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News & Updates

WPEA​ Working on Insurance

 

WPEA is actively researching ways to decrease the insurance premiums, brining the employer contributions back to 85%, working with the Executive branch to improve public employee benefits and, probably most importantly, electing legislators who will vote in support of state employee's salaries, benefits and working conditions. WPEA will continue to work to improve employee insurance benefits and stop the premium increases.

The insurance is a top priority for WPEA; however, we did know that there would have to be changes in the insurance program last August when the reserves for claims would be completely used up by October, 2019. WPEA's concern back then was the 18% increase they were talking about implementing. There was even talk about changing the employer/employee split to 70/30% or 75/25%.

 

The state used to pay 100% for the employee and paid nothing for the dependents. In the late 1990s, early 2000s, the state plan was becoming known as a "sick" plan as it was only covering employees who were taking single coverage and not covering spouses or families. This cause premium increases year after year. The need for younger families and dependent with no major health issues was badly needed to help make the state plan healthy and have more enrolled in the plan. 

In 2001, 2002 and 2003 there was talk of paying 50% of dependents up to 80%. In 2003, the newly elected Governor and the legislature voted to pay 85% of the employee and family coverage which encouraged families to enroll and stabilized the program. The program no longer experienced premium increases ;year after year. When this started it took the 100% paid premium down to the 85% which made the single employees unhappy but stopped the increases. WPEA will continue to work to improve employee insurance and stop the premium increases.

Please contact the WPEA office if you have questions or suggestions.

The Dreaded Drawer

 

There is a place that most Wyoming lobbyists fear when it comes to their bills disappearing without being considered on the House of Representatives and the Senate floors. It is the Dreaded Drawer. So what is this process that allows a bill to disappear into the Dreaded Drawer?

 

Within the Wyoming Legislature there are a number of individuals (24) who have the ability to pocket veto a bill, or keep a bill from being heard in the Legislature. Better known as “keeping the bill in the drawer”. When a bill assigned to a committee is one the committee chair does not wish to hear, the chair can refuse to hear the bill and drop it in the dreaded drawer. Another possibility is that the bill actually gets to the floor and the Majority Floor Leader can then choose not to hear the bill in their respective legislative chamber. The Speaker of the House or the President of the Senate can also refuse to hear a bill in chamber.

 

Wyoming State Senate President Drew Perkins indicated that “there are more years than not where the Senate President and the Speaker of the House have not put bills out.” He said he guessed he had kept maybe 10 bills in the drawer over his two years as Senate President reflecting that ‘good ideas always come back’ as well as “bad bills”. It just takes time to pass a bill.

 

Steve Harshman, Speaker of the Wyoming House of Representatives said, as a general practice, he tends not to put bills in the drawer. He pointed out that the Legislative body can recall a bill from a committee chair’s drawer with a majority vote. Getting the important bills out early and controlling the workflow so one committee doesn’t have 10 bills and another doesn’t have any is why sometimes you see a bill go to a committee that it doesn’t have much to do with.

 

Perkins and Harshman share similar ideas when it comes to why and when to pocket veto a bill. Part of the weight Perkins gives to bills is whether it adds or detracts from subject matter conversations and the financial shape the state is in. Harshman left one bill in the drawer that he felt wasn’t ready to move forward due to unanswered questions. He also left in the drawer bills around corporate income tax and wind tax bills. 

 

Harshman was in the rare position of leaving a bill in the drawer and had one of the bills he sponsored die in the drawer of someone else. Harshman sponsored House Bill 110 which offered a cost of living adjustment (COLA) to Wyoming government retirees. Cheyenne House Representative Bill Henderson brought House Bill 112 to the floor also allowing for a COLA and a study on issues relating to a COLA. The Wyoming Public Employees Association lobbied in support of both HB0110 and HB0112. Harshman combined his bill with that of Henderson’s bill and it passed in the House moving to the Senate. Unfortunately, when it reached the Senate the bill was never heard, having died in the dreaded drawer of Senator Perkins.

 

“I’m not sure why he held it, I haven’t asked him,” Harshman said. “I thought I would get a hearing. Representative Henderson’s bill had some study components I really liked, so we went with my distribution and his study.”

 

Perkins, who had close family members who would have benefitted from the COLA, but that wasn’t enough for him to move the bill forward. He stated that the state’s largest retirement plan was funded at 115 percent of obligations when COLAs were given to retirees about 15 years ago. With a downturn in the stock market in 2009, the retirement plans dropped to over 70 percent funded. “The most important thing is to keep the money sound, so it is a promise made and a promise kept to retirees.

 

This article rewritten with quotes and some content excerpted from an AARP Wyoming News article

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