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WEA backs new health care bill; opposes others

Things are moving in the Legislature — finally.

In the House, legislators have rolled out a package of nine so-called “reform” bills. Three of the bills affect public school employees, and all nine are related to a potential budget deal that could be released this week.

On health care, WEA supports House Bill 2829. The bill is similar to HB 2666, which WEA supported earlier this year as an alternative to Senate Bill 6442, which WEA members staunchly oppose.

HB 2829 protects local collective bargaining rights and avoids a state takeover of K-12 health care. HB 2829 also:

• Limits school districts to two funding pools

• Requires every school employee enrolled in a medical plan to pay something out-of-pocket (amount determined by local bargaining)

• Requires those who enroll in higher cost plans to pay a higher premium than those who enroll in the lower cost plans

• Requires school districts and insurance plans to provide data to the Office of the Insurance Commissioner.

WEA opposes HB 2825, which eliminates early retirement options for new school employees.

WEA also opposes HB 2824, which permanently repeals voter-approved Initiative 728 class size reduction funding (which is currently suspended.) The bill presumes those funds will be incorporated into the new prototypical school funding model created under HB 2261/2776 (with a phase-in deadline of 2018).

HB 2824 also creates a joint task force to recommend a permanent funding source for K-12 education. The task force would include eight legislators and three gubernatorial appointments, with a report due by Dec. 31, 2012. WEA supports the task force idea but opposes the permanent repeal of I-728..

All of these bills are schedule for a public hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee at 1 p.m. April 4. The Legislature’s special session is set to end April 10, and it’s unclear whether the Legislature will pass a supplemental budget before then.


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