80TH SESSION OF THE NEVADA STATE LEGISLATURE
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 2019
At the conclusion of the second full week of the 80th Session of the Nevada State Legislature, budget hearings were held for the Public Employees’ Benefits Program (PEBP) and the Public Employees’ Retirement System (PERS). PEBP Executive Officer Damon Haycock faced a slew of questions from the joint panel relating to the agency’s excess reserves, a topic RPEN’s Lead Lobbyist Marlene Lockard has always been very concerned with as well. The Governor’s recommended budget for PEBP includes an additional $1.00 more for Medicare participants who’ll get $13 per month, per year of service for both years in the biennium. The PEBP Board also had approved of covering the administrative costs of Health Reimbursement Accounts of retirees as well as their health insurance premiums. PEBP’s budget amounts to $1.1 billion. Under public comment following the hearing Wednesday, February 13, Lockard reminded the legislative panel that when Medicare retirees were forced out of PEBP and onto the Medicare Exchange in 2011, it led to a savings for the agency of at least $15 million per year. She also addressed RPEN’s concerns about another legislative change in 2011 that led to all new state workers hired in 2012 would never receive retiree health coverage, leading to a new class of state employees, similar to the “orphan” issue that PEBP faced two years ago that was resolved in 2017 with RPEN leading the charge to successfully address that issue.
The PERS budget was heard Friday, February 15, before the same committee. As she did at an earlier presentation before the Assembly Government Affairs Committee a week ago, PERS Executive Officer Tina Leiss testified that PERS ended the last fiscal year with over $41 billion in the fund, and said the fund appeared to be on target to be fully funded in around 18 years. However, she said that is all subject to change as the overall economy changes month to month. But she said the agency stacks up well against other state plans because NV PERS actually pays their share of contributions which is also matched by employees and there are protections in place that don’t allow the state to borrow from PERS as frequently happens in other states like Illinois and Michigan to name just a couple. Contribution rates for the biennium are going up over 1%.
As you already know, RPEN is watching for a bill to be introduced soon to replace Senate Bill 384 from the 2017 session dealing with legislative protections of retired public employee confidential information. There is a Bill Draft Request (BDR) from the former sponsor of RPEN’s privacy bill, Senator Julia Ratti, and that’s BDR 19-598. There are currently 136 bills introduced in the Assembly and 154 in the Senate. One of the more controversial bills heard this week was Senate Bill 143, which was passed from the Senate to the Assembly Wednesday, February 13, but not before an hours long hearing on the bill occurred on Tuesday, February 12. The measure, if approved by the Assembly and signed by the Governor, would close the so-called “gun show loophole” that allows private sellers to exchange firearms without undergoing a federal background check. There were hundreds of people that testified on both sides of the bill would take effect January 2, 2020 if it is in fact signed by the Governor. Another bill, Senate Bill 135, seeking to give Collective Bargaining to state employees, was introduced this week. RPEN is offering our support of this bill, although it is actually sponsored by AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees).
The Public Employee Coalition (a group led by Lockard that includes a large contingent of public employee representatives from many different areas with common issues) held its’ second meeting of the session Thursday, February 14. The group has been coming together for over ten years and continually grows each year.
The outlook for the third week, beginning on Presidents’ Day February 18, will include more presentations and budget hearings. For all things legislative, you can visit the legislative website at
Terri Laird, RPEN Executive Director