UPEA Secures Largest Total Compensation Package in 15 Years

Utah Public Employees' Association

2022 Legislative Session

UPEA Secures the Largest Total Compensation Package in Over Fifteen Years

On Friday, February 25, the Executive Appropriations Committee held their final meeting to review the official revenue estimates and finalize funding items for the upcoming fiscal year. The committee voted to approve the Governor’s compensation recommendations, including:

Furthermore, the committee approved additional funding for numerous bills and agency requests to address employee recruitment and retention issues and remain competitive in the current job market.

This is the largest total compensation package in over 15 years. UPEA wants to thank members for contacting their legislators regarding compensation throughout the session – your voice makes a major difference in UPEA’s lobbying efforts. 

1st Sub. SB 8, State Agency & Higher Education Compensation Appropriations, received unanimous approval in the House and Senate during the final week of the session.

Full Summary of the Career Service System & H.B. 104

Career Service System & HB 104

Click the tabs below to learn more about recent legislation pertaining to Utah’s Career Service System.

UPEA was instrumental in establishing Utah’s Career Service System in 1965. Merit-based employment is vital to most categories of state workers because it prevents a “spoils system” under which politicians award government jobs as political favors and fire employees as political retribution.  Utah’s Career Service System ensures a stable, high-quality workforce that operates equitably and free of political coercion.

Utah’s career service system, also known as the merit system, protects the jobs of nearly two-thirds of state employees by guaranteeing rights of due process and equality in the workplace. The system guarantees fair compensation, retention based on performance, and access to a speedy grievance process. Dismantling or altering the career service system changes employment status to at-will and removes these protections.. At-will status means an agency can dismiss an employee without warning as long as the termination did not violate state or federal law.

During the third week of the 2021 Legislative Session, Representative Kay Christofferson (R-Lehi) released House Bill 280, State Employee Amendments, without prior communication with UPEA. The bill sought to transition any position responsible for supervising one or more employee(s) to the newly created Schedule AX (at-will) status. If the original bill had passed, existing employees in the affected positions had until May 5, 2021 to either maintain their career service status (Schedule B) or convert to career service exempt status (Schedule AX). 

Shortly after HB 280 was made public, UPEA came out in opposition to the bill. Lobbyists spoke with legislative leadership and representatives from the governor’s office to express their concerns regarding the negative impact this legislation would have on state employees. 

Before the session concluded, the sponsor drafted a substitute bill creating a task force of stakeholders to discuss state employee issues, including performance management, pay-for-performance, employee retention/turnover, and the career service system. UPEA was included in this task force along with members of the legislature, the governor’s staff, and other interested parties. UPEA supported the first substitute, however, there was not enough time for the bill to be heard or substituted before the end of the session.

During the 2021 interim, Rep. Christofferson created a work group which included representatives from DHRM, the State Auditor’s Office, the Governor’s Office, and UPEA. Over the course of the interim, UPEA staff met numerous times with all of the various stakeholders. In one of these meetings, Representative Christofferson stated his motivation for transitioning state employees to Schedule AX status is to “modernize the workforce” and eliminate poor performers that he believes agencies are unable to terminate. This comment spurred UPEA to create an internal task force to talk directly to members about what modernizing the state workforce looks like to them. 

UPEA’S INTERNAL TASKFORCE

UPEA’s internal task force convened to discuss and research state employee career service status, performance management, compensation, and the grievance process. The UPEA task force outlined their meeting process and recommendations regarding the following items:

  • Hiring and Promotion Process
  • Performance Management
  • Grievance Process and Corrective Action

Click here to review UPEA’s  task force recommendations. 

UPEA brought these findings to the stakeholder work group with the hopes of drafting a new, public employee friendly bill. Rep. Christofferson adopted many of the recommendations from the task force; however, he was not willing to remove the portion of the bill that transitioned supervisors to Schedule AX.

COMMUNICATION WITH THE GOVERNOR’S OFFICE

The UPEA State Board of Directors expressed concerns about eliminating career service protections for supervisors. On September 15, 2021, the State Board sent a letter to Governor Cox asking for his position regarding at-will and career service employment.  The letter to Governor Cox also stated, “These protections are in place to protect against political influence, safeguard fair hiring and termination practices, and preserve an employee’s ability to grieve an adverse job action.”

The governor’s office replied to the letter, stating that Governor Cox “understands that these discussions are central in the lives of many thousands of employees working on behalf of Team Utah and wants to communicate that our administration will continue to work alongside [UPEA] collaboratively and in good faith.  We know that the work being done is helping to modernize our workforce and deliver a strong employee value proposition to our workforce. As this bill develops and the conversation continues, our senior representatives will carry forth the governor’s collaborative spirit, making sure to keep us apprised of developments continuously.” This response, and Governor Cox’s $6 million budget recommendation to incentivize supervisors opting into schedule AX, confirmed the administration’s intent to support H.B. 104. 

SPONSOR MEETS WITH UPEA STATE BOARD

Rep. Christofferson and members of the workgroup offered to meet with the State Board. This meeting took place at the UPEA office on October 7, 2021. Rep. Christofferson stated he would like to run legislation for supervisors to have the option of moving from Schedule B (career service) to Schedule AX (at-will).  The option would be a voluntary election for current supervisors – new supervisors would be hired solely as Schedule AX employees. 

The UPEA board expressed concern on eroding the career service system and committed to continue working on the bill to protect due process rights. – check with Angie to see what the board decided.

In November 2021, the Office of the Legislative Auditor General released An In-Depth Follow-Up of the State’s Career Service System. The audit was a follow-up to an audit done in 2010 and addressed the lack of training for supervisors and recommendations from the previous audit were not fully implemented or considered. The audit revealed private entities and other at-will states have guardrails in place to provide protections and processes for their at-will employees.

House Bill 104 aimed to make all supervisory positions at-will through attrition and incentivizing current employees to forfeit their schedule B status for a 5% salary increase before FY23. The bill defined supervisors as anyone who administers a performance evaluation. The bill also included updates to the performance management software, created mandatory training for managers, established a system for performance based pay and streamlined the grievance process. 

UPEA POSITION

UPEA met with the sponsor of the bill, DHRM, and other stakeholders to voice concern over exempting specific employees from the career service system. In good faith, UPEA proposed substitute language to include limited guardrails in state code for schedule AX employees facing termination.

Rep. Christofferson rejected the proposed language and refused to substitute the bill. Following the sponsor’s decision, the UPEA State Board released a formal statement opposing HB 104. In addition, the UPEA state board prompted immediate action against HB 104, urging employees to contact members of the House Government Operations Committee about UPEA’s position, and their concerns as state employees, before the bill’s first hearing on January 26. 

The morning of the bill’s first hearing, Rep. Christofferson proposed a substitute for consideration and adoption by the House Government Operations Committee later that day. The substitute sought to transition all state employees to at-will status and limit eligibility for the pay-for-performance program to at-will employees. Once again, UPEA lobbyists took immediate action; contacting committee members and pulling them off the house floor to discuss the drastic changes presented in the substitute.

Rep. Christofferson presented 1st Substitute House Bill 104 in the House Government Operations Committee only hours later. The Executive Director of DHRM, the State Auditor, and Governor’s Chief Innovation Officer spoke in favor of the first substitute, stating that the transition to at-will employment will “modernize the workforce.” While discussing the substitute bill, many legislators acknowledged the numerous emails they received from state employees and UPEA members expressing their concerns regarding the substitute bill and the importance of the career service system as a whole.

UPEA lobbyist, Kory Holdaway, testified against the substitute bill, expressing frustration at the last-minute diversion from the original bill and the sponsor’s unwillingness to collaborate on language. The committee did not adopt the proposed substitute bill. After discussing the original bill, the Government Operations Committee passed out HB 104 with a favorable recommendation by a vote of 7-3.

Following the favorable recommendation by the House Government Operations Standing Committee, UPEA met with Rep. Christofferson to insert language to safeguard supervisors who elect at-will status (AX) or are hired into a supervisor position after July 1, 2022. Second sub HB 104 includes language that allows each agency to create their own appeal process for at-will employees. The UPEA State Board voted to support the bill after the sponsor accepted the guardrail language. 2nd sub HB 104 was passed by the House of Representatives on February 4.

2nd Sub. H.B. 104 was presented by the sponsor to the Senate Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Committee on Friday, February 18. During the meeting, Representative Christofferson offered 3rd Sub. H.B. 104 for consideration. The substitute allows the pay scales to move with pay for performance incentives for employees in longevity. 

UPEA spoke in favor of the bill and substitute specifically citing support for increased training provisions, streamlining the grievance process, and promoting pay for performance and merit increases. Executive Director Todd Losser addressed the AX option for supervisors. He expressed appreciation for the 2nd substitute’s implementation of guardrails for Schedule AX employees, which allowed the association to support the bill. 

Third Sub. H.B. 104 passed the Senate Government Operations Standing Committee with a favorable recommendation by a vote of 4-3 and passed the second senate reading on February, 24. The bill now sits on the Senate 3rd Reading calendar awaiting final passage. Funding for all aspects of H.B. 104 was included in the Executive Appropriations Committee approved budget items for the upcoming fiscal year.

If H.B. 104 is passed and signed by the governor as written in the 3rd Substitute, UPEA will work with each agency director to create a fair and expeditious appeal process for AX employees who receive a disciplinary action including termination. 

UPEA will remain actively involved as H.B. 104 is implemented and ensure that the agreed upon protections are put in place by each agency. The UPEA State Board has already begun discussing a strategy against any potential legislation to further erode the career service system.

Members Attend UPEA’s 3rd Annual Public Employee Day on the Hill

On Wednesday, February 9th, UPEA held the 3rd annual Public Employee Day on the Hill at the Utah State Capitol building. The day began in the Capitol Board Room on the main floor of the Capitol where attendees met for breakfast. UPEA Executive Director Todd Losser spoke to the members in attendance about UPEA’s lobbying efforts and important bills this session. UPEA lobbyist, and former legislator, Korey Holdaway presented a training on the do’s and don’ts of contacting your legislator. Attendees were provided with materials and talking points to address letters to their senators and representatives.

Over the next couple hours, legislators came to speak with UPEA members and answer questions about public employee issues and bills that could impact them. A special thank you to Rep. Welton, Sen. Reibe, Sen. Harper, Rep. Wilcox, Rep. King, Sen. Owens, Rep. Snyder, and Rep. Judkins who took time out of their busy schedules to meet with association members.

After breakfast, the group went to the House of Representatives to attend Floor Time. Rep. Dunnigan formally recognized the UPEA members in the gallery and thanked them for their work and participation in the legislative process. Following his personal privilege, Rep. Dunnigan escorted the group to the Majority Caucus Room to answer their questions. Attendees then had the opportunity to pull their legislators from the House and Senate Floors to introduce themselves and hand deliver letters written earlier in the day.

After a lunch break, a docent from the Capitol Preservation Board took the attendees on a tour, sharing information about the history, art, and architecture of the Capitol. Attendees sat in the Supreme Court and walked through the basement of the Capitol to see the seismic base isolators that protect the building from earthquake damage. 

Following the tour, a few members stayed to accompany UPEA staff to the Senate Health and Human Services Standing Committee where Rep. Wilcox presented 2nd Sub. House Bill 23 First Responder Mental Health Services Amendments.To close out a successful Public Employee Day on the Hill, Todd Losser spoke in favor of the bill before it was passed out of the committee with a favorable recommendation.

Thank you to all of our members who attended the Day on the Hill, we look forward to next year’s event!

HB104, State Employment Amendments – Committee Hearing & Status Update

House Bill 104, State Employee Amendments sponsored by Representative Christofferson was heard in the Government Operations Committee on Thursday, January 27.  HB104 provides current supervisors with the option of converting from career status to at-will status – those that opt to forfeit their career service protections would receive a 5% pay increase. UPEA proposed language to place protections in statute for the supervisors who choose the at-will status option. These guard rails would have provided limited grievance protections. The bill sponsor declined the language. The dismissal of UPEA’s proposed language resulted in the UPEA Board of Directors’ decision to send out a communication to the membership encouraging them to contact members of the House Government Operations Standing Committee.

Representative Christofferson posted a substitute to HB104 the morning of Thursday, Jan 27. The substitute sought to transition all state employees to at-will status. UPEA lobbyists immediately took action by contacting committee members and pulling them off the house floor to discuss the drastic changes presented in the substitute.

Click here to listen to the full committee hearing & discussion

Representative Christofferson presented 1st Substitute House Bill 104 in the House Government Operations Standing Committee only hours later. Committee members debated the substitute bill, many legislators acknowledged the numerous emails they received from state employees who expressed their concern regarding the substitute bill.

UPEA lobbyist, Kory Holdaway, testified against the substitute bill, expressing frustration at the last-minute diversion from the original bill and the unwillingness by the sponsor to collaborate on language.

The committee did not adopt the proposed substitute bill.

After the debate, the Government Operations Committee voted to pass HB 104 in its original form, with a favorable 7-3 recommendation. The bill now moves to the House floor for debate and consideration.

UPEA will continue to work with all stakeholders to represent the best interests of state employees. Keep an eye out for further communication from UPEA.

THANK YOU to our members who contacted the House Government Operations Standing Committee. Your voice helped defeat the substitute attempting to move all state employees to at-will status.

Draft Legislation May Impact Career Service System Protections

At the conclusion of the legislative session in March 2021, Representative Christofferson (R-Lehi) formed a workgroup to discuss Governor Cox’s vision to modernize the state employee workforce.  The workgroup included representatives from the Governor’s Office of Planning & Budget, the Department of Government Operations, the Department of Human Resource Management, the Utah State Auditor’s Office, Legislative Research & General Counsel, and UPEA.

The workgroup met in April to discuss career service, performance management, supervisor/manager training, compensation, and streamlining the current grievance process. The UPEA State Board gave input regarding the lack of funding, pay increases, training, high turnover, recruitment and retention of quality employees, and the difficulty of competing with other agencies and public employers.

COMMUNICATION WITH GOVERNOR COX

Based upon the recommendations from the UPEA task force, the UPEA State Board made a motion to formally support a performance-based compensation model, mandatory training for managers and supervisors, and streamlining the current grievance process.  The State Board endorses these recommendations centered on the fact they will have an empowering and positive effect on state employees.

However, UPEA continues to express concern about eliminating career service protections for supervisors.  On September 15, 2021, the State Board sent a letter to Governor Cox asking for his position regarding “at will” and career service employment.  The letter stated, “These protections are in place to protect against political influence, safeguard fair hiring and termination practices, and preserve an employee’s ability to grieve an adverse job action.”

Jon Pierpont, Chief-of-Staff for Governor Cox, replied to the letter and stated that the Governor “understands that these discussions are central in the lives of many thousands of employees working on behalf of Team Utah and wants to communicate that our administration will continue to work alongside [UPEA] collaboratively and in good faith.  We know that the work being done is helping to modernize our workforce and deliver a strong employee value proposition to our workforce. As this bill develops and the conversation continues, our senior representatives will carry forth the governor’s collaborative spirit, making sure to keep us apprised of developments continuously.”

2022 LEGISLATION

Representative Christofferson made a presentation to the Government Operations Interim Committee on October 20, 2021, and outlined his draft legislation to give supervisors the option to move from Schedule B (career service) to Schedule A (at-will).  The option will be a voluntary election for current supervisors – new supervisors will be hired solely as Schedule A employees.

UPEA Executive Director Todd Losser testified on behalf of the State Board and provided the following statement:

“On behalf of the UPEA State Board of Directors I would like to thank Rep. Christofferson, and the other participants in the workgroup, for their time and effort in discussing and recognizing the importance of public employees. UPEA has been involved with the workgroup for several months.  UPEA also created an internal task force that conducted an in-depth overview of pay for performance, the grievance process, training, and career service.  We look forward to providing additional input as we work through the final details of this bill.”

UPEA will continue to provide updates on the status of this bill including communication between the UPEA State Board and Representative Christofferson.  It is important to remember that any potential legislation is considered a work in progress and UPEA will remain part of this process.

UPEA Lobbyists Emphasize the Need for Increased Compensation

The important work of putting together Utah’s budget for the 2023 fiscal year is underway, as legislators meet with various stakeholders throughout Utah, and interim committees meet to discuss potential legislation for the 2022 session.

Over the past year, UPEA lobbyists are emphasizing the need to increase compensation for public employees. UPEA representatives have been meeting regularly with DHRM and state legislators to address the severe compression impacting employee morale, recruitment, and retention across all state agencies.

Utah public employees have proven their dedication and resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to provide outstanding services to the citizens of Utah despite ongoing challenges. Due to high turnover and low recruitment, employees are taking on new positions and workloads to provide these critical services. Employees should be recognized in the form of a generous pay increase.

Governor Spencer Cox released his proposed budget Tuesday, December 7, 2021. The governor’s recommendations include a 3.5% salary increase for state employees, funding for the projected 6.7% health insurance increase and continuity of the 401(k) match ($26 a pay period match for employees). Additionally, the Governor’s budget proposed funding over $12 million for targeted pay increases for below-market positions. UPEA believes that targeted position funding is the most effective way to make a tangible impact.

The legislature will convene on January 18 for the 2022 General Session. UPEA will continue to prioritize employee compensation throughout the 45-day session and lobby to secure funding for the 3.5% COLA and recommended targeted compensation.