Legislative Update: Week Ending 2-12-2021

TSEA February 12, 2021 Comments Off on Legislative Update: Week Ending 2-12-2021
Legislative Update: Week Ending 2-12-2021

“I said at the start how proud I am of my staff and cabinet, and I am just as proud of all of our fellow co-workers, the best state employees in all of America,” Gov. Bill Lee said during his State of the State speech Monday. “As with teachers, my budget recommends a 4 percent raise for state employees as well.” 

We appreciate Gov. Lee for supporting and valuing state employees. Now the critical work of navigating the legislative committee system begins. TSEA is in contact with your legislators daily. We will keep you up to date in our weekly legislative updates about the progress of raises, salary adjustments, market adjustments, our legislative agenda, and other important legislation.

The Governor’s Proposed Budget

After reviewing the budget proposal, and speaking to some members of the Governor’s administration, here are some details included in Gov. Lee’s proposed budget: 

Pay-for-performance raises for State Employees under the TEAM Act                 
Based on language in the budget, and the presentation from Commissioner Butch Eley to the Senate Finance Committee, the budget includes a 2-percent performance raise retroactive to January. In addition, the budget funds a 2-percent performance raise for FY22. 

Salary pool for Non-TEAM Act Agencies
Salary increases for state employees not covered by the TEAM Act will be funded with an appropriation of $14.5 million.

These raises appear to be funded similarly to TEAM Act employees (2 percent retroactive to January 2021 and 2 percent in FY22). Appointing authorities of each agency will decide the actual amount of increase each employee receives. 

Higher Education
The Governor’s budget recommends $63 million for higher education salary adjustments, which equates to a 2 percent increase for each budgeted position. As a reminder, each campus has authority over the distribution of money received for employees from the state budget. The TBR (Community Colleges and TCATS) usually converts that into an across-the-board raise for employees. The UT System and the six other four-year universities governed by boards of directors will look at final enrollment figures and Federal relief money before finalizing budgets. 

TSEA continues to target appropriate and fair distribution of Higher Education Salary Adjustments. First, we continue to develop relationships with the decision-makers at each higher education institution. Secondly, we have shared with the Tennessee Department of Finance our desire to have executive branch and legislative input on the portion of general fund money budgeted each year for salary adjustments. 

Senate & House Finance and Higher Education subcommittees will hear budget presentations from all the higher education institutions in the next three weeks. We will continue to inform our higher education members about salary adjustments as we move through the budget process.

Market Adjustments
We do not know the specifics for the market adjustments, but the budget allocates $40M of recurring funding for salary market adjustments for state employees effective July 1, 2021. As we learn more details about the market adjustment plans, we will provide that information. 

Salary Increases for Probation and Parole Officers
Probation & Parole salary increases are included in the budget, funded at $9.5M. According to the budget document, these salary increases will bring probation and parole officer salaries in line with the average starting salary in law enforcement agencies across Tennessee and the southeastern United States. 

We continue to investigate the Governor’s proposed budget, specifically funding recommended in the budget for state and higher ed employee salary adjustments. In our letter to the Governor and legislative leadership a few weeks ago, we asked them to consider a July raise to make up for the missed January raise, and then a regular raise again in January 2022. Both requests appear to be included in the Governor’s budget, so we got what we asked for and more!

On the Hill 

We are happy to report all TSEA bills are now filed. Number assignments continue, and we expect our first bills up in subcommittee in just a couple of weeks. We’ve included a list of bills below.

Budget hearings are the legislature’s priority at this time, so it may be a few weeks before bills are heard. Nonetheless, TSEA remains active on the hill. 

This week, TSEA had a very encouraging meeting with Lt. Governor McNally on Wednesday, going over our legislation for the year. Meetings and transparency with legislative leadership build trust and are a vital part of TSEA’s success on the hill.

We also received a commitment from DOHR to create the language for a policy regarding hazardous duty pay. While we await the policy, we plan to hold our bill with just a Senate sponsor. If we are not satisfied with DOHR’s policy, we can add the House sponsor next year and move forward. DOHR has been exploring ways to enact a policy during this last year extensively; however, there are significant hurdles in the areas of funding, classification considerations, determination of time spent in a hazardous situation, federal guidance considerations, and more. We will be working with DOHR regarding this policy for the next few months.  

There is also funding for a salary survey of surrounding states for TennCare and DCS caseworkers, for which we are working to gather additional information. 

TSEA will also be working with DCS to address findings from a recent Comptrollers audit regarding guidance and rules for determining caseload averages. We are in communication with Commissioner Nichols, and we will keep you up to date on this issue’s progress. 

Finally, we are working on scheduling a meeting with Clarence Carter, the new Commissioner of DHS. Please check back here for a full report.

TSEA Legislation (bill numbers)

Burden of Proof
SB0361 | HB0954  
Sen. Hensley, Sen. Yager
Rep. Eldridge, Rep. Littleton 

Match on 401(k)
SB0516 | HB1016  
Sen. Briggs
Rep. Hicks 

Child care authorization
SB0022 | HB1114
Sen. Kyle, CoSponsor Sen. Gardenhire
Rep. Leatherwood 

Pension Transfer(Bill numbers not yet assigned)
Sen. Roberts
Rep. Weaver 

Restore Longevity for all
SB0402 | HB0414
Sen. Jackson
Rep. Sparks

Committees and Bills we are watching next week:

Tuesday, February 16, 2021 
Agriculture & Natural Resources Subcommittee – House Hearing Room III  
10:30 a.m.  

HB0089 by *Lamberth, Gant, Whitson (SB 0741 by *Johnson, Stevens)
Department of Environment and Conservation – As introduced, authorizes the commissioner to commission environmental investigative enforcement officers; authorizes park rangers and other law enforcement officers within the department to operate outside parks and other specific areas to render aid upon request and subject to the commissioner’s approval. – Amends TCA Section 11-1-101; Section 11-3-107; Section 59-8-404 and Section 59-8-308.  

Wednesday, February 17, 2021
Public Service Subcommittee – House Hearing Room IV
5:00 p.m.

HB1034 Marsh
Dept. of Finance and Administration – As introduced, makes proprietary information provided to the division of benefits administration for the purposes of administering group insurance plans for public officers and employees confidential. – Amends TCA Title 8.  

HB0202 Windle
Public Employees – As introduced, requires that retirees of the Tennessee Highway Patrol with 25 years of service receive 80 percent of the scheduled premium or defined contribution for the health insurance benefits provided by the state. – Amends TCA Title 4, Chapter 7 and Title 8, Chapter 27.  

Budget Presentations

Tuesday, February 16, 2021
Commerce and Labor Committee 
1:00 p.m.

House Finance Ways and Means 
3:00 p.m. 
Department of Human Services Department of Education