PEP Squad Season 2, Episode 2: 2022 Legislative Package

Join the PEP Squad as the discuss the upcoming General Session, UPEA’s lobbying priorities, and answer questions from members.

Stay tuned for weekly episodes throughout the 2022 Legislative session!

FULL TRANSCRIPT:

Hannah: Hi everyone, welcome back to the PEP Squad.  We are doing a pre-legislative update today, getting ready for the legislative session that is starting on January 18th and will go for 45 days. We’ve been out and about doing Q&A’s—doing them online as well as going to different areas of this state. Today we’re going to go through our whole pre-legislative lobbying package and answering a couple questions from social media.

Todd: Hi everyone, this is Todd, executive director of the Public Employees’ Association. I wanted to give a brief update on compensation and the career service bill that is going to be presented in the legislature.

The governor came out with his budget in December and proposed compensation for state employees is a 3.5% COLA, 2% targeted funding, and approximately 36 million for DPS and Department of Corrections—so total it’s about 8% compensation which is probably the most that’s been proposed in 20 years or so. For targeted funding, you can go on our website and check out the link for the positions that are on the targeted list.  Hannah, can you explain how the governor comes up with the targeted list?

Hannah: The targeted funding process has changed a little bit this year. The executive director of DHRM used to oversee the whole targeted funding process and the new administration determined that it needed a lot more focus on targeted funding. There is now a whole new position that focuses on targeted funding. What happens is there are seven market surveys—one is a contracted survey that they do every three years with Gallagher. The survey is going to be presented during the beginning of the legislative session. We will be attending the presentation and updating everyone about what the new survey has determined for state employees. The process now takes into consideration 50% based on the market, 25% based on agency recommendations, and 25% based on DHRM recommendations. A huge change is that most of the list is determined by market data. This year they looked into everything and determined that any position that is 15% or more below market made it on the list. There are a ton of positions that are barely under that 15% that didn’t make it on. One thing UPA is going to be working on is making targeted funding more of a priority. Targeted funding is also discretionary on agency as to how they administer it so if funding is approved, the agencies can determine how that funding is distributed within those positions.

Todd: Perfect, thank you Hannah. We will keep you updated as the conversation process moves through the legislative session. Look for our newsletter that comes out every week for updates on compensation and the podcast.

The other big item that UPEA is working on is Representative Christofferson’s at-will bill for supervisors. Basically, what the bill does, and if funding is approved, there is a 5% increase for any supervisor to give up their career service status.

Over the past year, UPEA has been working with Representative Christofferson, Auditor Dougall, and the governor’s office. UPEA is obviously against at-will employment.  There was a follow up to the 2011 audit on the career service system that came out in October. It was really interesting in that the main focus of the audit was state employees really want training and right now it’s not required by the agencies. The audit went in and said, hey you’ve got to be able to find a way to reward high performers in state government as well as training and and those things were not done in the 10 years since the first audit was done in 2011. They looked at the private sector and what kind of grievance procedures they have. A large healthcare company, which probably was IHC, said they have a written-out grievance procedure for employees. A large financial firm, another private entity, has a grievance process. Currently, in the bill, there isn’t a system set up where a supervisor if they are at-will, would be able to grieve. Although UPEA opposes the at-will portion of the bill, UPEA is trying to get in the bill a written-out process for supervisors, so if the bill passes, they will have grievance rights.  There are parts of the bill UPEA is supportive of—including pay for performance and streamlining the grievance process for career service employees. It’s been a really long process and a lot of meetings, so we’ll see how the bill goes through. There will be lots of updates going on between videos, podcasts, and newsletters so there’s plenty of ways to know what UPEA is doing.  

Sam: To jump off that, the bill is still in the draft stage. It just got numbered and there’s a lot of time throughout the session for this bill to be amended. It can be changed positively or negatively. UPEA is asking for our members, now more than ever, it’s really important to contact your legislators. It can be kind of a daunting task, so UPEA staff put together a lot of material to inform our members on how to do that. It’s all available on our website under the resources tab. You can look up who your legislators are on our website, and it’ll provide their contact information. We also have tutorials on how to go about it and what to say. It’s really important—while there’s still the opportunity to change this bill for the better, we have to start contacting right now. If you have any questions or are not sure where to start, please contact your employee representative. We are currently helping members find out who their legislators are as well as what to say. We are also happy to look at any drafts before you send it off. Just make sure to do it on your own time with your own resources.

Another opportunity to be involved in the political process is our Public Employee Eay on the Hill on February 9th. It’s a Wednesday. All members who want to get up to the capital and join UPEA staff are invited. Keep an eye out for the newsletter and we will be sending the complete schedule and form to RSVP. You have the opportunity to talk to your legislators face to face and we’re going to be hosting a Q&A and also a training on how to talk to your legislators. We will be providing materials to write them letters while we’re up there.

Hannah: Explaining that you are supportive of UPEA lobbying efforts really helps move our momentum forward during the legislative process. On compensation—letting them know that it’s hard to recruit and retain employees, you really need to see the targeted funding and the 3.5% COLA go into effect. On the career service bill—the at-will piece that UPEA is lobbying against that portion. Letting your legislators know as their constituents that you are not supportive of this part of the bill is super important through this session.

Moving on to our next lobbying priority, health insurance. There is a 6.7% health insurance premium increase. Chet Loftis, director of PEHP, came to UPEA Advisory Council on January 8th and explained about the increase and his conversations with the legislature. UPEA is lobbying to get this increase fully funded and it has been for the past number of years. It sounds like there hasn’t been any pushback this year so we’re staying optimistic but still working hard to make sure that it is covered. We want to see copays, coinsurance, deductibles, and other plan benefits at the same rate. Another thing you UPEA is lobbying on is to enhance mental health benefits. We want to see an increase in coverage, add additional providers, and provide education resources to guide employees through the mental health treatment process.

Sam: As far as retirement goes, there’s not any bills being proposed that would impact the system too much this year, but we will be lobbying for continuity of the 401K match which is $26 right now. UPEA staff are also working on keeping our members in the know on things going on. Something that’s not going to impact this session but may in a couple years is the URS membership board voted to change the current assumed rate of return from 6.95 to 6.85%.  That’s just what they’re expecting to get back from the investments that are made from the pool. This could impact the retirement system in the future. The Tier 2 Hybrid plans are contributory right now, but the state is covering the employee portion. With this change, there’s a chance that the contribution rate might go above 10%. As the law is written right now, the employee would have to pick up that extra. As we approach this issue later down the line, UPEA will be lobbying for the state to cover whatever percentage would be the employee’s responsibility. Nothing happening this session, but we do want to keep everyone in the know and let you know that we’ll be working on this in the future.

Kendle: A few other things that we always have on our radar during the session—first being payroll deduction. This is how you UPEA gets our dues from members. If payroll deduction wasn’t allowed, then not just UPEA but any voluntary association, you would just have to pay your dues either each month or every year with a check or go into the office to pay.  For most people that just won’t happen. UPEA would lose most of our membership if payroll deduction was not allowed so we always keep an eye on that. There haven’t been any bills in the past several years to that look at changing that but it’s just always on our radar.

Something that we’ve added to our priority list over the past few years has been remote work as more and more positions become eligible for teleworking and remote work. We want to make sure that employees have the resources they need to remain efficient and successful in their work, so if you have any issues with that or want talk to your representative about your teleworking experience or remote work experience, we’d love to hear that feedback. It is growing and it’s still new and we want to know if you are having any issues with it or if you appreciate the opportunity to do it.

For leave/PTO, we want to make sure that this benefit is either kept the same or enhanced. We don’t want to see your leave change to PTO—meaning you wouldn’t have your annual leave and your sick leave banks; it would all be one paid time off bank so if you were ever sick and you were out of the office for a solid week and you only had two weeks of PTO then you’d be down to one week. There’s just a lot of reasons that the benefit we have right now with the separate banks is a richer benefit, so we want to keep it that way.

For Paid Parental Leave—UPEA has been working on this for the past three or four years and over the last couple of years we were successful in getting postpartum recovery leave—three weeks of paid leave for birth mothers but fathers or adopted parents or foster parents were not given any sort of leave for the birth or adoption of a child. This year we’re working on an additional three weeks for bonding. We are very optimistic about that this year.

Privatization—we want to make sure your job stays within the state. A lot of agencies where we see they’re considering privatization are places like liquor stores, golf courses, and fish hatcheries. Those are brought up more often than others, but we’re keeping an eye on it and maintaining your jobs within the state.

Post-retirement employment or reemployment is something that comes up in multiple bills every year. I think there are already two or three bills about this on our tracker. They look at shortening the amount of time that you must wait before you can come back to working for the state after you retire or allowing you to keep pulling from your retirement once you’re working again, which some people call double-dipping. We always watch for these bills, and more often than not we are supportive of them. We just want to make sure that if any of these bills pass it’s not at a detriment to current employees. Those are some of the things we’re always keeping an eye on, and that is pretty much it for our constant things that we’re tracking during the session.

Hannah: That leads into our bill tracker. Please check out our website under the legislature tab. There is a bill tracker that is constantly updated every day during the session. It’s already up with bills that have been published, then it says the status of the bill, whether UPEA supports it or not, or if we’re just tracking it. This is a great resource for you to know what’s going on and what bills are coming up. Like Kendle was saying, there’s already a lot of public employee related bills that have been published that we are already lobbying for or against so feel free to check that out. If you have any questions on the bill tracker, please let us know.

Kendle: Another way to get information during this session is our weekly podcasts that will be coming back for the session, as well as our weekly email updates. Those have everything that you want to know about the session. If you don’t have time to listen to a full podcast episode and you just want to read about one thing or you’re more concerned about one thing than another, the newsletter has all the information and just a click away from a full article on that on our website. If you are not getting those emails, please reach out to me and send an email to kendle@upea.net. That’s K-E-N-D-L-E at upea.net. I am happy to make sure that your contact information is updated because if you are a member, we want to make sure that you’re getting all the information because that is a huge benefit of membership.

Sam: We put out on our social media a call for questions for us to answer during the podcast. We had a couple responses, so I’m going to ask Kendle and Hannah some of these questions.

What are some recruitment tips for during the session?

Kendle: During the session is a great time for our members to help us recruit because this is our biggest time of the year and where we’re doing the most work that we do throughout the year. This is an easy time for you to let your coworkers know UPEA is working hard on this ______, and this is why it’s important ______, and this is why you should be a member _______.  It’s helpful to do that all throughout the year, but now you can see things as they are going. We are actually going to be offering a recruitment incentive all throughout the session—which is 3 months of free membership for anyone that joins during the 45-day session. They’ll get their first three months for free so it’s a great time to join and see what UPEA does. We are also still offering our $50 recruitment incentive for recruiters—so for every member that you recruit as a member you will get $50.

Hannah: UPEA’s power at the legislature comes from members. The more members we have the bigger the poll we have, so it’s super important to keep growing that membership. That membership is the push behind our lobbying package. Another thing is that UPEA is up there every day tracking these bills, following these issues, meeting with the governor and legislative leadership, and attending all these committees to make sure that state employee voices are heard on bills that are beneficial for them so that those can get passed and then prevent bills from moving forward that could be detrimental to state employees.

Sam: One thing that UPEA staff talk about a lot is that working for the state, and being a state employee, is political. A lot of people don’t want to be involved in the political process and that’s totally fine, and that’s what your dues go toward, is so that you don’t have to lobby. UPEA lobbies on your behalf. Dues are $6.92 a paycheck just automatically deducted, and you can sign up on our website under the ‘join today’ tab.

Okay next question, what is staff looking forward to this session?

I’m personally looking forward to being there in person because last year was so difficult.  Staff were just in our offices, watching committee meetings all day. We didn’t have the opportunity to have that face-to-face interaction and that made the session very long and very difficult.

Kendle: Yeah, absolutely. Just being up there is the most exciting part of our job, so it’s great to be up there and feel like we’re a part of it. I’m happy that we get to be up there in person this year.

Hannah: I’m so excited for Public Employee Day on the Hill. It’s such a great time. We couldn’t do it last year because of what was going on. It’s exciting and so fun to have membership come up and be a part of the legislative process. It’s also important to have legislators see who state employees are. It’s a fun day and we’re so excited we’re growing it this year to make more opportunities for you to join.

Kendle: I’m really excited about that, and we’re going on an actual tour of the capitol. I have never gone on an official tour of the capitol, so I feel like we’re going to learn some things that we didn’t even know about. It’ll be fun.

Sam: One more thing that I am excited about and nervous for this session is we have a robust lobbying package. Like Todd said, it’s the biggest compensation package that we’ve gone for in years, so it’s exciting to know that there’s an opportunity for that this session.

Okay, another question we got was what bills or are there any bills that affect local government?

Kendle: As of right now, it’s looking like there’s nothing huge that would impact city or county. There are a couple of retirement bills for public safety and firefighters that would impact their plan and that does drip down into city and county government as well. But no big bills that would impact you guys as of right now.  That’s a great question though, we also track any legislation that could impact city or county because we have employees at cities and counties and all throughout the state, so we always keep an eye on that as well.

Hannah: Our build tracker will have information on if any of those bills do come up.

Sam: One other question we got was can we expect an increase greater than 3%?

Kendle: We are very hopeful! The across the board is already proposed by the governor at 3.5 and that is not even including the targeted/hot spots, in addition to other funding that is proposed. We are very hopeful!

Hannah: UPEA is also lobbying for pay for performance which could be another avenue to get more pay. We’re really excited about the support we’ve been hearing for pay for performance system to go on top of an across the board increase even though that would take time to implement.

Sam: Thanks everyone for sending in your questions! If you think of anything else you want us to answer, just give your staff representative a call.

Kendle: We are so excited to get going on the session this year. It should be exciting. We are very optimistic for a lot of things this year so stay with us and stay tuned!