Thursday, May 28, 2009

Legislative and Policy updates

In the shadow of the big story concerning the budget, NFA is heavily involved in several other very important pieces of legislation that will be addressed in the final days of the session. (In the context of the budget, there was good news yesterday for UNLV with the inclusion of the Hotel College building in the Capital Improvement Projects budget, after it had been left out entirely by the Governor -- a project which NFA representatives in Carson City supported).

SB427, which will "reform" (ie, cut) retirement benefits for new state employees, is being heard this afternoon by the Senate Finance committee. The change to PEBP will only effect new state hires after 1 July 2010, who will need to work 15 years to qualify for a partial state subsidy of health insurance premiums in retirement. Current workers and current retirees will not be effected. (This is an improvement over the PEBP budgetary request which would have applied the 15-year threshhold to all current employees; NFA worked hard with other public service advocates to preserve the current benefits schedule for current employees.)

This bill will go to the full Senate, then the Assembly, sometime just before or just after the votes to override the Governor's veto of the budget. We're actively involved in the specific issue of how many years state workers, including faculty, will need to work to qualify for retirement benefits -- it appears the bill will call for a 15-year threshold and 20 years of service to qualify for the full benefit. For now, the signs are good that those currently employed at UNLV (or any public agency in the state) will not be impacted by this change.

SB283, the Nevada Domestic Partnership Bill, which the NFA has long supported, faces an uphill climb to get the 14 votes necessary in the Senate to override the Governor's veto. If you have an opportunity to contact one of the following Clark County Senators (especially if you live in one of their district's) please do so today -- John Lee, Terry Care, or Dennis Nolan.

Finally, there are some concepts that have yet to be introduced as bills, including a "Stabilization Fund" for the System of Higher Education to prevent such steep cuts in the future, and an interim study of the funding formulas. NFA supports both ideas and is trying to help see them through into law.

Away from Carson, the System's "Personnel Policy Review Committee" continues to meet and prepare recommendations for the Board of Regents concerning the legislature's cut of 4% to the salary pool for faculty and pro-staff. While its deliberations are confidential, the NFA (and faculty generally) is well represented on the committee. In its statement to the System, the NFA great emphasis is being made to protect faculty rights under the System Code and to ensure faculty participation in any decisions that might emerge from this review.

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