House Speaker Meets with OPEA Executive Team

OPEA Executive Director Sterling Zearley and staff members Scott Barger and Dennis Adkins met with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Chris Benge as part of the Association’s strategy to find support for its legislative program. Attending the meeting with Speaker Benge were members of his staff, Chad Warmington, John Woods and Katie Altshuler.

“We believe that if we are to find success in our legislative program that Speaker Benge will be a key player,” said Zearley. “We must all work together during these tough times to find solutions to continue to move the state forward. That includes solutions for state employees.”

Zearley provided legislators with information about the Association’s goals and objectives and talked about strategies the state should consider in its effort to improve conditions for state employees.

“We focused on pay issues, longevity and retirement,” Zearley commented. “We also expressed our concerns with any proposed agency cuts that might jeopardize employees.”

“Speaker Benge was very concerned not only with the budget, but also for state employees,” said Zearley. “The Speaker expressed support for the concept of a long term compensation program specifically looking at the proposal by Representative John Wright in HB 1027. OPEA has worked hard for the last couple of years to get the legislature to designate funds for state employee pay raises, and Representative Wright’s language is a first step.”

OPEA also reported that Speaker Benge was interested in the longevity program. “We had a very good discussion with Speaker Benge regarding the state longevity program and our efforts to double the program with Representative Lisa Billy’s bill as well as Senator Jolley’s effort,” said Zearley. “Speaker Benge understands how important this program is to retaining a quality state workforce and will be taking a closer look at our suggestions.”

“All in all the meeting was very positive in a year where the economic downturn has really limited possibilities,” said Zearley. “Still, Speaker Benge continues to be understanding of our issues and is willing to work through the session to try and help state employees where possible.”

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