UPEA Blog

2nd Substitute H.B. 280 Creates “State Career Service Review Task Force”

UPEA had the opportunity to discuss H.B. 280, State Employee Amendments, with the bill sponsor Representative Kay Christofferson.  In addition, UPEA has also met with representatives from the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget and Governor Cox’s staff.  During these meetings, UPEA expressed its opposition to H.B. 280 and H.B. 280 1st Sub.

The recently released H.B. 280 2nd Substitute creates a task force of stakeholders to discuss state employee issues including career service, performance evaluations, merit pay, employee turnover, and employee retention.  The State Career Service Review Taskforce will consist of the following individuals:

  • Three members of the Senate appointed by the president of the Senate, no more than two of whom may be from the same political party;
  • Three members of the House of Representatives appointed by the speaker of the House of Representatives, no more than two of whom may be from the same political party;
  • The executive director of the Department of Human Resource Management, or the executive director’s designee;
  • One individual representing the office of the governor, appointed by the governor;
  • The state auditor, or the state auditor’s designee; and
  • One individual representing the Utah Public Employees Association, appointed by the executive director of the Utah Public Employees Association.
  • The president of the Senate shall designate a member of the Senate as a co-chair of the task force.
  • The speaker of the House of Representatives shall designate a member of the House of Representatives as a co-chair of the task force.

2nd Substitute H.B. 280 also outlines requires the task force to review the state career service system and make recommendations regarding:

  • the proper classification of state employee positions that are exempt from the state career service system; and are covered by the state career service system;
  • improvements to state employee compensation, including compensation based on performance incentives; and
  • other modifications related to the state career service system.

The task force shall:

  • convene the task force’s initial meeting on or before July 1, 2021; and
  • provide a report, including any recommendations for proposed legislation, to the Government Operations Interim Committee during or before the October interim meeting in 2021.

UPEA has been invited to participate in the taskforce and intends to communicate the continued benefits that the career service system brings to the citizens and employees of the state.

We will be communicating with you to discuss the progress of this bill.

UPEA employee representatives are available for questions by phone or email.  Please share this email with your coworkers and let them know that UPEA is their only voice.  Please support our efforts in maintaining the career service system by joining UPEA.   Join UPEA today!

Encourage Your Legislators to Secure Additional Funding for Employee Compensation

UPEA is educating legislators on the sacrifices state employees have made during the COVID-19 pandemic – Employees should be recognized for their dedication in the form of a generous pay increase.  The legislature began the 2021 session by restoring last year’s 3% pay increase in the base budget.  State employees deserve more.  UPEA is lobbying to ensure that the $12.9 million savings from the Program II Sick Leave unfunded liability is returned to state employees and used to supplement the approved 3% increase. We are also asking for additional funds for targeted increases.

GUIDE/OUTLINE FOR SPEAKING WITH YOUR LEGISLATORS:

Please use your own time, resources, and equipment to contact your legislator.

  1. Address your legislator as Senator or Representative and use their last name.
  2. Introduce yourself (give your name and where you live), let them know you are a constituent and a member of UPEA – You can identify the agency you work for if you wish.
  3. Ask if your legislator has time to discuss some items regarding public employee issues – Be prepared to discuss the topic and clarify your reasons (see below).
  4. Ask your legislator if they will support your position.
  5. Thank them for their time.

Click here to find your state representative and senator. Just enter your home address and click on the legislator’s picture for contact info.

Remember to be respectful!

HOW TO DISCUSS THE $12.9 MILLION PROGRAM II SICK LEAVE SAVINGS:

The governor’s budget highlighted that the state would have a savings of $12.9 million from the Program II Sick Leave unfunded liability that will be placed in the General Fund this year. This savings is directly generated from a reduction in state employee benefits that saved the state money and has now created a surplus.

The savings is from a public employee benefit reduction and should be returned to state employee compensation.  The increase should be in addition to the proposed 3% Labor Market Adjustment included in H.B. 8 and approved earlier this session.

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 during these trying and difficult times.  Many employees have taken on new positions and workloads to provide critical services to the citizens of Utah.

S.B. 181 Consolidates Existing Agencies to Create Department of Government Operations

Senator Milner (R-18) presented S.B. 181, Department of Government Operations, to the Senate Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Standing Committee on February 16, 2021. S.B. 181 proposes a consolidation of three different state government departments. The bill combines the Department of Administrative Services, the Department of Technology Services, and the Department of Human Resource Management into one new department, the Department of Government Operations, with a total of approximately 1,300 employees. The consolidation aims at increasing effectiveness and efficiency in the work of agencies serving other government departments. Milner explained to the committee, “we are not requesting additional FTE’s. On the other side, it does not mean any reduction in force. All employees that are there will continue to be there.” Milner further clarified, “If someone voluntarily leaves, there might be a position that doesn’t need to be filled.” Any changes to positions “will not be done through a reduction in force. It would just be done through the normal course of voluntary resignations.”

UPEA Executive Director, Todd Losser, testified in front of the committee with the following statement: “UPEA has met with Governor Cox, and it’s our understanding that agency consolidation will not result in any reduction of jobs. Utah’s public employees are considered the most efficient workforce in the country. UPEA expects to work with the governor’s office and state agencies to ensure a smooth transition for public employees and to continue the gold standard we have established.”

S.B. 181 passed the committee unanimously with a favorable recommendation. The Senate then heard it on the floor on Day 31 of the 2021 Legislative Session. Senator Milner identified that the new governor is working on making state government more effective and efficient to serve Utah citizens. The proposal to merge the three government agencies into one also “aligns services to effectively and efficiently serve state employees.”

Senator Mayne told the Senate floor she supports the bill because the sponsor “assured [her] everyone will have a job and be treated fairly” through the consolidation process. S.B. 181 passed and will be placed on the calendar to be read a third time.

Projected Revenue Numbers Announced for the Upcoming Fiscal Year 2022

On Day 31 of the 2021 Legislative Session, Senator Stevenson shared the newest projected revenue numbers and estimates for the fiscal year on the Senate Floor. Projections show that the Legislature has almost $1.4 billion in extra cash to spend this year. The breakdown of that surplus from one-time and ongoing is as follows:

  • $315 million increase in one-time money
    • Approximately 1/4 from the General Fund and 3/4 from the Education Fund
  • $112 million increase in ongoing money
    • Approximately 1/3 from the General Fund and 2/3 from the Education Fund

However, economic uncertainty remains – While Utah is in a much better place compared to other states, job growth has not kept up. With the anticipation of COVID-19 vaccines becoming widely available by the end of May, there is reason to be cautiously optimistic. Governor Spencer Cox echoed this sentiment in a press conference held on Friday the 19th, “There still could be some headwinds coming, but we feel really good about where Utah is right now and where we’re headed for the rest of the session.”

Senator Stevenson made note that while there is more cash on hand this Legislative Session, in relation to bills, there is $1.3 billion in new money and one-time money but there is $2 billion in requests. Ultimately, there will still be “a lot of cuts between now and the end of the session.” There was hope that there would be even more money available with federal stimulus checks helping Utahns to spend more during the pandemic, but that did not happen. Sen. Stevenson did guarantee that the budget would be balanced in the end.

DABC Seeks to Address Turnover by Increasing Wages

S.B. 137Alcoholic Beverage Control Retail Store Amendments, sponsored by Sen. Gene Davis and Rep. Timothy Hawkes, was presented before the House Business and Labor Committee on Wednesday, February 17.  The bill seeks to address the severe recruitment and retention issues the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (DABC) is facing.

The bill originated in discussions between the Business and Labor Committee and DABC commissioners during the interim where Sen. Davis and Rep. Hawkes were tasked with creating legislation to address the staffing challenges. Davis identified the astronomical turnover rate of 107% in the department and 140% in the retail stores as a wage issue. S.B. 137 gives the DABC the ability to use some of the revenue generated by alcohol sales, over 500 million a year, to more adequately compensate their employees.

The appropriations request is for $4,300,000 ongoing from the General Fund to address the wage gap between DABC employees and private sector retail workers. The disparity is so extreme, that open DABC positions go unfilled for extended periods of time due to lack of applications. A majority of these retail positions are part-time, meaning the new hires have no vested interest in state employment.

Tiffany Clason, new Director of the DABC spoke in support of the bill and reiterated the challenges the department is facing, “Our turnover is so atrocious, and quite frankly it’s unacceptable”. Sen. Davis emphasized the positive impact of more competitive pay for these DABC employees; more applications for open positions, a better customer experience by proper staffing and maintaining product expertise, and saving the state over a million by addressing the cost of turnover.

Some committee members took issue with the large fiscal note, which is written to augment in relation to market pay over the years; however the bill passed out of committee with a favorable recommendation.

UPEA Priority Bills Progress During Week Four

HB 139 – Government Employee Amendments

First Substitute HB 139, Competency-Based Hiring Amendments, was heard on the Senate Floor on Day 24 of the 2021 Legislative Session. Senator Thatcher explained competency-based hiring practice has been used on the state level since Governor Levitt implemented it in 2000. The bill has been brought forth this session to put into law what is already practiced. The bill asks DHRM to put together information for cities, counties, and other entities to assist in implementing competency-based hiring. The second substitute of HB 139 was introduced to add clarifying language.

On Day 25 of the 2021 Legislative Session, Second Substitute HB 139, Government Employee Amendments, was heard by the body of the Senate. HB 139, with the new title, was passed unanimously and returned to the house.

HB 291 – Residential Picketing Prohibition

H.B. 291 seeks to prohibit picketing within 100 feet of a property line outside a residence. The bill defines picketing as, “the stationing or posting of one or more individuals to appraise the public, vocally or by standing or marching with signs, banners, sound amplification devices, or other means, of an opinion or a message.” The offense for violating the 100 feet boundary may result in a Class B misdemeanor charge. The purpose of the bill is to keep individuals (public servants, state, and local officials, etc.) and their families from experiencing undue hardship at their place of residence.

UPEA supports this bill and Employee Representative Kendle Zdunich testified on behalf of this bill stating, “Public servants provide essential services to the citizens of Utah, and should be able to perform those services without fear.”

H.B. 291 passed unanimously through the house and has been sent to the Senate for their consideration.

Executive Appropriations Committee Considers Subcommittee Budget Priorities 

The Executive Appropriations Committee met Thursday, February 11, and Friday, February 12. The committee heard subcommittee budget reports and priority requests. Subcommittee budget reports reflect the priorities of funding requests for ongoing and one-time funding. Click each subcommittee link to see the list of requests. Executive Appropriations Committee will consider each of the requests and revenue numbers to put together a final budget for FY22.

Business, Economic Development & Labor 

The Business, Economic Development, and Labor Appropriations subcommittee budget prioritizes defunded bills and agency building blocks from the last session. The committee focused on restoration while preparing the requests, highlighting agency requests. Numbers one through twenty-one on the request list is agency requests and includes targeted funding increases for employees.

Executive Offices & Criminal Justice 

The Executive Offices and Criminal Justice subcommittee budget prioritize restoring budget cuts made during the 2020 special sessions. The subcommittee’s requests prioritize funding to address recruitment and retention. The chairs recognized this is a theme throughout all agencies- corrections, attorneys, dispatch, troopers, and core commissioners.

Higher Education

The Higher Education Appropriations subcommittee budget prioritizes degree-granting performance funding and initiative programs. The subcommittee chairs put together the requests to promote access to higher education in Utah further.

Infrastructure & General Government

The Infrastructure and General Government Appropriations subcommittee budget prioritize items funded during the 2020 Legislative Session and then defunded during the Special Sessions. Priority requests focus on providing funding to agencies that saw their budgets reduced. The number one priority request is for funding an upgrade to FINET, the statewide finance system. One-time funding requests include a new Public Safety building in Brigham City.

Natural Resources, Agriculture & Environmental Quality

The Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environmental Quality subcommittee budget prioritizes funding to meet the demand for an increase in outdoor recreation. The goal of the subcommittee is to improve the visitor experience and increase opportunities for outdoor recreation. The budget requests also take into consideration the potential for a high wildfire season.

Public Education

The Public Education Appropriation subcommittee budget prioritizes an additional FTE for the Utah State Board of Education (USBE) and money for targeted positions.

Social Services

The Social Services Appropriation subcommittee budget prioritizes employee compensation. Throughout the 2021 Legislative Session, the committee found a common theme of high turnover contributed to low compensation. Representative Ward, the committee vice-chair, explained agencies are “struggling to pay [workers] enough,” and it has reached a point where employees are not “willing to work for [the state].”

Senator Makes Another Request for a Public Sector Compensation Study

During the Executive Appropriations Committee on Thursday, February 11th, Senator Luz Escamilla (D-1) returned to make the same request she has made for the past few years: A Comprehensive Public Sector Compensation Study. “It is difficult to address compensation issues when we don’t truly know the details and where the disparities exist.”

The University of Utah is requesting $280,000 to conduct a study on public sector compensation. The goal of the study is to give a broad context of Utah’s specific employment environment and to give nuance that is necessary to fully understand best practices already in place and determine opportunities to improve the public sector workforce. The study will look at turnover rates, hiring practices, contract workers, work environment, performance review process, and other data available data.

The Department of Human Resources Management (DHRM) will facilitate and administer a survey the university prepares for state employees. If this request is funded, UPEA will keep members updated on the process of the study.