LEGISLATIVE ALERT #2

The legislative process can require quick action as the dynamics change regarding specific pieces of legislation.

And now the next hearing where faculty voices are needed is scheduled for Tuesday, February 17, at 8:30 a.m. The House Committee on Labor and Public Employment will again hear proposed legislation that is harmful to public employees including faculty.

The following bills are scheduled to be heard:

  • HB 1715 Employees Retirement System; Service Retirement Credit

This will change the age and service time requirement for employees hired after June 30, 2009. The age of retirement will be 65 with 10, 15 or 30 years depending on certain elements. It also diminishes retirement benefits for current employees by changing the age and service credit basis dependent on employee classification in the system.

  • HB 1723 Relating to Public Employees

This will prohibit bargaining over the employers contribution to the Employer-Union Trust Fund. It will cap employers contribution to health benefits to 55% of the benefit cost. Currently faculty members have a 60-40 split with the employer paying 60%.

  • HB1725 Relating to the Hawaii Employer-Union Health Benefit Trust Fund

Prohibits EUTF from providing prescription drug coverage. Allows
EUTF to have a prescription benefits paid by the employee.  The impact
of this could be to increase premiums since access to prescription
drugs often prevents other costly services like surgery. Finding an
insurance carrier may be difficult because there needs to be assurances
that a large number of employees will participate.

  • HB 1726 Hawaii Employer-Union Health Benefit Trust Fund: Group Life Insurance Prohibited

Employers are prohibited from contributing to any Group Life Insurance for employees. Employees can be offered a program paid for by the employee. A fee for being allowed to provide insurance will be charged to the insurance carrier and given to the state general fund.

  • HB 1727 Hawaii Employer-Union Health Benefit Trust Fund: Dental-Vision Prohibited

Employers are prohibited from contributing to any Dental-Vision insurance plans. Employees can be offered programs paid for by the employee.

Tips for Testimony

Testimony can be submitted less than 24 hours in advance of a hearing.  It will be placed in the Committee record but may not be acknowledged at the hearing.

Testimony is placed on the Legislative Web site after the hearing adjourns.

At the top of your testimony place the Committee name, date and time of the hearing. Include the measure number and title.

It is good to have separate messages for each bill that is being heard. It makes it appear that there are many voices. It also allows different arguments to be asserted.

It is good to sign your statement “respectfully submitted” with your name, position or title and organization you represent. In most cases you will be signing your testimony as a faculty member from a specific campus.

The hearings are public so faculty are encouraged to attend.

Action

Email your statements in opposition to these bills to the committee at LABtestimony@Capitol.hawaii.gov.

Please use a private/personal email address.

Send a separate copy of your testimony or concerns to UHPA at questions@uhpa.org.

If you want to read these bills go to the hearing notice and click on the bill no.

LEGISLATIVE ALERT #1 – UHPA Member Action Needed

The proposals shift cost to current employees and those nearing retirement by removing benefits currently provided in EUTF health insurance plans and/or provided to employees upon retirement. These proposals are being advanced to obtain major concessions from employee unions without the state meeting its obligation to bargain.

These proposals fail to recognize the significant impact state and county employees have on our state’s economy. The more pressure that is placed on employees to bear all the increased costs of health care, the more likely the state revenue stream will lessen. It is also clear that some employees will be unable to continue to provide health care for their families. Some of the benefit cuts are for six years making it unlikely that benefit coverage provided today can ever be regained.

UHPA has continued to work with other unions to advance real discussions on the problems of health care premiums. To date, they have been met with silence by the Governor and legislature. These bills are an attempt to diminish employee’s voices in influencing their conditions of employment.

They are punitive in nature doing substantial harm to families and will
make it hard to maintain a quality higher education workforce. Faculty
will not see UH as a viable career option nor will faculty invest in
staying.

ACTION STEP

Email the House Committee and Labor and Public Employment by 8:30 am Friday, February 13, with testimony that you do not support these measures.  Click to link to the Notice of Hearing which provides the email address and information on submitting testimony.

  • HB1106 Relating to Public Employment

Seeks to protect the rights of public employees to health, retirement, leave and other benefits if furloughed. Implies that furloughs are a certainty without negotiating impact with unions. There is an assumption that furloughs will be imposed.

Also doesn’t preclude other legislation from taking current benefits away. 

  • HB1718 Relating to Employer-Union Health Benefits

If an employee eligible to retire and eligible for Medicare does not retire by December 31, 2009 they will not receive reimbursement for Medicare part B premiums. These premiums for part B which cover doctor’s services range from $96.40 to $238.40 per month per employee. This appears to be a negative incentive to move retirement eligible employees out of the workforce (See HB 1719). This creates a two tiered system of benefits. Future retirees will be penalized.

  • HB 1719 Relating to Public Employees

If an employee retires after July 1, 2009 and is not eligible for Medicare the state and county employee will not receive employer provided health care. Retirees will be allowed to retain coverage by paying the premiums to EUTF. Coverage through the employer resumes after Medicare age is reached. This undermines the employees who have made career decisions based on access to health care upon retirement. It is an attempt to force employees into immediate retirement while creating a two tiered system of benefits for future retirees.

  • HB1725 Relating to the Hawaii Employer-Union Health Benefit Trust Fund

Prohibits EUTF from providing prescription drug coverage. Allows EUTF to have a prescription benefits paid by the employee.  The impact of this could be to increase premiums since access to prescription drugs often prevents other costly services like surgery. Finding an insurance carrier may be difficult because there needs to be assurances that a large number of employees will participate.

It is important that we know what you think.  Please email a copy of your testimony to kris@uhpa.org.

UHPA To Challenge “ERS” Pension Calculation

Under the current State of Hawaii Employees’ Retirement System, faculty members who receive compensation for teaching classes for summer session or the extension program (Outreach College) and from grants or special projects conducted during “non-duty period” times do not have those salaries used in the calculation of the defined benefit pension.  We believe that those salary payments should be included in determining a faculty member’s “high three” salaries for the purpose of the retirement pension calculation.

UHPA will begin by petitioning the ERS to have corrections made in the calculation of individual retirement benefits that did not include summer, extension, or grant compensation.  We are seeking faculty members who would fall in the following groups.

a)  UHPA unit members recently retired (with retirement already computed), and unit members about to retire (with an active interest in how much retirement is available),

b) current unit members who did earn or are earning salaries during the summer or other off duty periods, from either Summer Sessions, extension teaching, or grants and special projects that created additional income beyond base salary.

 

As to both groups a) and b), we seek, 1) those who remained in the original ERS contributory plan and 2) those who moved or were hired into the non-contributory plan.

The petitioners, of course, would need to be able to show salary earnings during the summer or non-duty over a number of years.  This can be done with the UH Personnel form, the annual PNF, and personal tax records including W-2s. 

The facts of an individual’s case would have to demonstrate that including these “overload” salaries would make a difference in the calculation of their ERS pension.

Persons who have been incorrectly denied ERS payments may collect interest on amounts not correctly finalized 6 months after retirement.  HRS 88-74.5.

If you are willing to be a named participant in the petition, please contact UHPA’s attorney, T. Anthony Gill, at the Gill & Zukeran firm. Their general email address is gillzkrn@pixi.com.

Testimony Concerning Proposed UH System Reorganization Plan

March 15, 2007

On behalf of the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly, we would offer the following testimony with respect to the proposed UH System reorganization plan.

This is at least the third proposed reorganization of the UH System brought forth by the UH administration since 2001, when a substantial change was first proposed. At that time, I suggested that the Regents should give serious consideration to reducing the size and redundancy of the UH System, taking into the consideration that the campuses that compose the UH System are widely diverse in complexity and size, UH-Manoa being uniquely significant. Specific suggestions were made with respect to the Vice Presidents, Human Resources, the Community Colleges, and the various reporting lines that were included. Those comments and suggestions did not lead to any change or modification in the proposal, and I assume it is unlikely that any that is now suggested will have any more impact.

1. As a matter of principle, we believe that multiple reporting lines lead to ambiguity and lack of accountability with respect to policy implementation. We suggested that there was too much double reporting in the last proposed reorganization (that which is now the current chart) and this proposal at least doubles the amount of double reporting. You’ll notice that if you trace the lines from some of the positions to the next, they go around in a circle. 

2. As particular evidence of the “dual reporting,” the community college chancellors report to both the VPCC and the President. It is assumed for practical purposes the “line authority” of the President would run through his Vice President to the CC chancellors. This organizational structure is confusing and ambiguous. The relationship between the CC chancellors and the Vice President is unclear, and the CC chancellors, despite their titles, obviously possess a position below the other chancellors of UHM, UHWO, and UHH. What is needed is a complete recognition that the reorganization that created the “independent” community colleges with “chancellors” was flawed and should be abandoned. I would suggest that the community colleges should be part of a statewide system of community colleges, as they were created, or returned to community colleges organized around each county.

Certainly, it cannot be denied that the presented organization has created ambiguity with respect to the mission of the community colleges, and in the extreme “mission creep” in the development of competing programs and degrees. In any event, the current organization of the community colleges has been inefficient and duplicative. The community colleges have created mirror images of the administrative structures of independent campuses that has been used to justify unnecessary overhead costs without providing any greater service to the students or the community than existed when there was one unified state community college system.

3. We have suggested over the years that the System-level administration focus on support of the statewide functions and policy formation held by the Regents. We have recommended that functional units, i.e., Manoa, Hilo, West Oahu, and the community colleges, be delegated the resources and authority to carry out their respective educational missions. Those resources held by the UH System to carry out functions that fall upon the campuses should be transferred. We note that the issue of the VP Research and VP Student Affairs remain unresolved, and these are two positions that offer resources that could be better utilized by the campuses. We would recommend that these positions be eliminated, especially in light of the administration organization of research under the Vice Chancellor at UHM, and the proliferation of associate deans for research in the colleges, e.g., SOEST. As we have said in the past, student affairs should be under the control of the chancellors of the various campuses.

4. We have recommended that the VP for Administration be eliminated and replaced with a VP for Human Resources since by law the university negotiates employee contracts that apply uniformly across functional units. It would make sense to include in this position the necessary technical resources to support the institutional research necessary to carry out both the practical aspects of the employment and the measurement of the long-term impact the mission of UH is having on our state and in the world. However, under the proposal before you, the human resources function remain under a Director, while both capital improvements and external affairs are assigned to Associate Vice Presidents. Titles show where the organizational priorities rest.

5. If there is a need for a Director of Capital Improvements, the position should be under the VP for Budget & Finance. There is absolutely no rationale that supports elevating the CIP Director to that of an Associate Vice President. In fact, the recent facilities report recommends that Manoa should be building its own CIP capacity. Again, this demonstrates resources being held by the UH System that could, at least in part, be redistributed to the major campuses. Given the current practice of setting administrative salaries based on titles, this proposal of adding another Associate Vice President would increase the UH System overhead costs.

6. A final aspect of “dual reporting” is created in the relationship of the Office of General Counsel to President and Board of Regents. We supported the Regents earlier reorganization that created a direct line of reporting from the General Counsel’s Office and the Secretary to the Board of Regents to Regents. We felt at the time that this added an internal and independent voice for the Regents to hear especially when differences or difficulties arose between the President and Regents.

One way to avoid recreating this confusion would be to change the fundamental relationship between the President and the Board of Regents, and therefore, the President to the Chancellors of campuses. We have long suggested that UH should consider a model where the President becomes the Chancellor of the UH System and the Chief Executive Officer of the Board of Regents. The Chancellor’s function, on behalf of the Regents, would be the evaluation and oversight of the campus presidents. The functional decision-making, once the Regents made budget allocations, would reside with the presidents. This is a subject that would deserve much greater discussion, and thus we’ll end our comments on this point.

This proposal does not encourage UHPA with respect to the future of our formal relationship with the UH administration. We believe that it will continue to be an inefficient and ambiguous organizational structure that confounds campus accountability and the delegation of authority.

It is our sincere hope that the Regents will take into consideration the issues we have raised before the Board proceeds to “rubber stamp” this proposed reorganization.

Respectfully, 

J. N. Musto

Executive Director