Christie Workman Elected to Serve as Second Vice President

Christie Workman will serve as the Utah Public Employees’ Association’s (UPEA’s) new Second Vice President for the 2020-2021 term. Her key platform issue was recruiting and retaining quality public employees by increasing total compensation.

“Recruiting and retaining employees is important and my goal as Second Vice President is to increase public employee pay. As a member of UPEA’s State Board, I helped create and support the initiative to increase pay by 5%. Let’s work together to educate legislators, policymakers, and our coworkers about the importance of UPEA and the work the association does to advocate and protect the rights of public employees.”

She added, “I will also recognize, promote, and support the retirees of UPEA. Retired members are a valuable asset and provide working members with institutional knowledge and access to their experience. Retirees are a strong voice for public employees and make UPEA better.”

Christie currently serves on the State Board (pictured), Advisory Council, Mountainlands District Leadership, and Chairs the General Council Committee. She looks forward to working with current leadership and to serving UPEA members as Second Vice President.

Christie will serve the coming term alongside fellow UPEA officers, Lori Benton (President), Dennis Kay (First Vice President), and Deb McBride (Past President).

Legislators Approve 5% Compensation Package Including COLA and Hot Spot Funding

On Friday, March 6, 2020, the Executive Appropriations Standing Committee approved a 3% COLA for state employees with an additional 2% for Targeted “Hot Spot” Funding. The Committee also approved funding to cover the employer’s share for the $6.8 million public employee health insurance increase.

Over the past year, the Governor’s Office has worked with DHRM and agency leadership to compile a list of Discretionary and Targeted Compensation Increases by Agency; these are positions within the state that are substantially below-market. Gov. Herbert included funding equivalent to a 1% General Increase, or roughly $7.5 million, to fund this list in his FY 2021 budget recommendations. During each session, legislators may adopt, amend, or dismiss the recommendations for targeted compensation. This year, the Executive Appropriations Committee has doubled the Governor’s recommendation and approved a 2% targeted compensation increase. This appropriations also includes funding for the next year in the Certified Officer Career Plan.

Prior to the 2020 Legislative Session, the Governor’s budget included a 2.5% increase for state employee compensation.  Despite the restricted budget, your support in contacting your legislators ensured that state employee compensation was prioritized and resulted in increased funding.

Over the past several weeks, UPEA staff has been speaking with Senators and Representatives individually to encourage their support for a substantial pay increase; however, assistance from our members has been critical in the success of this bill. Numerous legislators told UPEA staff that they had heard from their constituents about the importance of this funding. We appreciate all of our members that were willing to help in this effort.

Please take the time to thank your legislator for their support in making state employees a priority.

Pilot Program for New Parents to Bring Infants to Work Moves Forward

On Friday, March 6, Representative Stephanie Pitcher, D-Millcreek, presented 3rd Sub. H.B. 264Infant at Work Pilot Program in the Senate Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Committee. This pilot program would allow eligible employees of the Department of Health to bring their infant to the workplace for the first six months of their life or until they become mobile. In order to be eligible, employees must have been employed by the Department for a minimum of 12 consecutive months. The infant must be at least six weeks of age and no more than six months of age. The parent must be the biological or adoptive parent of an infant or foster caregivers.

The results of the one-year pilot program will be reported back to the Business and Labor Interim Committee. Depending on the program’s success, this policy may be expanded to other state agencies in the future.

The Utah Public Employees’ Association supports H.B. 264 and spoke in favor of the bill. Christy Berk testified, stating, “[Our members] see this as a great option and added benefit for new parents and those who want to have children in the future. This benefit, if expanded, could help address the extreme recruitment and retention challenges felt throughout the state.”

3rd Sub. H.B. 264 passed out of committee with a favorable recommendation and will move to the Senate floor for a second reading. If you have questions about the bill, please reach out to UPEA.

 

Reduced Paid Parental Leave Benefit Passes First Committee Hearing

1st Sub. S.B. 207Paid Leave Amendments sponsored by Sen. Todd Weiler, R- Woods Cross, was heard on Thursday, March 5. The original bill included 3 weeks of paid leave for both mothers and fathers for the birth or adoption of a child and an additional 3 weeks of paid medical leave for birth mothers. However, due to the high fiscal note of $2.4 million in on-going funds, the bill was substituted for a lower benefit option of 3 weeks (120 hours) of paid postpartum leave for birth mothers. Click here to see the detailed fact sheet.

1st Sub. S.B. 207 proposes an alternative benefit option from past bills in attempt to identify the specific impacts and benefits to the state. If passed, this bill serves as a starting point for paid parental leave in the state. UPEA Representative, Kendle Zdunich, testified in favor of the bill stating, “Providing paid maternity leave would further the concept of work/life balance as well as enhance the total compensation package for state employees during a critical time. Employee recruitment, retention, and turnover have been stated as agency obstacles this year more than ever before. S.B. 207 provides an opportunity to attract quality employees, especially those in the reduced Tier II retirement plan, for long-term employment with the state.

We recognize the budget constraints the legislature is faced with this year; however, we’ve received very enthusiastic feedback from our membership about this potential benefit and we ask that the committee to pass out S.B. 207 with a favorable recommendation.”

Certain PEHP Members May See a Premium Rebate and Additional Benefit Options

On March 3, 2020, Senator Fillmore, R-South Jordan, proposed SCR 10 – Concurrent Resolution on State Employee Benefits and Providing a Refund from the State Health Insurance Pool. He explained to the members of the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee that the resolution has two parts.

Part 1: reimburses excess funds held in in the state health insurance pool.

The resolution requests returning the surplus funds generated by the Public Employee Health Plan to be distributed to State employers and employees. The fund has exceeded the recommended reserve amount, making it possible to return 92% of the excess funds to employers, and 8% to employees.

Part 2: increases the salaries of employees who choose not to receive PEHP benefits.

SCR 10 also creates another benefit option to provide more flexibility in how employees choose to be compensated. Currently, employees have the option of ‘benefits’ or ‘no benefits’ from the total health benefit package. This resolution creates an option for employees to receive a salary increase in lieu of PEHP coverage if they already have health insurance coverage, i.e. from their partner or a different employer. In this option, the employee receives $2,000 for single coverage or $4,000 for family coverage each fiscal year; dispersed in equal payments each payroll period that year.

UPEA will continue tracking this bill as it moves through the legislative process.

 

 

Resolution Seeks to Expand the Use of Income Tax Revenue

The tax structure of Utah has changed over time causing fiscal and budgetary constraints on the General Fund. The rescinding of the Tax Reform bill, which aimed to address these changes, presented lawmakers with the challenge of deciding how to appropriate the scarce money in the General Fund. UPEA lobbyists have spent the 2020 Legislative Session advocating for state employee compensation to be made a priority even with the constraints.

Although UPEA has garnered wide legislative support for a 5% COLA for state employees, legislators have made it clear; unless additional funding is allocated to the General Fund, there is not enough money to fund a long overdue substantial increase.

On March 5th, 2020 Senator McCay proposed 1st Substitute SJR9 Proposal to Amend Utah Constitution – Use of Tax Revenue to the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee. This resolution would help to address the General Fund budgetary restraints by transferring some tax income revenue to the General Fund to support social programs for children and people with disabilities.

UPEA Executive Director Todd Losser spoke in favor of the bill stating, “the budget issues are real, and [they’re] real for our members”. If revenue is reallocated it would present UPEA with more lobbying opportunities for state employees.