. The assets of the Fund are dedicated to providing health benefits to eligible Plan members in accordance with the Plan's benefit terms, as those terms may from time to time be amended. The assets of the Fund are not subject to the claims of creditors of the employers and non-employers making contributions to the Fund, are not subject to the claims of any creditors of the Fund's trustees and administrators, and are not subject to the claims of creditors of eligible Plan members.

(4) Fund assets may be used for reasonable expenses to administer benefits provided by the Fund, as approved by the Board of Trustees, including offsets to the State budget to the Retirement Systems Division for staff administration of benefits and costs to conduct required actuarial valuations of State-supported retired employees' health benefits under other post-employment benefit accounting standards set forth by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board of the Financial Accounting Foundation.

(g) It is the intent of the General Assembly that a master trust fund be created that provides an irrevocable source of funding to be used, to the extent the fund's assets are sufficient, only for death benefits and disability benefits to the Plans' members, participants, and beneficiaries, pursuant to G.S. 120-4.27, G.S. 128-27(l), subsections (l2) through (l6) of G.S. 128-27, 135-5(l), 135-64(k), and 143-166.60. Accordingly, the following provisions apply to the Trust:

(1) The following definitions apply in this subsection:

a. Beneficiaries. - Any person in receipt of, or eligible to receive, a benefit payable from the North Carolina Teachers' and State Employees' Benefit Trust pursuant to G.S. 120-4.27, subsections (l2) though (l6) of G.S. 128-27, 135-5(l), 135-64(k), and 143-166.60.

b. Plans. - The retiree group death benefit trust established under G.S. 120-4.27, the Group Life Insurance Plan established under G.S. 128-27(l), the retiree group death benefit trust fund established under subsections (l2) though (l6) of G.S. 128-27, the Group Life Insurance Plan established under G.S. 135-5(l), the retiree group death benefit trust fund established under G.S. 135-5(l), the retiree group death benefit trust fund established under G.S.135-64(k), and the Separate Insurance Benefits Plan established by G.S. 143-166.60.

(2) A trust fund, the North Carolina Teachers' and State Employees' Benefit Trust, is hereby created as a master trust to which all receipts, transfers, appropriations, contributions, investment earnings, and other income belonging to the Plans shall be deposited, and from which all benefits and expenses against the Plans shall be disbursed. The Boards of Trustees of the Teachers' and State Employees' Retirement System and the Local Governmental Employees' Retirement System shall be the trustee of the Trust. Within the Benefit Trust, the funds of the Plans shall be accounted for separately and not commingled. Assets of one plan cannot be used to pay for liabilities of another plan within the Trust.

(3) Employer and non-employer contributions to the North Carolina Teachers' and State Employees' Benefit Trust and earnings on those contributions are irrevocable. The assets of the Trust are dedicated to providing benefits to members, participants, and beneficiaries in accordance with the Plans' benefit terms. The assets of the Trust are not subject to the claims of creditors of the employers and non-employers making contributions to the Trust, are not subject to the claims of any creditors of the Trust, trustees, and administrators, and are not subject to the claims of creditors of members, participants, and beneficiaries.

(h) Legislative Enactment Implementation Arrangement. - The Legislative Enactment Implementation Arrangement (LEIA) is established effective October 1, 2017, and placed under the management of the Board of Trustees. The purpose of the LEIA is to provide for timely administrative implementation of legislative provisions regarding the retirement of, or payment of retirement benefits to, public officers or public employees. The LEIA shall have the following parameters:

(1) Administration. - The LEIA shall be administered by the Board of Trustees, which shall compile and maintain all records necessary or appropriate for administration. The Board of Trustees shall have full discretionary authority to interpret, construe, and implement the LEIA and to adopt such rules and regulations as may be necessary or desirable to implement the provisions of the LEIA.

(2) Funding of the LEIA. - In the event that the General Assembly creates or modifies any provision for the retirement of, or payment of retirement benefits to, public officers or public employees that has a cost savings as measured by actuarial note required by Article 15 of Chapter 120 of the General Statutes, the Board of Trustees may direct up to one hundredth percent (0.01%) of the required contributions to fund the LEIA. These funds must be deposited in a separate fund from the fund into which regular employer contributions are deposited for the Retirement System. The Board of Trustees shall not direct any employer contributions into the LEIA after November 1, 2026.

(3) Allocation of LEIA funds. - The Board of Trustees may allocate LEIA funds to the implementation of legislative provisions regarding the retirement of, or payment for retirement benefits to, public officers or public employees, subject to the following restrictions:

a. The Board of Trustees must identify individual implementation projects that will be paid for with LEIA funds. These implementation projects must be necessitated by a specific statute or session law that was enacted within five years of the allocation of the funds. The Board of Trustees must also identify the number of years for which each individual implementation project will be paid for with LEIA funds.

b. For implementation projects that will be paid for with LEIA funds for a period of one year or less, the Board of Trustees must determine that the cost savings from implementing the project is projected to be no less than half of the amount of LEIA funds utilized to pay for implementation.

c. For implementation projects that will be paid for with LEIA funds for a period of greater than one year, but not more than four years, the Board of Trustees must determine that the long-term cost savings from implementing the project is projected to be at least three times greater than the cost of implementation.

d. No implementation project shall be paid for with LEIA funds for a period of more than four years.

(4) Treatment of unused assets. - Any assets of the LEIA not used to pay allowed administrative expenses for timely administrative implementation of legislative provisions shall be transferred to the Retirement System as an additional employer contribution.

(5) Reporting. - The Department of State Treasurer shall report to the Board of Trustees, the Joint Legislative Commission on Government Operations, and the Fiscal Research Division on or before August 1 of each year on the (i) amounts and sources of funds collected by year pursuant to this section and (ii) the amounts expended, the projects for which those funds were expended, and the current status of the projects. The Board of Trustees shall also post this report on its public Web site. (1941, c. 25, s. 7; 1957, c. 846, s. 2; 1959, c. 1181, s. 2; 1961, c. 397; 1965, c. 780, s. 1; 1967, c. 720, s. 11; c. 1205; 1971, c. 386, s. 4; 1973, c. 241, s. 9; 1979, c. 467, ss. 14, 15; 2004-124, s. 31.20(a); 2007-323, s. 28.23; 2017-129, ss. 2(n), 2(p), 5(a); 2017-212, s. 8.9(a); 2020-29, s. 8(a).)