2013 Session Update: Employee Benefits and Relations Legislation

The General Assembly is now in its final week of the Regular Legislative Session and bills have started moving to their ultimate end.  Bills on the road to passage have crossed into the opposite chamber after favorable committee reports and a majority vote by their full chamber of origin.  Bills that have not yet received a favorable report from their committee are not likely to proceed further.

This post summarizes the status of employee benefits and relations bills that MACo supported or opposed this session.

State Retirement and Pension System – Board of Trustees: HB390/SB741 would add one county government representative to the Board of Trustees of the State Retirement and Pension System.  This bill was a MACo initiative and MACo supported this legislation, stating that as county governments assume a role in financing the State Retirement and Pension System, membership on the Board of Trustees would provide them with a voice in the System’s direction. Status: HB 390 has passed both chambers and will be sent to the Governor for his signature.

State Retirement and Pension System – Board of Trustees – County Representation: HB1384/SB885 would add two county government members to the Board of Trustees of the State Retirement and Pension System. MACo supported this legislation as another way to further the initiative of adding county representation to the Board of Trustees.  Status: HB 1384 had a hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee on February 27, but the Committee chose to move HB390/SB741 (described above) rather than this bill.

Labor and Employment – Maryland Earned Sick and Safe Leave Act: HB735/SB698 would require employers to provide paid sick leave at a normal rate of pay for all employees and their family members. The bill would expand the definition of family members beyond current uses and includes a broad array of circumstances for taking sick leave. MACo opposed this legislation stating that even though county governments generally offer generous benefit and leave policies, these mandates would be create some inefficiencies in the current system. Status: HB 735 received an unfavorable report from the House Economic Matters Committee and was withdrawn. SB 698 had a hearing in the Senate Finance Committee today on February 27, but the Committee did not move the bill. The bill now appears unlikely to pass.

State Retirement and Pension System – Report on Proposal to Authorize Counties to Elect Alternate Pension Options for Teachers: HB1414 would require the Board of Trustees for the State Retirement and Pension System to study and report on the statutory provisions necessary for county governments to provide alternate pension options to county board of education employees. MACo supported this legislation stating that evaluating alternate pension options for county board employees would assist State, local and education stakeholders to understand the costs and consequences of any future changes to these offerings, and help guide any future policy considerations.  Status: HB1414 had a hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee on March 15, but the Committee’s inaction on the bill indicates that it is unlikely to pass this year.

State Retirement and Pension System – Administrative and Operational Expenses- Payments and Deductions: HB379/SB475 would alter an administrative charge applied to participating government units of the State’s pension system. By eliminating the deductibility of these charges, the counties and other participating entities will bear additional actual costs. MACo supported this legislation with amendments, stating that the technical change should be made so that the system was not underfunded, but that ultimately the administrative fee system should be eliminated. As described in MACo’s testimony, MACo believes that the entire charge-back mechanism, originally driven by difficult budget times, should be a priority for elimination as the fiscal situation improves. Status: HB379 and SB475 were withdrawn by the sponsors, probably based on an unforeseen fiscal impact due to the way the bill was drafted.  The bills will not be reintroduced this session, however MACo anticipates a similar bill may be introduced next year.