|Kevin de León|
Democrat Kevin de León burst onto the stage of the U.S. pension debate with the September 2012 passage of his Bill 1234 by the California State Senate. “We caught a lot of people off guard,” says de León, 45, who was elected to the 22nd senate district, which represents his hometown of Los Angeles, in 2010. Formally named the California Secure Choice Retirement Savings Trust Act, the bill formulated a pension plan that would modestly supplement Social Security for previously uncovered private sector employees and “stem the retirement insecurity tsunami,” the senator explains. Raised in a San Diego barrio by an immigrant single mother who worked as a housekeeper and received no benefits, de León was determined to find a retirement solution for California’s 8 million private workers in similar straits. The former teacher started work on what would become the 2012 bill back in 2007, the year he won election to the state assembly. De León designed an individual savings plan with auto-enrollment, pooled assets, principal protection, professional investment management and a modest guaranteed return. The program — which requires a second bill to bring it to life — is exempt from oversight under the 1974 ERISA federal pension law and the statutory changes that would otherwise be necessary for its adoption.