Legislative Update – March 24, 2014

TSEA March 24, 2014 Comments Off on Legislative Update – March 24, 2014
Legislative Update – March 24, 2014

A Brief Update on our Bills

Proposed TEAM Act Changes
TSEA Bill: HB1940 (Dunn) / SB2045 (Southerland)
DOHR Bill: HB1420 (Dunn) / SB1624 (Johnson)

TSEA and DOHR have negotiated a compromise on these two bills, which both alter the TEAM Act. Combined, the bills do the following:

  1. Allow audio recordings of Level 1 hearings
  2. Allow employee representation and participation at Level 1 hearings when the agency has more than one person present.
  3. Expands the Board of Appeals to up to 18 members to accommodate 2 monthly hearing dates.
  4. Requires all employees to submit a written statement at a Level 2 hearing that explains why you feel that the Step 1 decision was wrong. If this written statement is not included in Level 2, the decision of the DOHR Commissioner is final and you forfeit your right to a Level 3 appeal before the Board.
  5. All Level 3 hearings require the employee to participate in person, by counsel or thru electronic means.

Both bills as amended will be voted on by the full House and Senate this week and should both pass without complications. TSEA and DOHR will be working this summer to address a plan for reviewing performance evaluations that are opposed by the employee, and the Department has promised to help any laid off state employee find a state job.  The only concession is that as an employee, you have to ask them for help. TSEA can do this on your behalf or you can call DOHR directly. In addition, the Department is preparing a section on their website so you can ask for assistance in identifying any open positions for which you may qualify.

Parking Relief for Higher Ed Employees
HB1306 (Windle) / SB 1369 (Tate)

This bill should be heard in committee this week in the House, but the Senate committee may close before the House acts. This would be very unfortunate considering that we have been working on this bill for 2 years and will have to start over in the next session. Should the bill pass the House Sub Committee, we will actively pursue the Senate Committee Chair to open the calendar to hear this bill.  The House Education Subcommittee will discuss the pilot program at University of Memphis, as requested by the committee last year. TSEA does not view this pilot program as the answer to the problem because it does not help all employees under the average state salary, so TSEA plans to proceed with the bill for a vote in the committee.

Retiree / Spouse Tuition Discount
HB887 (Hawk) / SB1164 (Hensley)

This bill has passed through the House and is behind the budget, which means we have to find funding for it in the budget. We have met with and asked the Administration to consider this bill in its Drive to 55 package, and our sponsors are trying to find funding via every possible avenue. In the Senate Education Committee this bill passed with a 6-3 vote with a fiscal note of roughly $10,000.  By Monday of last week, the fiscal note had been revised to be over $1 million. With this new fiscal problem, we have asked that the bill be reviewed to see how this could happen and if all assumptions in the fiscal note are consistent.  Once we show they are not, we hope to get a new fiscal note which will allow the Finance Committees to actively pursue funding with the Governor. Please remember, however, that we are uncertain as the status of the Drive to 55 funds now that we have an additional budget shortfall.

Other Updates

We are still waiting to receive the Governor’s supplemental budget, even as Session begins to wrap up over the next few weeks. We hope to see a reduction in the expected increase of premium for health insurance after our ongoing discussions with the State Insurance Committee and Benefits & Administration. As previously updated, there has been discussion that raises – for both state employees and teachers – could be cut this year in light of the budget shortfall the State is currently experiencing.

TSEA is working with your legislators to advocate that your raise is not cut, and we have been assured by legislative leadership that if the raise is not funded in the approved final budget, the Finance Committee will amend the budget bill to fund your raises as soon as revenue improves. Thus the raise will be contingent on excess revenue coming in after the budget is passed (which we hope to see figures for by late April) and may not come in July but a few months after – but TSEA, your Senators, and your Representatives are working hard to preserve your much deserved raises.

Please stay tuned for instructions to call your legislators once the supplemental budget is made available. The coming weeks will be critical to our budget items, and once we know how the governor plans to proceed, we will be asking you to contact your legislators to help us push vital pieces of legislation through.