The PEP SQUAD IS BACK with more legislative updates, UPEA announcements, prize giveaways, and guaranteed technical difficulties — SEASON 2 is here and we can’t wait to share new episodes of the Public Employee Podcast with all of you!

We’d love to know what you want to hear about! Please reach out with ideas or questions you’d like us to cover in a future episode.

Listen to the FINAL episode wrapping up the 2022 Legislative Session! Tune in as the PEP Squad reviews compensation funding, HB 104, and other tracked bills following the final gavel on day 45.

2022 Legislative Session – Recap

Hannah: 

Hey everyone, welcome back to the public employee podcast. We are here today to give you a quick recap of the 2022 Legislative Session. We are first going to start with compensation and Kendall is going to go over that. 

Kendle: 

Yes, it was a very exciting year for compensation! We were able to secure a 3.5% across the board increase that will most likely be implemented as a COLA. 3.5% is the highest across the board increase that we’ve seen in almost two decades. It’s really exciting to see all of our work come to fruition there. Along with securing that across the board percentage, we also got a 2% increase for targeted hotspots. The way that works is once all of the funding is approved–which that entire list was approved this year–the agency then has discretion on how that is implemented. They have to distribute it throughout the positions that are outlined on the list but they can set up parameters for each employee to get that increase. It can be based on years of service, it can be based on performance, or they can just give it to all of the positions that are outlined in the list. It’s really up to each agency. HR and agency will be communicating in the coming weeks. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to your HR representative or someone here at UPEA. We are happy to help you with that.

Hannah:

Great, thanks for the recap Kendle. I am now going to go over HB 104. HB 104 is something that UPEA worked on during the last session, during the interim, and now we are going to continue working on it. HB 104, like we’ve said throughout the whole session, the bill aims to make supervisory positions at-will through attrition and incentivizing current employees to forfeit their schedule B status for a 5% salary increase. The bill did pass and there are a lot of parameters to it. There is the at-will component, the 5% funding, and pay for performance. Pay for performance is going to be implemented over three years. That is going to be something that UPEA is going to be a part of through that discussion, through the implementation, as well as communicating concerns from employees. That’s going to be a three year process. The at-will component is more current in how it will impact you. If you are a supervisor that is impacted by this bill, DHRM is going to be communicating with you directly to talk about that whole process and how to do it. If you have any questions about the process or if you’re unsure if you’re going to be impacted, or anything else, please let your UPEA rep know. UPEA is working directly with DHRM to communicate any questions that our members have. We’ve already sent a list over and we are happy to add to that list. We are getting a ton of questions about uncertainties and getting those answered. We are working to make the implementation process as seamless as possible. We look forward to working with all of our members through this. If you have any questions please let us know. Another thing is that UPEA is not done talking about at-will and how that is going to impact state employment. The UPEA state board is already strategizing on how to prevent further erosion of the career service system within state employment. That is going to be something that is ongoing. Keep an eye out for further communications about that. We are going to be starting to get members involved in that whole process and we look forward to working with you all throughout this next year.

Sam:

As Hannah said, HB 104 really commandeered a lot of our communication over the session just because it changed so much. It was a really big bill, but we also had other legislation that we were able to get passed through our lobbying efforts. That’s really exciting. They may impact you as well. Second substitute SB 63 Bereavement Leave Amendments was sponsored by Senator Harper. This was an enhancement to the bereavement benefit that’s already in place for state employees. Previously, the state allowed three days of paid leave for the death of an employee’s family member. This bill just expanded that benefit to include employees who lost a child due to miscarriage or still birth. The state doesn’t expect to have any additional cost to the state so that one sailed through pretty easily. Another exciting bill was the first substitute SB 100 Paid Leave Modifications. This was sponsored by Senator Weiler. We’ve been working on different variations of paid parental leave for many years so it’s exciting to see something somewhat substantial pass through. Another exciting bill was sponsored by Representative Hollins. She worked on HB 238 State Holiday Modifications. This bill established an additional paid holiday for state employees for the observation of Juneteenth National Freedom Day. This will take place each year on June 19th. It is a great holiday to observe and also another paid holiday for state employees which is always good to see. Another bill is HB 66 Public Employee Insurance Plan Amendments. This is something that we talked about during the interim as well. UPEA always advocates for options for state employees. We wanted to make sure that this wasn’t going to take away any options. The bill was sponsored by Representative Dunnigan. The managing director of PEHP, Chet Loftis also worked really closely on this bill. Basically what it does is discontinue the preferred network for the state risk pool. Any employees who are currently on this network have until July 1st to select one of the other networks and if they fail to do so they will just be placed in the network that best reflects their utilization pattern. When Chet Loftis came and talked to UPEA members and staff, he reiterated that this is not eliminating options for state employees. The network allows for access to a hospital in either of the networks but this doesn’t really take that away. This network doesn’t really eliminate options because employees can switch networks once a year so if you have a medical condition arise and you need to go to the Huntsman for example, you’re able to switch your network. Chet Loftis said he will give out his cell phone number to anyone who was worried about this. They can give him a call and he’ll reiterate that it’s it’s not eliminating any options and it’s expected to save money for the state and employees who are currently on the network.

Hannah: 

That was a great recap of some of the bills. Now Kendall is going to get into some public safety and law enforcement legislation. 

Kendle: 

Yes, so just a few things. We worked on several law enforcement bills this year like we do every year. I’m just going to touch on a couple of the big ones and some of the good news that we got from the session this year. Firstly, we were able to pass a funding request to establish a career ladder for law enforcement post certified officers within DWR and DNR. It is a pretty small population, less than 100 officers, but these are the only ones that did not have a career ladder in place. These officers, unlike Public Safety and Department of Corrections officers, did not have that annual increase in their pay put in place by a career ladder so that’s what this funding did. There was a bill to make the career ladder and then this year that fund would be put in place to to get that started. We were able to secure $700,000 for that which is exciting. We’ve been working with officers within DWR on this like I said for several years so it’s really exciting to see that finally get put in place. Another bill was sponsored by Representative Wilcox. It was a first responder mental health benefit. Officers as well as their families and retired officers are granted mental health protections through this bill that they can  take advantage of additional coverage for when they need it. A lot of officers are experiencing PTSD and it puts a lot of strain on families. The things that these officers see every day. This bill was really exciting and hopefully we can implement some of these coverage options in other places of state government. That would be a great thing to see go through. There were a few other law enforcement bills so if you’re interested or you didn’t hear about those on this podcast feel free to check them out on our website. Our bill tracker is still live so you can go look at any bills on there. If you have questions about what they did or about how you feel with any of those bills, feel free to reach out to us. We are happy to explain that in more detail. 

Hannah: 

Great, thanks Kendle. That gives a brief recap of the 2022 Legislative Session. UPEA staff are starting to schedule post-leg Q&As and will go more into depth of all of the legislation. They can answer any questions that you may have. We will be reaching out to our contacts within each district. If there is a place you want UPEA staff to specifically visit, please reach out to your employee representative and we can schedule this with you directly. Another exciting thing coming up is we are going to be holding our public employee appreciation days shortly. We are going to be holding these starting in the spring this year. Thank you to everyone who joined UPEA during the session. If you are a member and you do recruit someone to be a UPEA member, you still get the $50 incentive so make sure you are spreading the word. We’re so grateful for all of you and we couldn’t have gotten through this session without you. Thank you and thanks for all the hard work you do. That wraps up this season of the legislative session podcast. We may have a few more episodes come out but this is mostly during the legislative session so we’ll see you next year!

Join the PEP Squad for a quick update on compensation and priority bills leading up to the final week of the 2022 Legislative Session.

2022 Legislative Session – Week 6

Sam: 

Hey everyone, and welcome back for the week six update with your PEP Squad. We’ve got the full staff here today to do a little bit of an update on compensation and where we stand on House Bill 104. Todd, if you want to introduce it. 

Todd:

Last Friday the Executive Appropriations Committee met and they passed out the compensation bill, Senate Bill 8. Basically it approves the governor’s budget. That’s going to be a 3.5% across the board labor market increase. There’s also some additional funds for Public Safety, Corrections, State Hospital, and Developmental Center that are included in the bill, it’s just not part of the 3.5% and 2%. This is really exciting! So again, thank you for being a member and contacting your legislators.

In addition to compensation, House Bill 104 by Representative Christofferson passed out of the Senate committee last week. The change that was added to it is the guardrails we’ve talked about for the supervisors that become schedule AX. Originally, this is something that UPEA advocated for–to have something in there for terminations and suspensions. An amendment added demotions to this list. In the next couple of months, after the governor signs the bill, and because the funding was also approved on Friday for House Bill 104–a 5% increase if a supervisor elects to choose schedule AX– UPEA will be contacting the agency heads to see what their intent is as far as the guardrails for those employees. Like we’ve said before with DTS, when they converted to at-will status, they continued to use the exact same grievance procedure, the only difference is that those employees don’t have the option to go to the Career Service Review Office. The UPEA State Board wanted in statute something that would allow agencies to do that. By having it in statute and not just in rule mainly because it makes it a lot harder to change it when it becomes state code. Those guardrails we’re talking about–termination suspension and demotion–are in the bill. We look forward to communicating those changes with you in the next couple of months. If you have questions on that, feel free to give us a call, and one of the staff will be happy to answer those questions. Thank you. 

Kendle: 

Lastly, just a couple of updates for the final week of the session, we will be having our last virtual recruitment and information forum this Wednesday at noon. Be sure to come to that–we will probably have a pretty certain idea of how things are going to close out for the session. You can join and find all the information at the meeting. 

Lastly, we have extended the scholarship opportunity to March 10th. You now have a few extra days to apply if you weren’t able to get your application in earlier. Be sure to visit our website to learn more about the criteria for the scholarship application. 

Thank you so much for listening in during the session!

The squad closes out week five with a full recap of HB 104 – including how UPEA’s position changed as the bill progressed – before lobbyists spend the final two weeks returning focus to employee compensation as legislators begin making final budget decisions.

2022 Legislative Session – Week 6

Sam: 

Hey everyone, and welcome back for the week six update with your PEP Squad. We’ve got the full staff here today to do a little bit of an update on compensation and where we stand on House Bill 104. Todd, if you want to introduce it. 

Todd:

Last Friday the Executive Appropriations Committee met and they passed out the compensation bill, Senate Bill 8. Basically it approves the governor’s budget. That’s going to be a 3.5% across the board labor market increase. There’s also some additional funds for Public Safety, Corrections, State Hospital, and Developmental Center that are included in the bill, it’s just not part of the 3.5% and 2%. This is really exciting! So again, thank you for being a member and contacting your legislators.

In addition to compensation, House Bill 104 by Representative Christofferson passed out of the Senate committee last week. The change that was added to it is the guardrails we’ve talked about for the supervisors that become schedule AX. Originally, this is something that UPEA advocated for–to have something in there for terminations and suspensions. An amendment added demotions to this list. In the next couple of months, after the governor signs the bill, and because the funding was also approved on Friday for House Bill 104–a 5% increase if a supervisor elects to choose schedule AX– UPEA will be contacting the agency heads to see what their intent is as far as the guardrails for those employees. Like we’ve said before with DTS, when they converted to at-will status, they continued to use the exact same grievance procedure, the only difference is that those employees don’t have the option to go to the Career Service Review Office. The UPEA State Board wanted in statute something that would allow agencies to do that. By having it in statute and not just in rule mainly because it makes it a lot harder to change it when it becomes state code. Those guardrails we’re talking about–termination suspension and demotion–are in the bill. We look forward to communicating those changes with you in the next couple of months. If you have questions on that, feel free to give us a call, and one of the staff will be happy to answer those questions. Thank you. 

Kendle: 

Lastly, just a couple of updates for the final week of the session, we will be having our last virtual recruitment and information forum this Wednesday at noon. Be sure to come to that–we will probably have a pretty certain idea of how things are going to close out for the session. You can join and find all the information at the meeting. 

Lastly, we have extended the scholarship opportunity to March 10th. You now have a few extra days to apply if you weren’t able to get your application in earlier. Be sure to visit our website to learn more about the criteria for the scholarship application. 

Thank you so much for listening in during the session!

The PEP Squad breaks down week 4 of the 2022 Legislative Session. Tune in as the squad discusses a call of action to contact legislators on compensation and breaks down Public Employee Day on the Hill.

2022 Legislative Session – Week 4

Sam: 

Welcome back everyone to week four of the public employee podcast. We are here with the PEP squad- Hannah, Kendall, and myself. This is Sam. We had a pretty exciting week up at the capitol and we’re going to go through some bills and committees.

Hannah:

Great, thanks Sam. This is Hannah. I’m going to talk about the Executive Appropriations Committee, otherwise known as the EAC. In the past podcast episodes we’ve been talking a lot about the appropriation subcommittees. They meet the first few weeks of the session to put together their appropriation subcommittee budgets. Then they present those to the EAC. At this point the EAC has heard all the subcommittee budgets and now it’s up to the EAC to determine what they’re going to pass. The Executive Appropriations Committee is made up of House and Senate minority and majority leadership. Now Sam is going to talk about contacting legislators and what that all means in regards to compensation. 

Sam: 

Yes, so we’re moving into the next phase of the legislative session. We’ve spent the first couple of podcasts talking about important bills and now we’re really going to focus on compensation, and getting these salary increases to the top of priority lists. We’re asking once again for you to contact your legislators. We put out a lot of information about looking up your legislator, what to say to them, and how to build that relationship. We wanted to give a few talking points through this next phase. The most important thing to emphasize is compensation and supporting the governor’s budget, and the increases that he included in that budget. When you contact your legislators, specifically ask them to talk to leadership about these issues because they will have the biggest impact on making those happen. Contact your legislators and talk about the targeted hotspot funding in addition to the COLA, across the board increase. We want to see all of that funded this year. 

Kendle: 

If you haven’t already seen it, an email was sent out last Friday that had all of this information. As well as links to the targeted list, and a link to find your legislators. Go ahead and check your email if you haven’t already seen that and please call your representative, either me, Hannah, or Sam if you have any questions. We are happy to help you through that. If you aren’t getting the emails please let us know and send an email to kendle@upea.net. I will make sure you’re on that mailing list. 

Sam: 

We say this every time—when you’re contacting legislators make sure to do it on your own time and with your own resources so you don’t have any sort of conflict of interest issues arise from that. Thank you to everyone who has been contacting legislators. Being up at the capitol, we’ve already talked to a lot of representatives and senators who have referenced their constituents who are state employees reaching out about these issues. We’ve already felt the impact and we want to thank you for your efforts so far. Thanks to everyone who has already contacted their legislators and please continue to do so throughout these last three weeks of this session. It’s over the halfway point. Once the halfway point is reached compensation really starts rolling and things start happening quickly. 

Hannah: 

Keep an eye out for any updates. We should have more updates next Monday at the next squad episode. To segway into standing committees, Sam is gonna go ahead and talk about a bill.

Sam:

This past Friday we heard HB 233-Disability Benefit Amendments, sponsored by Representative King. He actually talked about this when he spoke to UPEA members at Public Employee Day on the Hill. He asked for our support on this bill. What it does is seek equity between physical and mental health disabilities. Right now, for PEHP, after two years of being on disability you have to show that it is a solely physical condition that is causing you to need disability. Representative King would like to expand that to mental health conditions as well. A lot of people who have a physical disability and after being on disability for two years, a lot of times a mental health issue arises or was there the whole time. It’s really difficult to prove that it’s only a physical medical condition that is causing you to need disability after two years. Some people are on it purely for a mental health reason as well. He would like to see that continue after two years. He tried to run this bill a couple years ago and they got hung up on the fiscal note. He’s worked it out with PEHP. PEHP recommended the first substitute which makes this bill into a pilot program. Essentially, they will test it out for three years to figure out the numbers and what the financial impact is. Then hopefully make it a permanent thing. We’ll keep you up to date on that. It was passed out of committee with a favorable recommendation which was unanimous. And Todd spoke in favor of the bill as well. 

Hannah: 

Thanks Sam. Now we’re going to talk about HB 12 1st Substitute—Public Safety Retirement Amendments sponsored by Representative Gwynn. Representative Gwynn tried to run this bill last year as HB 150. It got held up in the Rules Committee. This bill is an amendment to the current Tier II retirement which prevents those in public safety from retiring and coming back to work until after one year for a URS entity. There have been a lot of recruitment and retention issues within public safety. This bill is trying to figure out a way to help solve that problem. What they want to do is by allowing experienced officers to come back, they’ll be able to work in smaller agencies and help fill the gaps that public safety is experiencing. What happened last year is the bill was presented as HB 150 and it was held up in rules and then they approved it as an interim study item. It came out of the interim committee unanimously and Representative Gwynn has continued to work with stakeholders. The bill actually now has a number of cosponsors and it’s been getting a lot of positive communication about it. What this bill does is it outlines the criteria for a public safety official to come back and work for a URS entity after retirement. They passed an amendment to it. There must be a clear separation of employment for 90 days and an employee who does retire cannot negotiate employment prior to retiring into that same position. Previously there’s been a lot of concern about double dipping and figuring out this whole process. The criteria clearly lays out what has to happen to come back and work for a URS entity after 90 days. This bill also passed with a favorable recommendation and has been getting a lot of positive communication about it. It is now going to go to the house floor for a vote. We’ll keep you updated on what happens with the bill.

Sam:

Awesome. Another very exciting thing that happened last week was Public Employee Day on the HIll. It’s been an annual event, but obviously we couldn’t do it during COVID because we were completely virtual throughout the last session. It was really exciting to get back up on the hill with our members and have them be a part of the political process and also see a day in the life of a UPEA lobbyist. The event went really well. We started the day in the capitol boardroom which is a very fancy room on the main floor of the capitol. We had breakfast catered, and our executive director, Todd Losser, spoke to all of the members in attendance on different bills that were going up this session and gave them an update. Then a UPEA lobbyist and former legislator, Kory Holdaway, spoke about contacting your legislators, things to say and how to address them. He also facilitated introducing legislators as they came through. We had quite a few people come in and speak and answer questions from members which was really awesome to see. Special thank you to Representative Welton, Senator Riebe, Senator Harper, Representative Wilcox, Representative King, Senator Owens, Representative Snyder, and Representative Judson’s. Thank you to them. After we heard from legislators, we went to the House of Representatives gallery. Representative Dunnigan requested a personal privilege to acknowledge the association and association members in attendance. He thanked them for their work and participation in the legislative process. They all stood and got applause which was really nice to see acknowledgement for everything that public employees do for Utah. After the floortime, Representative Dunnigan escorted the group to the majority caucus room and talked to everyone. One on one he asked what agency they worked for and made it really personal which was very special and nice to see. After Representative Dunnigan, we had some members accompany the UPEA staff up to the house and the senate floor. We pulled their legislators and they got to hand deliver the cards that we addressed during the breakfast section of the day. We had a couple people come out and get to talk to their legislators face to face which was great. 

Hannah: 

After floor time, we had a bit of a lunch break and then we got to go on a capitol tour hosted by a volunteer from the Capital Preservation Office. This is something that UPEA staff have never done either. It was really awesome to go through the capitol, and learn some history. We got to see the Utah Supreme Court office which none of us have ever been to. We learned that it’s only open one day a year. It was just a really unique time. We also went down into the basement to learn about how the capitol has been prepared for an earthquake so that was also interesting. It was a great way to end the day. After the capitol tour, a few of our members went with staff to attend a standing committee meeting where we had a bill up that afternoon.

Sam: 

It was really exciting for them to see Todd speak in favor of the bill. That’s a pretty cool experience for people who haven’t been up at the capitol before. We had about 40 members attend which was really great, and a lot of those people stayed for the entire day. Thank you to everyone who attended and made it a successful event. 

Kendle: 

We have our next recruitment and information forum this upcoming Wednesday. Feel free to invite nonmembers to the forum. Anyone who joins gets three months of free membership and if you are listed as their recruiter as an existing member then you will get a $50 recruitment incentive. It is a great time to join so be sure to encourage your coworkers. We also have the bill tracker that’s still live on our website. It has all of the bills that we are tracking as well as the status, and where they’re at in the process. You can follow those bills if you are interested and contact your UPEA representatives with any questions that you have. Lastly we have our scholarship program. It’s a great program, and it’s one of my favorite things that UPEA does. I can’t wait to read through all of the applications that we get this year and select our three winners. 

I think that’s all we have for this week, but thank you so much for listening. We have so much fun making these episodes and we are so happy to be able to provide all this information to you in an easy way to listen to each week. Thank you for joining us and we will see you in the next episode for week five. 

Tune in as the Squad recaps WEEK THREE of the 2022 Legislative Session.

Tune in as the Squad recaps week two of the 2022 Legislative Session and shares all of the twists and turns that came with it!

Season 2, Episode 4: 2022 Legislative Session – WEEK TWO

Todd:
This is Todd, Executive Director, of the Utah Public Employees’ Association. Welcome back to the PEP Squad. We are going to be talking about week two of the legislative session. First off we had HB 104 by Representative Christofferson. That is the career service bill. The bill came up on Thursday. UPEA had working with Representative Christofferson, trying to get some type of language in there so that there would be guardrails for supervisors. Basically what happened was because the guardrails were rejected and not put in like other states have (according to the audit that was done in October) the sponsor of the bill went ahead and substituted the bill. He proposed a substitute bill that would have made all state employees at will. UPEA testified against a substitute bill that would have made all state employees at will and that bill was not adopted by the committee. The House Government Operations committee then passed the original bill which was to make supervisors at will. Talking with members of the committee, UPEA is still going forward trying to give some type of guardrails for supervisors. What this comes down to is that it’s been done in other states and there’s really not a reason why it can’t happen here. That’s where UPEA is at on Christofferson’s bill. What’s going to happen now is that it will go to the house floor, and if it passes the house floor it will move on to the senate. Right now UPEA is working on language and getting something to Representative Christofferson. Thank you for everyone that contacted their legislators. A lot of legislators did talk about how they did hear from state employees regarding the bill and hopefully we can come up with something that puts some protections around supervisors.

Also going on this this past week, we have a kind of unique pay program for law enforcement officers in the state. It’s mainly DPS and Department of Corrections. Those law enforcement officers have a pay plan identified in their agency and we have some officers at DNR that don’t have one. The Wildlife Resource Officers have a major compression problem and they’re pretty much getting left out as far as law enforcement goes and funding on compensation. Representative Ryan Wilcox is requesting that money with an appropriation through the Executive Office of Criminal Justice to fund a plan for DWR officers. We’ll see where that goes for them and try and get something so that they can stay on par with Department of Corrections. Those are kind of the two biggest issues that that UPEA was working on this week. There were numerous other committees that staff attended regarding budget hearings as well as different bills that have been introduced in standing committees. I’ll have them go ahead and talk about.

Sam:
This is Sam. One of the committees that I sat in on was the Business, Economic, Development and Labor subcommittee. It was a pretty quiet week as far as things to do with state employees. The Department of Financial Institution, the Department of Culture and Community Engagement both presented. There were a lot of requests for appropriations from different programs that had been cut in some sort of way during the pandemic. But nothing too relevant to state employees.

Kendle:
Kendle here. I covered the Executive Office of Criminal Justice Appropriations Committee. They’ve had four meetings so far. They have had a lot of compensation requests and just in their entire base budget all of the entities – including the Attorney General, Corrections, Public Safety, and Courts – their number one request was for compensation. It’s a huge issue and all of them highlighted the recruitment and retention problems that they’ve been having. If you want to look at any of these full base budgets they’ll all be linked on our website. We won’t go through all the exact numbers but ty all of these agencies that I listed did have compensation requests that the committee will look at and prioritize in the coming weeks.

Hannah:
This is Hannah. My two committees this week heavily focused on employee compensation and will go over each of them. The Infrastructure and General Government committee during this week heard from the Department of Government Operations which houses 1300 state employees. This department was created last session in SB 181 and consolidated DTS, DHRM, DAS, and other divisions into one bigger department. The reason for this is to provide services to employees within state government and to make sure that this is streamlined and more efficient. The director of the department emphasized the recruitment and retention issues that the state is facing. She talked about the independent market study done by Gallagher this year and really stressed to the committee that from 2019 to 2021 highly competitive jobs have decreased within the state and Tier 2 employees more closely aligned with the private sector than ever before. As well as most employees are now Tier 2 with 26% of employees now being retirement eligible. The committee did respond to this recognizing that they’ve been hearing these issues in other committees they serve on. She also addressed that as part of recruitment and retention Gallagher advised that any positions who are 50% or more below market receive an increase and so that’s referencing the targeted funding list that we have sent out and have on our website. It is also included in the governor’s budget. The other main points she made during her presentation is that they want to see pay ranges increased for finance employees because of recruitment issues. DTS also presented, really emphasizing that technology is out of date in the state and that they need new services and new technology to make sure that they are providing the best services to the executive branch. DHRM also presented this week as they’re part of DGO. This was interesting because they have been very involved with HB 104 so they did talk a lot about the bill because house bill 104 creates a pay for performance plan and if that bill is passed, they will oversee implementing that. They are asking for 6 FTEs who will be responsible for the development, implementation, and ongoing training related to pay for performance. They also mentioned that they are requesting the incentive to move to at will provided in HB 104. It was interesting to get this whole presentation from their perspective on the bill.

Then my next committee is the Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environmental Quality. This week they heard from the Department of Agriculture and Food Administration. They are asking for funds for financial support staff. They really emphasize that their staff is stretched thin and they need additional support staff to meet the findings and recommendations of an audit that was done. The Division of Animal Industry also emphasized the request for targeted funding for their meat inspectors. They are having significant problems of staffing and really need a wage increase to make sure that the state can support the needs. We also heard from the Division of Forestry, Fire, and Lands who are asking for targeted salary increases. As well as the Division of Wildlife Resources also asked for employee compensation and looking to tie performance to wage increases in the future. Then the Division of Recreation is also asking for money for staffing. Really I think the common thing we’re hearing across all of our appropriations subcommittees is the emphasis on the need for increased funding to support employees and compensation.

Kendle:
Lastly we have the Social Services Appropriations Committee which has the largest budget out of all appropriations committees. It meets every single day. For compensation they have had huge requests, the biggest being the direct care providers or direct care workers in the State Hospital and the Developmental Center. They are severely below market and vacancies extremely increased over the past few years. They need additional funds to address the recruitment and retention and also to recognize the employees that have stayed there for so long. DWS also asked for funding in addition to their targeted positions on the list, additional funding to address their recruitment and retention issues for their employees. I think that’s all that’s come from that committee.

Sam:
We are going to talk about some bills that went into standing committees over the past week. SB 63 is Bereavement Leave Amendments. This was sponsored by Senator Harper. It amends the bereavement leave benefit to include the loss of a child due to miscarriage or still birth. Three days would be included for those people as well. We actually have a clip of Kendle speaking on behalf of UPEA.

Kendle:
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and members of the committee. My name is Kendle, and I am here on behalf of the Utah Public Employees Association. UPEA supports any enhancements to public employee benefits and we understand that it’s a very important issue. We wanted to thank Senator Harper for his work on this bill and encourage the committee to pass it out with a favorable recommendation. Thank you.  

Sam:
Another bill that went up this past week is SB 100 Paid Leave Modifications by Senator Weiler. This bill allows for three weeks of paid leave for the birth of the employee’s child, the adoption of a minor child, or the appointment of legal guardianship of a minor child. This is really exciting. UPEA has been working on different forms of paid parental leave for many years and last year we were able to get three weeks of postpartum recovery passed. This would be three weeks of additional paid leave if they do use that part of recovery benefit. It would be offered to both parents so not just the birth parent. This is really exciting to see and I actually spoke in favor of this bill and we have a clip of that as well.

Committee, my name is Sam Unruh. I’m here on behalf of the Utah Public Employees Association to testify in support of this bill. Providing paid parental leave would further the concept of work life balance, as well as enhance the total compensation package for state employees at this critical time. We’ve heard this session already that recruitment, retention, and turnover have been major agency obstacles. SB 100 provides an opportunity to attract quality employees for long term employment with the state and we ask that you pass it with a favorable recommendation. Thank you.

It was a pretty exciting week for just week two. We had a lot going on, a lot of bills, and a little controversy. We do have some things coming up. Public Employee Day on the Hill is February 9th. That’s a Wednesday. All the information is on our website and we are asking for RSVP’s because we will be providing breakfast. This day will be a great opportunity for you to come up to the capitol and see first-hand the work that UPEA is doing for you. It is a great opportunity to get some face time with legislators, thank them for the work they’re doing for employees, and also bring your concerns to them. We hope to see you there! Feel free to email me if you have any questions. My email is sam@upea.net. Something else that happened actually this past week was our first weekly Recruitment and Information forum. It was held virtually last Wednesday and we had a great turn out. We had probably more than 30 people at one point listening in. We talked about UPEA as an association and the benefits of membership. Then we also gave an update on how the week was going, how the legislative session has been going thus far. Thank you so much for everyone who participated. We had members and non-members show up. Come back every week for those updates. It’s a great way to get out information and ask questions. We will be doing that next Wednesday. Keep an eye out for an email on that. Another resource that we have for our members this session is the bill tracker. That’s up on our website. Kendle’s been doing an amazing job at staying up to date on all the bills, whether or not we support them, and any language changes that that comes through. That’s another thing that you can follow along with. Lastly just with all the excitement of the week, like Todd said, we want to thank everyone for reaching out to their legislators and to the members of the committee about HB 104.  We saw first hand that has an impact. Legislators brought up those emails that they received so thank you for doing that and please continue to do that! It makes our jobs a little bit easier and gives us a more power here at the capitol. If you need any help sending those emails or letters please reach out to your reps and we have a lot of resources on our website as well. That’s all we’ve got for you this week. Stay tuned for next week!

Things are already heating up on Capitol Hill! Tune in as the squad recaps what’s happened since Utah’s House and Senate members began their first meetings last Tuesday, January 18, 2022.

Season 2, Episode 3

Kendle: Hey everybody welcome back! I can’t believe we’re already done with the first week of the session. We are down in the basement of the capital right now, so sorry for a little bit of background noise. We’re still in the thick of it and wanted to give you an update on what’s happening so far.

Todd: Hey everyone, this is Todd Losser, executive director of UPEA, and I just wanted to let you all know the process of the legislative session. Right now what’s going on is we have appropriations subcommittees. These meetings are where state agencies come into different committees and talk about their budget requests and how agencies are spending the money. They discuss new programs and request money for employees. The staff are going to talk about those and we’ve had a week’s worth of the appropriations committees. They’ll go into detail and then we also have standing committees going on at the same time. Those committees are where if a legislature has a bill they want to pass, they have to go through standing committees. The standing committees have been meeting on bills. I don’t think any bill have gone through the House and Senate yet but they’re going through pretty quickly. That’s throughout the entire session whereas the appropriation committees meet typically about six times and after those committees the Executive Appropriations Committee will meet and they typically will adopt the committee reports and from there what happens is in February there will be revenue forecasts and the governor and House leadership and Senate leadership will get together towards the end of February and they will come out with a budget. That budget will be presented at the Executive Appropriations Committee typically the last week of the session and included in that is state employee compensation. We won’t know exactly what’s going to happen until the end of the session, but there will be that gap from now until late February or the first part of March. Really compensation comes down to House and Senate leadership along with the governor’s office. They meet several times a week and hammer out compensation. It’s kind of a long process but goes fast. There are still weeks until we get there. That’s how the budget works. The staff are now going to talk about their subcommittees and we’re going to have Sam go first.

Sam: Hi everyone, this is Sam. This week I sat in on the business and labor appropriation subcommittee and I heard from the Tax Commission, the Department of Insurance, the Labor Commission, and DABC. Overall, I heard a lot of support from department heads for the COLA and the targeted funding recommendations that are included in the governor’s budget. I also heard a lot of asks to reinstate funds and full-time employee positions that were cut back early pandemic days. DABC also presented today and they highlighted the essential workers who’ve been showing up every day during the pandemic dealing with supply chain issues and labor shortages. They’ve already seen some improvements with their recruitment based on the increase from last year so that was really awesome to hear. They’re also working on addressing retention problems that they’ve had. They sent out their first ever employee engagement survey to get some feedback and they’re also starting to implement training for part time employees who want to have some career growth and work full time.

Todd: Thank you! And then we’re going to go to Kendall who is going to talk about criminal justice and what’s happening there.

Kendle: I staff the Executive Office in Criminal Justice appropriation subcommittee. This one covers Department of Corrections, Public Safety, and Juvenile Justice Services. They have a pretty wide spread across agencies and they’ve only had really one full meeting so far. They still have a lot to cover but they’ve already gone over compensation and how important it is. Just last year, Corrections and all of their agencies, asked for compensation and they all expressed that is one of their biggest issues. Now it’s just really on the forefront. It’s been mentioned several times already that compensation is a huge priority in this committee. They did clarify that they have a line item and positions included in the targeted funding and they can also add positions that are added with additional funding to that list. They clarified that and talked about that option. Now after the agencies do their presentations and make their requests, they can add those to their building blocks.

Todd: Excellent. Alright, so now we’re going to have Hannah go over the Natural Resources Agriculture and Environmental Quality appropriation subcommittee.

Hannah: The Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environmental Quality committee started out by doing an in-depth overview of the subcommittee, going through what they are going to be discussing. During the meeting we heard from the Department of Natural Resources administration and the Utah Geological Survey. Throughout the next few weeks, this committee will be hearing from different agencies such as Public Lands Policy Coordination Office, Forestry, Fire and State Lands, Wildlife Resources, Environmental Quality, and Oil, Gas and Mining. We’ll have lots of updates as they go through this and also as they do request for appropriations.

Todd: Great, thank you! Now we’re going to have Sam and Kendall talk about social services. Alright, it’s just going to be Kendall talking about social services.

Kendle: Sam and I are both staffing this committee because it is the largest budget out of all appropriations subcommittees. It is really widespread, and it covers the Department of Workforce Services and Human Services that is now the combined DHS Health and Human services. They have so much to cover and they are just barely dipping in. They’ve already gone through the importance of compensation and they had a presentation from DHRM and the State Auditor’s office. They talked about the issues that all of these agencies are facing—the compensation, recruitment, and retention. They also mentioned that all of these agencies have positions listed on the targeted funding list and they also have the option of adding funding if the committee chooses to do so in their building blocks. As the committee hears agency presentations they will talk about those options and adding additional funding.

Todd: Great, thank you. Alright, so now we’re going to talk about standing committees. And Hannah has one more Appropriations Committee.

Hannah: The Infrastructure and General Government committee met today on Friday and heard from the Utah Department of Transportation. Through this presentation, there were a few more FT’s that they are requesting to help address growing needs and bring work in house to get expertise in the agency. Their presentation also shows support for the three and a half percent cost of living adjustment and targeted increases that is proposed in the governor’s budget.

Todd: Alright, sorry about that Hannah. Good job. Alright, so I think that does it for our appropriation committees and now we’re going to talk about a couple bills that are moving through the standing committees. We’re going to start with the public employees insurance plan amendments by Representative Jim Dunnigan and Sam is going to talk about that one.

Sam: UPEA spoke in favor of House Bill 66, Public Employees Insurance Plan Amendments which was sponsored by Representative Dunnigan. This bill requires PEHP to discontinue the preferred network for the state risk pool, and it really only effects a very small number of state employees. Chet Loftis actually presented for the UPEA advisory committee a couple weeks ago, and just talked about how this is really the best way moving forward. It seems this change will save PEHP money, and actually saves the state employees who are on that plan a lot of money as well.

Kendle: About $2100 a year.

Sam: How he framed it is a lot of employees think that it’s the most expansive and it covers all the hospitals so it must be the best plan, when in reality you have access to the hospitals you need through the other plans, and you can actually switch plans once a year if you need to so there’s really not a big reason for keeping this plan around. Like I said, it’ll save the state and those employees who are on the plan a lot of money so we spoke in support of this.

Todd: Excellent, thank you. If one of our members is on the preferred plan and they switched to one of the others—summit or advantage—and there is some type of issue, please contact UPEA. We will give you Chet Loftis’s cell phone number and you can give him a call and he will help you out. Chet let us know if there’s any issues he will work with the member, he’s promised to make sure this is going to go smoothly. Great, thank you Sam. Alright, we’re going to have Kendall talk about SB96, Correctional Officer Eligibility Amendments by Senator Jani Iwamoto.

Kendle: Quick overview, this was heard in committee this week. We are supportive of this bill. It allows people the minimum age of 18 to go through the training to become law enforcement officers. It helps to address their retention and recruitment issues by agencies opening that recruitment pool to younger individuals.

Todd: Perfect, thank you. Alright, I’m going to talk about HB 104 which is the State Employee Amendments bill by Representative Christofferson. This career service bill, where Representative Christofferson wants to have all supervisors become at will. This is an issue that we have been working on since last March. Since April I think we’ve had like 50 different meetings, maybe 60 different meetings, with different players that are involved with this. UPEA’s association believes and supports the career service system and believes in its importance because that is what protects you as an employee. If you are being disciplined, this this gives you the opportunity to tell management your side of the story. The concern with the bill is the deletion of the system. It’s been a lot of meetings, and well it’s been interesting because there was a follow-up audit on the career service system in October to the original audit that was done in 2011. This follow-up audit had the auditors go through and look at other states that had gone completely at will. What’s interesting is that these states actually have a process that’s defined for at will employees so that they can grieve disciplinary actions. UPEA’s biggest concern right now is that at will employees will not have a grievance process to tell their side of the story and be represented. Going forward, the bill has been numbered, and it will be read in the house during the standing committee, possibly next week, we will see. I’ve got a meeting with Representative Christofferson this afternoon, this Friday, and will outline those concerns that came out of the audit. We all know HR represents management they don’t represent the employee and that goes for a supervisor. Supervisors should be able to go to someone in management that’s not their immediate supervisor and say hey, I’m being disciplined, it’s wrong, and here are the facts. The way it’s been outlined to UPEA is that at will employees would not have that protection in that it’s guaranteed that the agency could come up with their different rules on what they want to follow but they don’t have to. That’s the biggest concern—right now that an employee at will doesn’t have a say in their disciplinary action. I will keep you apprised of what’s going on with that. In addition, just real quick, we as UPEA staff are working with Representative Wilcox with our DWR officers. They’ve been left behind as far as law enforcement goes. You look at corrections, you look at public safety, DWR doesn’t have any career ladder like those agencies and they have major compression problems. Working to correct that and get them something that will be similar to other agencies. It’s been a really busy week and it’ll be busy every week. So stay tuned. We’ll be doing this every Friday.

Sam: One thing we want to keep going through the legislative session is our recruitment, so we’re going to start doing weekly virtual recruitment forums and use these forums as a way to let people know about the work UPEA is doing and also give updates on the legislative session. We want our members to attend and bring your nonmember coworkers. Something exciting we’re doing this session for recruitment is new members get three months of free membership so bring your nonmember coworkers. You can also ask questions about what’s going on this session and we hope to see you there!

Todd: Cool, thank you Sam. Alright Hannah are we good?

Hannah: We’re good. Thanks everyone for tuning in and we’ll see you next week!

Join the squad as they discuss UPEA’s Legislative Package and some important things to know leading up to the 2022 General Session.

The Squad is back with more legislative updates, UPEA info, prize giveaways, and technical difficulties — we are excited to announce Season 2 of the Public Employee Podcast!

CONTACT US:

801-264-8732

1000 W. Bellwood Ln

Murray, UT. 84107

More from UPEA:

UPEA Statewide Event at Cross E Ranch
This is default text for notification bar