HB 3108 Passes House Committee

HB 3108, a measure that has raised eyebrows of public employees all over the state, passed out of its House committee yesterday.

As authored by Rep. Ron Peterson, the bill, in its current form, recalculates the health benefit allowance of state employees while, at the same time, ending the practice of letting the same workers receive cash for monies unused for insurance.

According to Oklahoma Public Employee Association Executive Director Sterling Zearley, the passage is the first step in a long journey for the bill which, ironically, may pave the way for significant compensation reform for Oklahoma public employees.

“Rep. Peterson is currently enjoying a strong working relationship with OPEA,” Zearley said. “He has told us that it is a work in progress as lawmakers look for ways to replace the lost allowance with other compensation.”

Peterson himself weighed in on the issue.

“We are working with the Oklahoma Public Employees Association to ensure that any money taken out of the benefit allowance is replaced with other compensation,” he said. “We don’t want to short our state employees, but the formula is unsustainable in its current form.”

Zearley said his association appreciates Peterson’s willingness to work with state employees to ensure that employees are not out any salary with the proposed change.

“This issue is complex and is going to require some time for us to be able to come up with a comprehensive reform package that will include both long term market compensation in addition to any health care allowance change,” he said.

Zearley also adds that his association’s suggestions follow the Governor’s Task Force on State Employee Compensation, which issued its report at the first of the year.

“Our group urged an immediate pay raise to start the process of bringing state employees to market,” he said. “Maybe, while legislators are considering the benefit allowance, it is the perfect time to try to implement some strong changes in that direction.”

Throughout negotiations, according to Zearley, OPEA’s focus is both simple and singular.

“If there are no significant changes to the language of this bill that would include a long term pay raise commitment, then there is a great chance it will die before it reaches the House floor,” he said.

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