Williams & Associates set out with several goals for the 2006 legislative session at the direction of the Associated Highway Patrolmen of Arizona Board of Directors.  The AHPA set out in 2006 to make a fix to the meet and confer statute, increase pay for sworn and civilian DPS employees, establish a DROP program for civilians through ASRS, expand/allow subsidies for retiree health insurance, and provide industrial injury leave for civilian employees of DPS.

At the conclusion of the 2006 legislative session, not only had the AHPA obtained the majority of these early goals – but they also added to their list of accomplishments by reconciling new issues that arose late in the session when it otherwise might have seemed impossible to find legislative solutions.

The goals to reform the retiree health care subsidies and the ASRS retirement system were unable to be resolved in their entirety during the Legislative session. The AHPA spent time laying the groundwork, devising solutions and building relationships in effort to most effectively introduce and approach the issues which are simply too important and of too great an impact to be handled over the course of one six month legislative work period.

  • The 2006 session serves to prove that the AHPA is resourceful, determined, effective and realistic when it comes to doing what is best legislatively for the membership of the AHPA and all employees of DPS.
  • The AHPA accepts the challenge of facing all issues that are important to our membership and all of the employees – future, current and past – of DPS.

Specifics:

Meet & Confer

AHPA objective – Clarify the voting result language for the DPS meet and confer election.

AHPA action – AHPA drafted legislation, sponsored by Senator Toni Hellon, to clarify that the meet and confer election would be won by the association who garnered the majority of the votes – provided the majority of employees voted.  The meet and confer language originally stated that the victorious association would be selected by the majority of DPS employees.  Senator Robert Blendu, at the request of the FOP, had also sponsored a bill with the clarifying language.   

AHPA result –The AHPA agreed, along with Senator Hellon, that only one bill need proceed since all interested parties were invested in the same language passing the Legislature.  The bill that did proceed was Senator Blendu’s.  The AHPA lent strong support backed by verbal committee testimony in both houses combined with individual meetings with every committee member and the majority of the House and Senate membership.

ASRS DROP

AHPA objective – Establish a working DROP program that would not be a detriment to the overall health of the retirement system

AHPA action – The AHPA met prior to the start of the 2006 legislative session with Representative Marian McClure, chairwoman of the committee on Public Institutions & Retirement.  She organized meetings for the AHPA, who contracted with Jack Cross to meet and discuss DROP options with the ASRS.  Jack Cross presented several options that he has calculated to show as cost neutral to the system.  His proposals included options for forward DROP with a low rate of return, forward DROP with a market rate of return, and reverse DROP.  ASRS evaluated our plans and returned an unfavorable opinion citing a potential $1.1 billion dollar cost.  ASRS continues to be unwavering in their opinion that any sort of DROP program serves as to great of a risk to the system at this point.  ASRS initially agreed to evaluate our proposals and offer alternate cost neutral DROP solutions, however, no alternate proposals were ultimately offered on behalf of ASRS.

AHPA result – As a result of AHPA initiated meetings with Representative McClure and ASRS, Representative McClure agreed to hold an informational hearing to inform members and air the ideas regarding an ASRS DROP.  Informational hearings are common practice for complicated issues that require education and discussion on the topic, prior to finding a legislative solution.

Retiree Health Insurance

AHPA objective – Expand the opportunity for retiree health insurance subsidies

AHPA action – Representative Bill Konopnicki sponsored HB 2476 at the request of the AHPA.  This bill removed language prohibiting the use of public funds for payment towards an insurance premium for state retirees.  After research and discussion with House of Representative Rules Committee attorneys, the AHPA and Representative Konopnicki received a legal opinion from the House that although HB 2476 was constitutional, it would not change the fact that it is unconstitutional for state general fund monies to be used in any way to benefit current retirees.  This would be in direct violation of the constitutional gift ban.

AHPA result – At the sponsor”s request, HB 2476 did not move forward so that other avenues could be discussed over the interim. Initial preparations have been made to address the issue of retiree health insurance with all stakeholders over the interim and the next legislative session.

Industrial Injury Leave for DPS Civilians

AHPA objective – Allow civilian employees of DPS to be granted industrial injury leave compensation

AHPA action – the AHPA drafted HB 2339, sponsored by Representative Marian McClure. This bill moved successfully through the House and Senate to be signed into law by the Governor.  The bill had the official support of the Governor’s office and was carried by the AHPA lobbying team.

AHPA result – A DPS civilian employee whose work related injury results from hazardous or law enforcement related duties and prevents them from performing their normal duties is now eligible to be granted industrial injury leave hours by the Director, as has been done exclusively for sworn DPS employees in the past.

Civilian Employee Pay Increase

AHPA objective – Increase the pay for civilian employees of DPS

AHPA action – The AHPA worked the duration of the session to garner support for a pay raise specific to civilian DPS employees, in addition to the pay raise established early in the session for all state employees.  After numerous meetings will all members of the Legislature and Governor’s office, there remained concern – legal and theoretical – with separating civilian state employees of DPS apart from other civilian state employees through an additional pay raise.

AHPA result – No pay raise was obtained specific to civilian employees of DPS, but this is an issue that could be pursued in future legislatures and in times of surplus general funds.

Sworn Employee Pay Increase

AHPA objective – Protect the pay increase offered in the Governor’s budget for sworn DPS employees

AHPA action – The AHPA actively worked the duration of the Legislative session to ensure that the money for sworn salaries in the Governor’s original budget remained in place and unchanged.  Having the money proposed from the start was a distinct advantage, but the budget is comprised of several moving parts that at any point can be negotiated in or out of the final package.  The AHPA met on several occasions with the Chairman and membership of the Appropriations committee along with the House Majority Financial Advisor to not only protect the amount for sworn pay in the budget, but keep the pay free from unfavorable conditions or links to unrelated issues.

AHPA result – The final DPS budget contained nearly $3 million for sworn pay with credit due to the AHPA for six months of thorough attention to all budgetary negotiations, meeting with budget negotiators and consistent review of every budget draft.

CORP Membership for DPS Dispatchers

AHPA objective – Ease the ability for DPS dispatchers to join CORP and allow dispatchers in CORP to qualify for ordinary disability pension.

AHPA action – The AHPA worked with PSPRS and legislative council during the 2006 session to formulate language that would ease the transition of DPS dispatchers from ASRS into CORP.  It was also realized through our discussions that no ordinary disability pension within CORP had been created for any dispatcher group that had or would join CORP.  PSPRS had a bill at the appropriate stage in the process that they had been working on in conjunction with the FOP.  Out of respect for the stakeholders of the existing bill, PSPRS and the FOP, AHPA approached those organizations prior to directly approaching Senator Huppenthal, the bill sponsor, to use SB 1172 for the amended language.

AHPA result – The opportunity for a DPS dispatcher to opt out of the decision to change their membership from ASRS to CORP is eased, making it more amenable for DPS dispatchers to join CORP as a group.  An ordinary disability pension is also established for dispatchers in CORP.

Related Legislative Achievements

Arizona Police Association

The AHPA membership receives legislative benefit from the AHPA’s participation and membership in the Arizona Police Association (APA).  As a member, the AHPA has influence over the APA legislative agenda each year.  In 2006, the APA successfully passed legislation of direct benefit to the AHPA membership and also defeated negative legislation that would have been detrimental to members of the AHPA.

HB 2229            PEACE OFFICERS MEMORIAL BOARD; COMPOSITION

The APA drafted and successfully passed an amendment to open up the Peace Officers Memorial Board by adding two new positions from a statewide organization representing law enforcement personnel.  Before this change, the only association representation was allowed by a fraternal organization of law enforcement personnel.  The FOP originally opposed this amendment over concerns that their positions on the Board could be at risk.    

HB 2234            OVERTIME COMPENSATION; LAW ENFORCEMENT

The APA was successful in ensuring HB 2234 overtime compensation; law enforcement did not move forward this legislative session. This bill would have allowed the county sheriff or governing body of a city or town to establish alternate work periods in accordance with federal law to determine overtime compensation for a person engaged in law enforcement.

HB 2727            FALLEN POLICE OFFICERS; SPECIAL PLATES

The APA joined with the AZ Chapter of COPS to successfully run legislation allowing for the creation of a special license plate benefiting nonprofit organizations, such as COPS, which demonstrate a commitment to helping Arizona families of fallen police officers who died in the line of duty.

SB 1072            POLICE TOOLS; CRIMINAL SUSPECTS; IMMUNITY

APA successfully backed SB 1072 which provides presumptions of reasonableness to the victim, officer, state or political subdivision of the state if the Court finds the plaintiff was injured while committing a felony.  The peace officer will be presumed to have acted reasonably in using physical force or deadly physical force to protect against another’s use of force or when assisting in making an arrest or to prevent an escape.  

SB 1165            LAW ENFORCEMENT MERIT SYSTEM; FEES

As part of the APA legislative agenda, the APA passed SB 1165 which allows for the recovery of attorney and court fees paid by an association on behalf of an exonerated officer.  

SB 1337            LAW ENFORCEMENT MERIT SYSTEM COUNCILS

The APA proposed a change to the Merit System Councils that would allow local control to remain with the counties by allowing each Council to adopt their own standard of review.  This bill was in direct conflict with a bill proposed by the Arizona Sheriffs.  No legislation moved forward, but the APA found success in defeating the alternative negative proposal.

SB 1453 LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER DISCIPLINE

The APA successfully prevented the Sheriffs’ legislative change to the merit system council guidelines which would have been detrimental to line officers.  Their bill stated that the merit system council may hear appeals only in cases where the order for sanction was arbitrary or made without reasonable cause, dismissing all other appeals.

Article written by/or information provided by tcamos

Stacey J. Gaus
Williams & Associates Government Relations

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