Protesters rally on the lawn in front of the New Hampshire Statehouse, March 31, 2011. (AP Photo: Jim Cole)

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — The New Hampshire Senate has voted to create a commission to study a defined contribution pension plan for public employees.

Opponents to a proposed plan in February had urged legislators to study the idea further before acting, saying it would dilute public employee pensions.

Unlike the current pension system that usually provides a guaranteed amount based on years of service, the proposed plan would have operated like a 401(k) by investing employer and employee contributions. The payout would be variable, depending largely on the amount the employer and employee had paid into the plan.

The bill, which received preliminary support in the Senate on Wednesday, now goes to the Finance Committee before returning to the Senate for a final vote.