The first major deadline of the legislative year has just passed, which provides an opportunity to reflect on what has happened within the walls of the Capitol, and what lies ahead.
Senate Bills had to be passed out of their committee of origin to continue through the process by February 21st. Those that did not survive are dead, but the issues they contained can easily resurface in another bill later in the process. All that is required is that the second bill covers the same subject area or address the same statute. The deadline for the House is March 6th.
OPEA’s Senate pay raise bills, SB 1791 by Corn and SB 1379 by Nichols were all victims of the Senate deadline. This is typical of pay raise bills which are used to develop support and discussions for a state employee pay raise. The issue of a pay raise is still alive but will be moved into an appropriations bill in the near future.
You will see a lot of mention of bills having their “title struck. This is a legislative procedure that is used to keep a bill alive. When the “title is struck,” it ensures that a bill will have to come back through the process at least one more time, so legislators with questions or concerns about a bill will allow it to move through the process, knowing they can vote for or against it later, depending on whether their concerns were addressed.
Below is some legislation that we will be watching:
The tight and ever-worsening budget crisis has led to the introduction of some bills that would be detrimental to state employees. Areas that are of particular concern involve pay, insurance and retirement.
HB 3108, offered by Rep. Ron Peterson (R-Tulsa) a bill which OPEA has expressed in numerous meetings significant concerns regarding the effect it would have on state employees’ benefit allowance. Rep. Peterson has agreed to strike the title as discussions continue. OPEA will keep an eye on the bill to make sure it doesn’t cripple state employees.
SB 1999, by Sen. Cliff Aldridge (R-Choctaw), would create a Task Force to see if there is a duplication of efforts between Employee Benefits Council with the Oklahoma State and Education Employee Group Insurance Board. OPEA will continue to watch this bill
HB 3312, by Rep. Mark McCullough (R-Sapulpa) will study the retirement systems to recommend moving to a Defined Contribution retirement system, giving current employees the option to go to the DC plan or stay in the current Defined Benefit plan. OPEA has been successful in getting the OPERS system excluded but will be continuing to monitor this bill for any changes.
HB 2180 offered by Senator Sparks (D-Norman) is the State Retirees COLA bill. It passed through committee and will be making an appearance on the Senate floor in the near future. Rep. Ron Peterson, (R-Tulsa) has agreed to sponsor this bill in the House.