OPEA Legislative Update March 2017

OPEA members and staff have been advocating on behalf of legislation important to state employees and retirees. Several bill that would benefit our members are still alive in the legislative process. In addition to these bills, OPEA is focusing on finding ways to improve state employee pay despite the current budget situation. Our advocacy for state employee pay will not shift to working with lawmakers involved in the FY2018 budget approval process.  Our members continue to stress to lawmakers the importance of finding new forms of revenue to fund core state services and give state employees a pay raise.

Below are bills that have received attention from OPEA. Some of the bills are measures that OPEA sponsored and others are bills that would have impacted state employees or retirees. We will continue to monitor these and other bills throughout the session.

 

HB1384 – Rep. Carol Bush (R-Tulsa) & David Rader (R-Tulsa) – The bill would require that all state agencies provide paid administrative leave and counseling be provided to state employees assaulted at work or witness to traumatic events through their Employee Assistance Program. The bill was passed out of the House by a vote of 87-0 and it is now eligible to be heard in the Senate.

HB1340 – Rep. Randy McDaniel (R-Edmond) & Sen. Gary Stanislawski (R-Tulsa) – The bill provides a one-time distribution to retired OPERS members of the lesser of 2 percent or $1000.00 in October, 2018.  Only members who have been retired 3 or more years as-of October 1, 2018 would receive the stipend.  The bill would also allow for another distribution in 2020.  While not as comprehensive as OPEA’s initial bill, we view this as a step in the right direction to improve OPERS retiree pensions. The bill has been sent for an actuarial study, in accordance with state law, to determine if the bill would jeopardize the OPERS fund if implemented.

HB1444 – Rep. Dustin Roberts (R-Durant) & Sen. Ron Sharp (R-Shawnee) – This bill would add Good Friday to the state’s holiday schedule. This concept was brought to OPEA’s attention by a member who said that other employer’s offer this holiday and many state employees use annual leave to take the day off.  It has passed the House by a 69-24 margin and moves to the Senate for consideration.

HB1851 – Rep. Leslie Osborn (R-Mustang) & Sen. Roger Thompson (R-Okemah) – The bill provides a $750 across-the-board pay raise to all state employees and raises the minimum pay bands by 10%.  Passed out of Appropriations but did not get a floor hearing. OPEA will be working the pay bill during Budget Negotiations.

HB1868 – Rep. Jason Dunnington (D-OKC) & Sen. Roger Thompson (R-Okemah) – The bill would require all state employees earning less than $40,000 per year be paid time-and-a-half for any hours worked above 40 per week as opposed to being given comp time. OPEA supports this bill because of the large number of state employees who are not paid for overtime work. OPEA is concerned that overtime laws are not applied consistently in all state agencies and this bill is especially important to establish consistency among state agencies in regards to overtime pay.  Passed off the House floor with title stricken and know goes to Senate.

SB206 – Sen. Kay Floyd (D-OKC) & Rep. Dustin Roberts (R-Durant) – The bill creates a task force to study the feasibility and efficacy of transferring the oversight of the Merit Protection Commission to the Administrative Office of the Courts. OPEA believes this bill is important to create consistency among state agencies when applying merit protection policy and would create some efficiency while protecting employee rights.  It has passed out of the Senate and moves on to the House for consideration.

SB216 – Sen. Frank Simpson (R-Ardmore) & Rep. Tommy Hardin (R-Ardmore) – This bill eliminates the theater of duty requirement for military service credit for state employees earning retirement credit when they are called to active duty service. The proposal has been sent for an actuarial study to determine the fiscal impact on retirement plans, in accordance with state law.

SB549 – Sen. David Holt (R-OKC) & Rep. Tammy West (R-Bethany) – The bill would increase unpaid leave under Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) from 12 weeks to 20 weeks. OPEA supports this bill because it assists state employee parents during pregnancy and birth, or adoption of a child. The bill would increase the time with their family and assure they could return to work in their current position. This bill passed out of the Senate with the title stricken and now goes to the House for consideration.

SB736 – Sen. Kay Floyd (D-OKC) & Rep. Carol Bush (R-Tulsa) – The bill would establish a paid family leave program for state employees similar to the shared leave program currently in place. OPEA believed this bill would have provided a safety net for parents during pregnancy, after the child is home or when a child is adopted. The bill passed out of the Senate Retirement and Insurance committee but was not heard by the Senate appropriations committee so it did not advance.

SB799 – Sen Anthony Sykes (R-Moore) & Rep. Chris Kannady (R-Moore) – This bill would provide up to three hours paid administrative leave for state employees who meet standards on their performance evaluations to participate in physical fitness activities. This bill passed out of the Senate floor with title stricken and now moves to House.

SB 329 – Sen. Jason Smalley (R-Stroud) This bill was detrimental to state employees and retirees because it would have increased HealthChoice, Community Care, and Aetna costs. Removal of the risk adjustment would have created adverse selection among health plans and incentivized younger people to choose the new plan. It created financial incentives for an HMO to design benefit plans and provider networks that don’t cover employees with greater health care needs. OPEA members successfully lobbied against this bill and it was not passed out of the Senate Retirement and Insurance Committee.

If you have questions about legislation, we urge you to telephone OPEA at (405) 524-6764 or email opie@opea.org.