ASEA Legislative Update–March 17

ASEA has experienced an extremely busy legislative session. Several bills have been introduced that would affect state employees. Below is a current list of bills that ASEA is monitoring. Those with an Act number are now law.

ASEA Drafted Bill

HB 1954 (Walker) An act to create the State of Arkansas Workforce Retention Task Force; to study and evaluate the ways state agencies could increase employee retention and to explore methods in order to increase employee compensation and review other states compensation pay plans. We have received a positive response from both chambers. Co-sponsors are Representative Eddie Armstrong, Representative Chris Richey, Representative Greg Leding, Representative George McGill, Senator Jon Woods and Senator Linda Chesterfield. We also have the support of the State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Chair, Rep. Nate Bell and Representative Kim Hammer. This bill will be introduced in the House State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee Wednesday, March 18.

Support

SB 365 (Elliott) Accrued time paid out in the event of death in the line of duty for officers of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and Arkansas Highway Department—Passed by both chambers and moved to the Governor’s Office to be signed into law

HB 1163 (Bell) An act concerning political freedom for public employees. This law makes it unlawful for any public employer to discipline, to threaten to discipline, to reprimand either orally or in writing, to place any notation in a public employee’s personnel file disciplining or reprimanding the public employee or to otherwise discriminate against a public employee because the public employee exercised the right to communicate with an elected public official or exercised a right or privilege under the Freedom of Information Act of 1967—Act 102

HB 1274 (Leding and J. Woods) An act to amend the payment for claims to covered public employees, designated beneficiaries, or survivors of public employees, to create an presumption that firefighters who develop certain forms of cancer developed those cancers through their work as firefighters.—Act 341

HB 1361 (Hickerson) Clarifies educational activities mentioned in the educational activities leave policy—Act 294

HB 1368 (Bragg) To provide that public employee’s designated beneficiary form shall be witnessed (no longer required to be notarized) —Act 297

HB 1426 (Tucker) An act to permit paid maternity leave for state employees. The first draft stated that state employees would receive four weeks of paid maternity leave and $500 per week.  Tucker reached out to ASEA to get our thoughts. We expressed the need to extend the leave to 6 weeks; Rep. Tucker agreed. At this time he is gathering support from general assembly members. Tucker changed the bill to reflect 6 weeks. As of March 17, the bill has not moved out of committee.

HB 1468 (Womack) An act to modify the use of shared leave under the uniform attendance and leave policy act—Act 389

HB 1799 (Overbey) To amend the law concerning compensation for unused sick leave: and to repeal the cap on a payout of unused sick leave. As of March 17, the bill has not moved out of committee.

HB 1902 (Sabin) An act to amend the law concerning compensation and benefits of state employees; to allow a state employee to contribute to certain college savings plans with a voluntary deduction from his or her pay (undergoing amendments)

Oppose
SB1008 (Hendren) An act to maintain a viable system of health insurance benefits for state employees and public school employees; to regulate the state and public school employee life and health insurance program; to allow the transfer of excess reserve account balances between the state employee fund and the public school employee fund to sustain the state and public school employee life and health insurance program. As of March 17 this bill has not moved out of committee.

HB 1346 (Douglas) An act to dedicate certain revenues for use by the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department and the State Highway Commission; to dedicate certain severance tax revenue for training and education. This bill, if passed, would take general revenue from state agencies and transfer revenue to the Highway Department. (Withdrawn by Douglas)

Monitoring

SB 382 (E. Williams and Bell) An act to study the restructuring of various state agencies into 10 principal departments. If the bill is passed, ASEA has been invited to provide input during this process. We want to ensure that state employees are at the table when decisions regarding possible consolidation are made. Again this is a bill to study restructuring of various agencies. It is too early to know what recommendations will result from the study but ASEA will keep you informed every step of the way. As of March 17, 2015, this bill has not moved out of the Senate State Agencies and Government Affairs committee.

SB 896 (Hester) An act to revise the compensation plan under the uniform classification and compensation act for the 2015-2017 biennial period (Bill that implements a COLA)

HB 1945 (Hammer) An act to amend Arkansas law concerning the prevention and detection of fraud and other improper activities within state government (amendments to Arkansas Whistle-Blower Act)

Technical Corrections
(these are bills that clarify or redefine language such as “dependent” in SB 822.

  • SB 821 (Hendren) To clarify the health insurance benefits for state and public school employees
  • SB 822 (Hendren) To modify the definition of “dependent” under the state and public school life and health insurance program (removal of spouse as dependent).
  • SB 823 (Hendren) To clarify the payroll deductions of a state employee. (added “individual”)
  • SB 824 (Hendren) To clarify the procedure for state contributions to the state and public school life and health insurance program on behalf of state employees
  • SB 826 (Hendren) An act concerning the requirements under the state and public school life and health insurance program for a state employee retiree and public school employee retiree; to clarify the eligibility of certain retirees to continue coverage in the state and public school life and health insurance program.

Mileage Reimbursement Increase Request
ASEA made a request to the Director of the Department of Finance and Administration on February 26, 2015 to increase the “private vehicle mileage reimbursement rate” from $0.42 to $0.45. We received a response that stated “the cost of increasing the mileage reimbursement rate to $0.45 cents per mile would be approximately $870,000, of which approximately $415,000 would be state funds. Governor Hutchinson’s balance budget proposal requires all State agencies reduce their general revenue spending by 1% for fiscal year 2016. Gas prices are currently a dollar a gallon cheaper than one year ago. Based on these facts…I believe it would be prudent to continue the reimbursement rate at $0.42.” The complete letter will be printed in our March/April issue of the ASEA News.

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2 thoughts on “ASEA Legislative Update–March 17

  1. The 1% COLA as far as I’m concerned is a slap in the face and says they don’t think we are worthy of being paid a living wage. I’m now doing almost twice the amount of work I was doing a year ago due to the added burden of staff that keep leaving, and having to train the new person whom I have to look at every piece of work that is put out and give it a stamp of approval. Why I’m expected to train someone is beyond me other than our division has no training manuals or program. So on top of doing double the work which we do not get paid extra for, we get a 1% COLA. The representatives got a very nice increase in salary and they only work part time but I guess are considered much more necessary than those of us that have to do all the work. Way to go. No wonder there is so much turnover. I’m so disappointed I can’t even express it. This is the best I could do and it doesn’t go far enough explaining how I feel about all of this. Shame on all of the legislators, shame on them.

  2. Not only is the 1% COLA a slap in the face when the Legislature got a 150% pay increase, the fact that the Payplan hasn’t been adjusted in 6 years is also a disgrace. The Legislative and Executive branches don’t care about the Worker Bees.

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