Potential Changes to Tier II Multiplier for Public Safety and Firefighter Employees

Senate Bill 129, sponsored by Senator Wayne Harper (R), aims to increase the multiplier for Tier II Hybrid plan members from 1.5 to 2 percent for public safety and fire fighter employees (PS/FF). This will mean that employees can retire after 25 years of service at 50 percent of their salary.  Currently, PS/FF can retire after 25 years of service at 37.5 percent of their salary.  For members on the defined benefit plan, it will increase the non-elective 401(k) contribution from 12 percent to 16 percent. SB129 has passed through the Retirement and Independent Entities Committee on February 11th, and was sent to the Senate Reading Calendar.

On February 26th, Sen. Harper presented the bill on the Senate floor for its second reading. He introduced the bill explaining that in 2010 the retirement benefit was adjusted to better the Utah Retirement Systems’ financial stability. SB 129 will adjust “one area of the code where we made a cut to the benefit.” There have been multiple discussions about the state’s responsibility to fund this bill seeing as many of the employees affected by this legislation are municipal city and county. Senator Fillmore introduced 1st Substitute SB 129 which allows the Utah State Government to pay for the first year of the increase, and “after a one year bridge, the employer [will] pay the full cost of employing their public safety employees.”

After much discussion, the 1st Substitute SB 129 passed the Senate with a 27 Yea votes and 2 Nay votes.

UPEA supports SB129 and will continue to update members on its progress. Click here to view the presentation slides and learn more.

Bill to Broaden Abusive Conduct Employee Base makes Progress in the House

HB388 – Abusive Conduct Reporting Amendments, sponsored by Keven Stratton (R), amends the definition of abusive conduct and specifies plans for how to deal with situations in which public employees feel they are in an environment that fits the definition. This bill will broaden the availability to utilize this process to all state employees, rather than just for those working in the executive branch.

According to the bill, “abusive conduct” means,

(a) “verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of an employee to another employee that, based on its severity, nature, and frequency of occurrence, a reasonable person would determine:

    1. is intended to cause intimidation, humiliation, or unwarranted distress;
    2. Results in substantial physical or psychological harms as result of intimidation, humiliation, or unwarranted distress; or
    3. Exploits an employee’s known physical or psychological disability

(b) “Abusive conduct: does not mean a single act unless the act is especially severe and egregious act…”

During Rep. Stratton’s presentation to the House of Representatives on March 4th, he stated a “civil, non-abusive workplace really adds to productivity and capacity” and that these changes will “provide greater efficiency and effectiveness in the workplace to make better use of taxpayer dollars.”

UPEA Executive Director, Todd Losser, testified in favor of these amendments and spoke to the significance of broadening the employee base that can utilize this process. This is especially important in state agencies that were previously excluded.

Employees in the Judicial, Legislative, Higher Ed, and all other state branches will now be able to take advantage of filing abusive conduct grievances, regardless of whether the employee is in a protected class.

This amended bill passed out of the House Government Operations Committee unanimously with favorable recommendation and on Monday, March 4th, the bill passed its second reading in the House unanimously with no representatives being absent.

UPEA supports HB388 and will continue to update members on its progress.

 

 

PEHP, Health Insurance Premiums, Transparency, and Cash Back Options

SCR3, Concurrent Resolution Regarding the Public Employees’ Health Plans, sponsored by Senator Hemmert, passed the Senate and was heard in the House Health and Human Services Committee.  The resolution passed the committee and will now be heard in the House.  The resolution was amended to change the name of a PEHP health insurance plan from “Utah Basic Plus” to “Consumer Plus.”  In addition, employees who have money in an HSA will have the option of accessing the cash.  The employees will be required to pay state and federal taxes on any funds they take out of the HSA for non-medical expenses.

Health insurance premiums increased this year by 4.35%, which is $12.2 million. The legislature is planning to fully fund this increase.

PEHP is also focusing on transparency and has developed a new cost tool where employees can “find and compare options” that will provide a breakdown of costs, common ranges, prices of doctors, locations of service, and more. This tool is beneficial to members who will have the ability to compare options and choices based on data and other factors.  The tool can be found on PEHP’s website.

As a part of this new feature members will also see a green phone with a money sign above on some options when comparing choices. This feature indicates there is a cash back option on that choice and the member can call PEHP to see how much cash back is available by using this option.  Some members can receive up to $500 on a cash-back option.

PEHP is focusing on transparency, choice, and effectiveness for members and UPEA will keep you apprised of any changes in the program.

If you would like to learn more about this bill please click here.

Appropriation Committee Base Budget Bills

Each year the Utah State Legislature begins the session by reviewing base budgets and appropriation requests. These meetings occur daily for the first few weeks until base budgets are finalized by each subcommittee. During this process, subcommittees hear presentations from agencies, fiscal analysts, and legislators about funding requests. Specific funding requests are amended, denied, approved and then sent as a base budget to the Executive Appropriations Committee for final approval.

UPEA representatives attend the subcommittee meetings to track any potential changes for public employees. During the process, UPEA lobbyists speak with legislators to protect, inform, and improve public employee jobs.

Appropriation subcommittees have completed their base budget requests for approval and are presenting their requests to the Executive Appropriations committee. Revenue numbers have been released and the Executive Appropriations Committee will determine which subcommittee requests to fund. To learn more about the latest revenue estimates click here and here.

If you’d like more details on committee budgets please click here. After visiting this link you can view each committee budget by line-item.

The following are links to each committee base budget bill:

Higher Education Base Budget

Social Services Base Budget

Business, Economic Development, and Labor Base Budget

Retirement and Independent Entities Base Budget

Infrastructure and General Government Base Budget

National Guard, Veterans’ Affairs, and Legislature Base Budget

Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environmental Equality Base Budget

Executive Office and Criminal Justice Base Budget

 

State of Utah Representative Encourages Executive Appropriations to Prioritize State Employee Compensation

During the past several months UPEA has been working to ensure that legislators are informed about state employee compensation deficiencies. Representative Eric Hutchings (R) has been working with the UPEA to address agency needs for compensation increases. During the Executive Appropriations Committee meeting on Friday, February 22, Rep. Hutchings spoke to the Committee about the importance of prioritizing state agency compensation increases within his own committee and for all state employees.

During his presentation, Rep. Hutchings reported that as a state we are “struggling to get people into our own agencies.” He clarified that “not only are we losing employees to the private sector, but other public sectors have become more competitive than the state.”  Hutchings strongly encouraged the committee to consider the difficulties that state employees face. By not adjusting employees’ compensation appropriately they are not keeping up with inflation and are falling farther behind each year.  Hutchings mentioned that the state employee lifestyle isn’t what it was ten years ago and concluded by saying “at some point we’ve got to help our own folks.”

UPEA encourages its members to contact their legislators and support Rep. Hutchings’ recommendation to prioritize funding for public employee compensation. Please contact legislators on your own time with your own equipment. To find your legislator, click here.

Department of Administrative Services Telecommute Jobs

The Department of Administrative Services (DAS) presented on Monday, February 4, in the Infrastructure and General Government Committee.  DAS indicated they have plans to increase the number of remote jobs, which will give workers the opportunity to telecommute.  DAS also explained this will possibly create additional job opportunities in rural Utah.

DAS also presented their intent to create a culture centered around technology, and to make employees comfortable connecting with others on Google Hangout.  Employees that telecommute will also be involved with the office to ensure that the program functions correctly.  Leadership and employee development will also become a focus to help remote employees want to work hard and effectively while they are away from the office.  UPEA will continue to update you on this issue as we learn more about the telecommute initiatives.

Legislators Consider Changing the Tier II Multiplier for Public Safety and Fire Fighter Employees

Senate Bill 129, sponsored by Senator Wayne Harper (R) aims to increase the multiplier for Tier II Hybrid plan members from 1.5 to 2 percent for public safety and fire fighter employees (PS/FF). This will mean that employees can retire after 25 years of service at 50 percent of their salary.  Currently, PS/FF can retire after 25 years of service at 37.5 percent of their salary.  For members on the defined benefit plan, it will increase the non-elective 401(k) contribution from 12 percent to 16 percent.  Senator Harper stated this bill will help close the gap between Tier I and Tier II while still saving money compared to Tier I.

During the Retirement and Independent Entities Appropriations committee on Wednesday, January 7, this request for appropriations was presented by Senator Harper, Dan Andersen, Executive Director of the Utah Retirement Systems (URS), and Dee Larsen URS General Counsel.  The committee was educated on the history of the Tier I and Tier II retirement systems.  Today, URS is almost 90 percent funded today.

Because URS is doing so well, there has been conversations about increasing the Tier II retirement benefit to help with recruitment and retention problems.  Public Safety is having difficulty with recruitment and retention of employees and they believe that the lack of benefits in the Tier II retirement system plays a large factor in this issue.  In the past, public safety officers have always had a richer retirement system than other public sector employees. When Tier II was created, it put both PS/FF employees and all other public sector employees on the Hybrid plan at the same 1.5 percent multiplier.  SB129 aims to bring more balance between Tier I and Tier II PS/FF employees.

On Monday, February 11, this bill was heard in the Senate Retirement and Independent Entities standing committee. UPEA representative, Kendle Zdunich, spoke in favor of the bill stating that “providing a stable retirement package will help recruit and retain employees where longevity in specialized jobs is critically important”. SB129 was favorably passed through the committee and will be heard on the Senate floor.

UPEA supports SB129 and will continue to update members on the bill’s progress. Click here to view the presentation slides and learn more.

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