Legislature(2009 - 2010)BELTZ 211
03/24/2009 09:00 AM STATE AFFAIRS
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* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 126-REEMPLOYMENT OF RETIREES; EXEMPT SERVICE 11:06:09 AM CHAIR MENARD announced the consideration of SB 126. GINGER BLAISDELL, Director, Administrative Services, Department of Revenue (DOR), said SB 126 has three parts: two positions in DOR; 23 positions in the Department of Natural Resources (DNR); and an extension of a sunset for the retiree/rehire program. The positions for DOR include the state comptroller and the chief economist. The economist is in a classified position in the supervisory bargaining unit, and after multiple recruitments the position has been unfilled for a year and a half. The bill will exempt the position so the state can increase the pay. The state comptroller has turned over four times in four years because the employee has left for a higher paying job. The bill will move it into exempt status instead of partially exempt "so that we could use a different pay scale." The positions in DNR are professional level, which are out-marketed. Market-based pay in the private sector is significantly higher than what the state can offer. "So we're looking at taking them from temporary- project service into full-time exempt status for a long-term project." The retiree/rehire program has had two different terms. This one will sunset on June 30, so on July 1 the few employees that are retirees would have to make a choice of retaining their positions and stop receiving their retirement benefits, or they would have to retire, making those positions vacant. 11:09:24 AM CHAIR MENARD said the first retiree/rehire program started in 2001 and was continued in 2005. What was the original intent? MS. BLAISDELL said it was to fill positions that were difficult to fill. CHAIR MENARD asked if retirees, prior to 2001, were prohibited from returning to state work in any capacity. MS. BLAISDELL said once state workers retire, they receive retirement benefits. If they return to work with the same plan, they forfeit retirement pay and receive regular position pay. 11:10:24 AM CHAIR MENARD surmised that there would be 23 employees affected. MS. BLAISDELL said those are at DNR and are not rehired retirees. The 23 employees in that program are listed in a report that the committee has. There are 77 TRS active retirees and 47 PERS active retires employed by state and local governments. CHAIR MENARD asked how this affects young employees who want to climb up the ladder. MS. BLAISDELL said there have been questions on upward mobility, but the retiree/rehire program is only allowed if there are fewer than five candidates for any given position. It is not a shoe-in for the retiree to get that job. There are only 36 positions using the program, and the state has 15,000 to 17,000 employees. CHAIR MENARD said she has always had a problem with retirees taking the slots of new hires who have potential. It shuts out opportunities. SENATOR PASKVAN asked if there are 124 in TRS and PERS, and the bill is to expand it with 23 positions in DNR. MS. BLAISDELL said no. There are two separate actions in SB 126. The DNR and DOR positions are just being changed to exempt service to use a different pay scale. The retiree/rehire program is separate. 11:14:14 AM SENATOR PASKVAN asked the average age of retirement for the 124 people. MS. BLAISDELL said she doesn't know. CHAIR MENARD asked about making it two separate bills. MS. BLAISDELL said the bill has two topics, but both are personnel related. She is not sure why the governor chose to put them in one bill. 11:14:58 AM SENATOR FRENCH asked if this is "must-have legislation." MS. BLAISDELL said if the portion that allows the positions to become exempt were deleted, the DNR positions would remain in temporary status, and the DOR positions would likely remain vacant or become vacant. Those positions are critical to the needs of the state. The retiree/rehire program will sunset on July 1 if the bill doesn't pass. So, 124 people will need to make the choice of staying in their positions without drawing retirement benefits or leaving. SENATOR FRENCH asked if those 124 would stop getting retirement if they stayed in their jobs. MS. BLAISDELL said that is correct; they would just be receiving their regular pay. 11:16:22 AM SENATOR FRENCH asked if it is a must-have bill for the governor. MS. BLAISDELL said she doesn't know. SENATOR FRENCH said he has many questions and would like to address it later. CHAIR MENARD agreed. In the interest of time, the committee will take it up on Thursday. SB 126 was held over.