Urgent Legislative Update

Via POAM Legislative Director, Kenneth E. Grabowski

The Michigan legislature continues to look at legislative changes to Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB) and pension benefits for public safety and municipal employees. The POAM team has been actively involved at the State Capitol fighting on your behalf.

At this point, NO legislation has been introduced. However, we are anticipating bills being introduce as early as the last week of November. Some of the changes we believe are coming include significant attacks on our ability to collectively bargain and to maintain the retirement benefits you have earned.

Your engagement is needed:

Call your State Legislator and urge them to support the Governor’s task force report on Responsible Retirement Reform.

You can find the contact information for your State Representative HERE and your State Senator HERE.

POAM will remain actively engaged with legislators and the Governor. When legislation is introduced, we will immediately notify you and provide you with an action alert.

Be sure to follow POAM on Facebook and Twitter for updates!

6 responses to “Urgent Legislative Update from POAM | Call to Action!

Posted by R. Skelton

This is first time I’ve heard of this nonsense. I can assure you that only 30 to 40 Deputies out of hundreds who work inside the jails and court’s and ext..
Are not aware of what’s going on in Lansing. Some one needs to post them selves at jails 1,2,3 and the Court system an ext …. To inform everyone how this will affect their health care, retirement and pensions next year.
What measures to take to help alleviate this legislative act from happening .
( Wayne County Deputy Sheriffs )

Posted on November 18, 2017 at 8:03 PM

Posted by Harry Valentine

Latest Articles on the Attack on First Responder Current and Retired Health Care by Lansing Republicans

Is Your Local Gov’t Saving Money For Retiree Health Care?
As a prelude to a pending House debate in less than two weeks, the Mackinac Center has issued a report on the level of debt at the local government level as it relates to retiree health care costs.

In a statement that may be part of the debate, the center writes, “local governments can trim these retiree benefits at any time,” and organized labor is deeply concerned that that time may be now.

As MIRS reported earlier this week, seven public employee unions representing police and firefighters have reserved time on the Capitol lawn to demonstrate any action the House may take that could cost their retirees their health care stipends. (See “Labor Braces For Another Battle,”11/15/2017)

The Mackinac Center also wrote, “Half of the local governments have saved little or nothing to pay these costs.”

And that’s the point House Speaker Tom LEONARD (R-DeWitt) made last week when he said Republicans will take action on OPEB costs (other post-employment benefits) to make sure there are retirement dollars available to those retirees in the future. When asked about trimming those benefits, he would not respond.

MIRS has now confirmed through three sources that Rep. Thomas ALBERT (R-Lowell) and Rep. Jim LOWER (R-Cedar Lake) are pushing for the elimination of those benefits. The two have been contacted for comment on this but so far, no response.

One GOP source says, “wait ’til they feel the full weight of the police and firefighters on this.”

The Mackinac Center cites data from the state Treasury to suggest that the challenging red ink issues are mostly in southeast Michigan. There are just over 30 counties that have fully funded systems.

The in-debt areas including Saginaw at $4,400 per person, Lansing at $3,300, Flint comes in with $2,400, and Kalamazoo at $2,400.

Unlike pensions systems that are protected in the constitution, the Mackinac Center said that “municipalities are not required to set money aside for OPEB.”

Labor Braces For Another Battle
Why do you suppose seven different labor unions representing the police and firefighters would reserve space on the Capitol lawn for November 28-30 and then the next week from December 6-7 right after the Legislature returns from the Thanksgiving-deer hunting break?

Suffice it to say it’s not to have a picnic to celebrate Solidarity Together. It’s to gather the labor wagons to beat back what is perceived as a potential attack on ending retiree health care benefits.

Each group is anticipating that House Republicans will make a quick and early run at that or other unfavorable changes to that system.

House leadership and the governor’s office have reportedly not signed off on this controversial move, but MIRS has learned there are several lawmakers who want to go there when the House takes up a work group report that studied local debt associated with pension and health care costs. The work group did not embrace ending health care benefits.

“There are legislators who want to do that,” confides one labor source “which goes beyond what the work group proposed … we’re fearful of some of these proposals” aimed at existing retirees.

This source also reports House Republicans may go beyond the scope of the original report by considering changes to all retiree health care systems including those local governments that do not have a debt challenge. There is also talk that the retiree oversight board, which was charged to work with debt-ridden local governments, be given the power to impose cost savings with those governments if negations do not result in cost savings.

“We would strongly oppose an across-the-board” approach to dealing with this debt situation, one source explains. The work group report was very clear that no state action is required where there is no problem.

The groups requesting time on the Capitol lawn include the police and fire chiefs associations, the firefighters union, the sheriff’s association, the Fraternal Order of Police, the Michigan Association of Police Officers, and the Police Officers of Michigan.

“We’re not going to wait. We want the members to contact their lawmakers over the break” to urge a no vote on whatever comes down the pipe, one union source reports.

Ironically, if this happens in it would be near the Dec. 11th anniversary of the passage of Right to Work when many of the same unions rallied on the lawn to kill that and they failed.

Framework Set On Municipal Retiree Health Care Plan
A summary and fact sheet on a potentially upcoming proposal changing the municipal retirement health care system was circulated among House Republicans last week and many following the issue expect if it is taken up this term, it will be before the end of the year.
The plan, outlined in a rough framework obtained by Gongwer News Service, is not final, but is pretty close, said Rep. Jim Lower (R-Cedar Lake), one of the lead members working on the issue, said Tuesday. Mr. Lower said the summary and fact sheet were circulated to members so they could start to provide input as the legislation is crafted.
“My personal preference is that we would act on this sooner rather than later,” he said. “We are ready as far as I am concerned. There has been a lot of discussion and there has been a lot of debate.”
The plan as outlined would set up a five-phase plan and put in place certain requirements for retiree health care and its funding. If a local government was not meeting those requirements and did not come up with its own corrective plan, a board mostly controlled by state officials would implement a corrective action plan.
Under the proposal, defined benefit plans for new employees would be prohibited after July 1, 2018, and certain criteria would be put in place to determine if a health care system is underfunded.
This early proposal appears to be setting up another showdown between the Legislature and police officers and fire fighters, much like last year when outcry from public safety workers led to legislation on the issue quickly being killed.
Dave Hiller, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, and Mark Docherty, with the Michigan Professional Firefighters Union, told Gongwer the Legislature should pass a proposal based on the Responsible Retirement Reform for Local Government Task Force report released earlier this year.
Mr. Lower, though, said he is not worried about police and fire outcry leading to the proposal’s defeat. He said he has also been working with those groups and “it is pretty evident they have strong opinions.”
The task force’s report also agreed on a five-phase system, though it officially made no recommendations. The task force agreed on more transparency and reporting and some minimum funding requirements.
Mr. Docherty said the current proposal goes “well beyond” the task force. He said there is a strong police and fire coalition that will oppose the state going “too far.”
“Our members are going to react in a way that they have in the past when they see something they don’t like and goes too far,” Mr. Docherty said. “We want our benefits funded, of course, but there is a reasonable way to do it.”
He said he is not happy with everything in the task force report, but it was the product of many months of work with many stakeholders, not just unions, and it should be implemented.
Mr. Hiller said the task force plan should at least be implemented to first to see if it works before another proposal is pursued.
A myth vs. reality sheet distributed among House Republicans said the proposal was built around the task force consensus. But it said the task force did not agree on what to do in the final stage for local governments that cannot come up with a local solution.
“These reforms address that issue and put forward a solution that will fully solve the problem,” the handout says.
The sheet also says the state plays no meaningful role until the last stage, and even then local government officials are involved. It says only local governments in the worst possible funding positions will reach the final stage.
Several other groups working the issue – the Michigan Association of Counties, the Michigan Townships Association and the Michigan Municipal League – said they are working with the Legislature but did not offer specifics yet.
While Mr. Lower said the Legislature is still talking with stakeholders, he would not characterize the conversations as “negotiations.”
“As far as putting together a plan, all parties agree something needs to get done,” he said. “We are all on the same page.”
The proposal did appear close enough to being finalized that there was some expectation legislation would be introduced and acted on last week, several of those watching the issue said, though that did not occur. Stakeholders are now expecting that if it is taken up, it will be before the end of the year.
Amber McCann, spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof (R-West Olive), said there has been some discussion that the House and Senate would each introduce the same proposal and move it at the same time. Ms. McCann said Senate Republicans discussed the issue last week and it would have been premature to introduce a bill.
House Speaker Tom Leonard Spokesperson Gideon D’Assandro said the process details will be finalized after the proposal is finalized.
HOUSE REPUBLICAN OUTLINE: The outline distributed among House Republicans last week would implement five phases with the first phase consisting of requirements for all municipalities.
Those would include reporting, prefunding retiree health care normal cost obligations and no defined benefit plans for new hires after July 1, 2018. The treasurer would also be required to set standards for actuarial assumptions and valuation methods for pension and retiree health care systems.
The proposal would also put in place a system to determine the underfunded status of local governments. As currently outlined, pensions would be considered underfunded if funded at less than 60 percent with 10 percent of General Fund revenue on the actuarial required contribution. Other post-employment benefits would be considered underfunded at a ratio less than of 30 percent and more than 10 percent of General Fund on the actuarial contribution.
Under the proposal as written, the Department of Treasury could issue a waiver of underfunded status for municipalities trending in the right direction or already working on a corrective plan. For those that are underfunded, a three-member board would also be created with technical experts appointed by the governor, speaker and Senate majority leader to advise local governments as they come up with corrective plans.
The final phase, for local units of government that do not put in place a corrective plan or fail to follow it, would add two more members to the board – one picked by the local government management and the other by the local union or retirees – would develop and approve a plan.
The myth vs. reality sheet distributed among House Republicans said opponents would attempt to say the proposal takes away the ability for locals to bargain with unions, would allow local governments to strip retirees of pensions and retirement health care, is a one-size fits all solution and is stacked against locals

Posted on November 17, 2017 at 11:49 AM

Posted by Harry Valentine

Once again efforts by our republican governor and republican dominated legislature plan to take or drastically alter retirement health care for first responders. Not only will they be attempting to prevent current and new hired employees from decent retirement benefits, they once again go after those who have retired or soon will retire.

This is serious. Republican Senators have drafted a bill on the issue. Their goal once again like last year, is to introduce it in Lame Duck Session where their is no debate and no public input and pass it. Because the bill is a draft no representative in Lansing will be untruthful when they say they have not seen a bill. The bill will be introduce to committee on or about November 28th. Rubber stamped out of committee to a vote of both houses and sent it to the governor who is not opposed to signing the bill.

The governors office convened a committee to study health care issues when this was attempted last year but the Republicans are ignoring the findings due to the lobbing of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. The Governors Committee on Responsible Retirement study told the state with the exception of a few poorly administered local governments the majority of Michigan communities negotiate responsibly with their unions and work to keep costs in check while providing decent benefits. The governor does not want to use the Emergency Manager Law in the poorly administered communities because of what it did to the citizens of Flint and the first responders in Detroit.

This will not only impact current and retired first responders it will impact the local communities as well. Local communities work hard to attract quality candidates as first responders. Thohse local units of government who do act responsibly with their employees will be hurt by this as well because they have lost local control to manage their work force. With local control removed quality will suffer.

For you who are first responders the dangers you face are not always on the street. The underhanded backroom antics of unscrupulous politicians and political hacks can impact you as well. They do not have your back. Call your representatives tell them to leave retirement health care to the local governments and follow the findings of the Governor’s Committee on Responsible Retirement Health Care.

Follow the issue on the POAM website or on POAM Twitter

Harry Valentine

Posted on November 17, 2017 at 11:47 AM

Posted by Mike Mileski

This make me sick. Why is the State attempting to do this? Does it affect their coffers? 25 years of being a LEO basically means nothing to these criminals. I sincerely hope something can be done.

Posted on November 16, 2017 at 3:47 PM

Posted by Charles Lux

It appears that I will have to travel to Lansing once again in winter to fight for my legal rights that I collectively bargained for for 26 years. Seems to me that one political party keeps attacking police officers, firefighters and teachers every time they get control of the government. If they had it their way we would not have any pension systems or health care for any of us. Time to consider who we endorse for political office. The governor lied about Right to Work legislation and pension taxes. He is no friend to Law Enforcement.

Posted on November 15, 2017 at 1:18 AM

Posted by Jesse M Bartlett

Thank you for keeping an eye on this very important matter. I will do anything possible to assist.

Posted on November 10, 2017 at 7:48 PM

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *