(Photo: Mike Scarcella/ALM)

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and ranking member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., introduced the Retirement Enhancement and Savings Act (RESA) of 2019 on Monday. The act mirrors the House Ways & Means Committee’s new bipartisan legislation, the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act of 2019.

The SECURE Act, introduced Friday, makes it easier for annuities to be offered in 401(k) and 403(b) plans and raises the age for taking required minimum distributions from 70 1/2 to 72. It also incorporates measures from the previous House RESA bill.

Grassley and Wyden said their bill is the result of “the best ideas” from retirement discussions held by lawmakers since 2006.

The Finance Committee unanimously reported the Retirement Enhancement and Savings Act (RESA) as S. 3471 in November 2016, and Hatch and Wyden reintroduced the bill, S. 2526, in the 115th Congress with technical modifications.

As  introduced Monday, RESA makes additional technical modifications.

“The Senate Finance Committee has held multiple hearings to discuss the retirement system over several Congresses,” the two senators said. “The Committee also has reviewed numerous proposals to improve the system, including ideas that came out of the Finance Committee’s Tax Reform Working Group on Savings and Investment in 2015.”

The Senate bill “is virtually identical” to a House bill introduced earlier this year, which was amended Friday with additional provisions and renamed the SECURE Act, according to the Insured Retirement Institute.

The SECURE Act is scheduled for a vote by the House Ways & Means Committee on Tuesday.

“Without a doubt, passing a strong, comprehensive retirement security measure this year is now well within reach,” said Paul Richman, IRI Chief Government and Political Affairs Officer, in a statement on Monday.

As introduced by Grassley and Wyden, RESA makes further technical modifications, the most significant of which are updating the effective dates and modifying the exception to the required minimum distribution rules, according to the senators. Plus, it provides for an acceleration of Pension Benefits Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) premiums.

Susan Neely, president and CEO of the American Council of Life Insurers, said in a statement Monday that RESA “is important public policy that will help more Americans achieve retirement security for themselves and their families.”

She added: “It’s important and appropriate that this effort is bipartisan as well. There’s tremendous need to do everything possible to address the retirement savings gap.”

Neely pointed to a recent report by the Employee Benefit Research Institute that found only 17% of workers are very confident in their ability to live comfortably in retirement.

RESA’s provisions will make it easier for employers, especially small businesses, to provide workplace retirement savings plans and to offer annuities that guarantee an income for life, according to Neely.

“The workplace has proven to be an effective place to start the retirement savings habit and build retirement security for many households,” she explained. “This bill makes practical, smart changes to expand those opportunities.”

— Check out Sweeping Retirement Bill, Raising RMD Age, Unveiled by House Panel on ThinkAdvisor.