Big items top OPEA’s 2013 legislative agenda

With the 2013 legislative session fast approaching, the Oklahoma Public Employees Association is working hard to prepare for what looks to be a great opportunity to further the cause of improved compensation for the 34,000-plus state employees.

This session, OPEA is focusing in on several key areas that need immediate resolution to ensure the state’s hard-working state employees see a wage level closer to that of their private-sector counterparts.

Below is a list OPEA intends to focus on during the next session, which begins in February. We have two major legislative focuses, which are detailed below:

Market-based compensation: This plan, which will look to increase the total compensation for all state employees, is the centerpiece legislation for OPEA in 2013. It will push to bring state salaries to within 80 percent of market value in the first year, which will bring state employee salaries more in-line with private-sector salaries in that field. And within five years, the goal is to bring those salaries to within 90 percent of the going market. For workers already above those percentage points, the plan will call for a $1,000 performance payment – also known as a Cost Of Living Adjustment (COLA). Rep. Leslie Osborn will carry this measure through the House of Representatives. There is widespread support in both chambers for this type of action. In fact, Sen. Patrick Anderson, has already filed Senate Bill 10, which looks to address improving state employee salaries.
Retiree COLA: Not forgetting our hard-working retired state employees, OPEA is looking to push for a COLA to retirees already in the pension system, so long as the system can remain at least 80 percent funded after the granting of a COLA.
And here’s a rundown of other items OPEA will be working on in the upcoming session:

Merit System Reform: The merit system needs reform and OPEA wants to ensure it is done in the best and most responsible way possible. To that end, OPEA is looking for improvements such as improved supervisory accountability and a task force to study future reforms.
Protect voluntary payroll deduction: No one should dictate how you wish your paycheck be spent. OPEA will advocate the protection of this right for all state employees.
Protecting Resource Centers for the Developmentally Disabled: Recently, it was announced that both the Southern Oklahoma Resource Center (SORC) and the Northern Oklahoma Resource Center (NORCE) would be closed in 2014 and 2015, respectively. This means many good state employees will soon be out of work and residents – some who have resided there over 50 years – will lose their homes. OPEA is working to save the centers and ensure long-lasting stability for the employees at both locations. Reps. Lisa J. Billy and Mike Jackson are supportive of this measure.
ODVA Nursing Pilot Program: The Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs is in dire need of more well-trained nursing professionals to meet the need of our state’s brave vets. To that end, OPEA supports a measure creating a pilot program which would allow agencies to pay nursing school tuition for employees that meet an excellent performance standard. For a period of three years, employees would be required to work with the state if they receive LPN training and five years if they receive RN training. In turn, the state would be able to count on these employees to staff our state’s veteran’s centers.

Over the next two months, OPEA staff will be working hard going through all of the filed bills before session to see what impacts our members. Also, once session begins, we will watch those bills impacting state employees and keep you informed as the process moves along.

All of these issues are important to the plight of state employees in Oklahoma. It is the hope of OPEA that, by focusing on these issues, common-sense reform can be realized in the upcoming session at the state Capitol. OPEA will keep you posted on how things are going once session begins. For now, however, these will be the issues OPEA focuses on for our supportive and hard-working members. If you should have any concerns about any measures at all, please don’t hesitate to call us and share your thoughts: (405) 524-6764.

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