As we look forward to OPEA’s Day at the Capitol on April 10th, there are several very important issues on which we need to focus all of our energy and efforts. As we continue to recover from the recession, OPEA’s staff is working to make sure our legislative leaders hear from our members about what state employees and retirees need from the Legislature.
Bonuses for State Employees
Most importantly, we want to focus on obtaining a meaningful salary raise for state employees. The Legislature has not granted any increases in state employee pay since 2006, and we definitely want to make sure our members have a chance to tell their legislators about the need for this to change. OPEA and Rep. Leslie Osborn (R-Tuttle) are currently working on proposals that would give state employees a bonus, which would help with cost of living adjustments while we continue to work with the Legislature on permanent salary increases. OPEA is asking the Legislature for additional funds for the bonuses.
Maintaining the Benefit Allowance
Secondly, we need to focus on the immediate need for the Legislature to freeze the allowance for state employee health insurance benefits. Since the Legislature is currently considering changes to health plans, it is important to let legislators know how critical the issue is for state employees. Currently, House Bill 3053 by Speaker Kris Steele (R-Shawnee) contains language that would effectively freeze the employee benefit allowance at current 2012 levels. The bill recently passed the House floor and will now go to a Senate committee for consideration.
Total Compensation Plan/Interim Study
OPEA’s total compensation plan, originally outlined in House Bill 3041 by Rep. Leslie Osborn (R-Tuttle), failed to meet the required deadline for moving forth in the legislative process. However, OPEA and Rep. Osborn are currently working together with legislative leaders on an interim study regarding the feasibility of a total compensation plan for state employees. On OPEA Day, we need to tell our legislative leaders how important the interim study is for the future of state employees in Oklahoma. Interim studies cannot be requested until mid-to-late May, but legislative leaders need to hear about what the plan does and why it is important.
Creating a Revolving Fund for COLAs
OPEA is currently concentrating on one measure that would greatly benefit our retirees. Sen. Patrick Anderson (R-Enid), is working with both OPEA and OPERS to discover better a better method of financing COLAs for retired state employees. OPERS Executive Director Tom Spencer and I have asked Sen. Anderson to sponsor Senate Bill 1102, which would allow the Oklahoma State Treasurer’s Office to create a revolving fund for this purpose. The legislation is currently making its way through the process, and we believe it will receive bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate.
Be at OPEA Day on April 10th!
As always, we will have information ready for you to take to your legislators on OPEA Day. We need you there, so please join us! We know your time is valuable, and your presence at the Capitol will make OPEA more valuable! Below you will find a “Top Ten” list for legislative session. Familiarize yourself with it and with the issues, and then register for OPEA Day. You can register on our website or by filling out the registration form contained in this issue of the Advocate.