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THE

State Employees Association of North Carolina, SEIU Local 2008 P.O. Drawer 27727, Raleigh, NC • www.seanc.org 800-222-2758 • 919-833-6436 • Circulation 55,000

July 2013

• Vol. 31, Issue 8

House Takes its Swing at State Budget

N.C. House, Senate working on compromise budget to send to the governor this month by Toni Davis

In early June, the N.C. House unveiled, debated and passed its $20.57 billion budget proposal. The House budget proposal includes five bonus days of vacation for state employees but no pay raises or retiree cost-of-living adjustments. When the budget was released, SEANC Executive Director Dana Cope said, “While we appreciate the vacation days, they do nothing to help put food on the table.” The House proposal also contains job cuts, but at 738 people, they are half the amount proposed by the Senate budget. Of great concern to SEANC are the House recommendations to close public safety facilities including Duplin, Robeson, Wayne, Western Youth and North Piedmont Correctional Center for Women. Johnston Correctional would also be converted to a minimum custody facility. The bill also proposes closing Lenoir, Richmond and Buncombe Youth Development facilities. The State Highway Patrol communications team would lose 30 jobs as well. On the positive side, the House budget fully funds the retirement system and saves jobs in the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Oral Health division. The House restored these jobs which the Senate cut after SEANC members and lobbyists discussed the vital public health services they provide to high-risk children in North Carolina. DHHS dental hygienists serve rural schools and provide much-needed dental sealants to children, many of whom have never been to a dentist. SEANC will press lawmakers to maintain vital services when the House and Senate meet to negotiate the House Budget • Five days bonus vacation (no pay raise or cost-of-living adjustment) • $36 million fully funds retirement system • Eliminates 738 jobs

Photo by Josh McCrain

SEANC Director of Communications

SEANC Executive Director Dana Cope (right) speaks with Rep. Nelson Dollar (R-Wake) about the N.C. House’s budget.

differences between their two budgets, a process that was ongoing as The Reporter went to press. SEANC lobbyists remain camped inside the Legislative Building to advocate for state employees and retirees and answer questions from lawmakers as they arise. A continuing resolution passed on June 25 allows for the General Assembly to stay in session through July 30. For all members who don’t want to wait for the September Reporter to learn about the final budget details, please sign up for the association’s weekly email newsletter, The SEANC Scoop, which is distributed every Friday. You can sign up at seanc.org/email-alerts. Please contact your legislator today to voice your opinion on the state budget. Call the General Assembly’s main line at 919-733-4111.

tdavis@seanc.org

Senate Budget • No pay raise, cost-of-living adjustment or bonus vacation days • $36 million fully funds retirement system • Eliminates 1,600 jobs

Governor’s Budget • Provides 1% pay raise for active employees and a 1% cost-of-living adjustment for retirees • $36 million fully funds retirement system


Counselor’s Comments By Tom Harris

SEANC Chief of Staff/General Counsel

Rules Trump Policies on Your RIF Rights

R

eduction-in-force (RIF) rights are not my favorite topic because I only feel compelled to write about them when it appears that layoffs are eminent. However, since the budget proposals of the governor, Senate and House each provide for differing numbers of state facilities to be closed, it’s hard to dodge the topic, especially since one RIF right is currently in a state of confusion that our members need to know how to navigate. Most state employees know their basic RIF rights — severance pay or, in rare cases, a discontinued service allowance, and priority consideration for re-employment. What members may not be aware of, however, is the conflict that currently exists between an administrative rule and a State Personnel Manual (SPM) policy Harris over the circumstances under which employees who have received RIF notices can lose their priority consideration. Ironically, both the rule and policy were adopted by the State Personnel Commission (SPC), though at different times. As you can see from the box on this page, the policy is less friendly to RIF’d employees because, under the threat of losing their priority consideration, they could be forced into a position that pays them significantly less than they had been making in their last position. SEANC has learned that the Office of State Personnel (OSP) is informing state agencies that they must follow the manual policy. We disagree. We think the rule trumps the policy, because the North Carolina Court of Appeals has held that administrative rules have the force of law, while mere policies do not. To make matters worse, apparently OSP is not telling the agencies or the employees about the conflicting rule that is better for employees. Without this knowledge, employees will not know to assert their right to retain their priority consideration unless the position they are offered is at an equal or greater salary grade or rate. There is even a strong legal argument based on the wording of the statute

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The Reporter • July 2013

At Issue

A long-standing State Personnel Commission administrative rule conflicts with a current SPC policy regarding RIF priority consideration. The administrative rule (which SEANC supports) holds that RIF rights are lost when a terminated employee turns down a job within 35 miles of their original work station that is at or above the pay grade they had achieved at the time of their termination. The SPC policy (which is less employeefriendly) holds that RIP priority consideration is lost even if the interview or job offer refused is for a position at a lower salary grade or rate.

creating the priority that it should not be terminated for any reason for one year from the time employees receive their RIF notices. It is possible that this conflict will be resolved at least partially by HB 834, which makes changes to the State Personnel Act. The bill is still pending in the General Assembly at press time. A provision in the latest version of that bill would put into the SPA what the administrative rule provides, with one important omission: it does not mention that the position offered must be within 35 miles of the employee’s original work station. However, we think that the 35-mile pre-requisite will remain applicable because the administrative rule will continue to retain it. With the knowledge you have gained from this column, you can assert your rights should your position be cut. If the rights are denied you, then you may want to seek legal assistance. If you are not sure where to go for that assistance, please give me a call at SEANC’s Central Office. And if you should learn of someone else who is facing one of the situations covered in this column, please share this information with them.

tharris@seanc.org


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later, later, later, later, later, Toni Davis, Editor-In-Chief Jonathan Owens, Managing Editor Alicia Miller, Associate Editor Josh McCrain, Associate Editor State Employees Association of North Carolina P.O. Drawer 27727 • Raleigh, NC 27611 1621 Midtown Place • Raleigh, NC 27609 Telephone 919-833-6436, 800-222-2758

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www.seanc.org

Advertising Policy

SEANC accepts advertising material from companies and persons seeking to communicate with SEANC members. Acceptance of this advertising does not indicate SEANC approval or endorsement of any representation that the message, product or service is as represented by the advertiser. SEANC accepts no responsibility and shall not be liable for any use of or reliance on any such information, product or service. SEANC is a private entity and is under no obligation to carry advertisements of any nature, political or otherwise, that may be viewed as contrary to the interests of the association and its membership.

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The Reporter • July 2013

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EMPAC

Sweepstakes Gives Members a Chance to Win Big! By Jonathan Owens

SEANC Assistant Director of Communications

A chance to win a whole bunch of money could be waiting in your mailbox this summer. SEANC’s Employees Political Action Committee (EMPAC) will mail out tickets for its third annual sweepstakes event in coming months, each with an opportunity to win up to $5,000 simply by returning them. Each SEANC member will be mailed 12 tickets this summer. While donations to EMPAC are gladly accepted along with returned tickets, absolutely no contribution is necessary to enter. All that is necessary is mailing in the completed tickets in order to be eligible. The drawing for prizes ranging from $500 to $5,000 will be held on Sept. 7 at the 30th Annual SEANC Convention in Greensboro. You do not have to be present to win. Funds raised from the sweepstakes will be used by

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EMPAC, the member-driven political arm of SEANC, to support candidates that understand the value of the public services that state employees provide. Last year, District 65 member Christie Harrison, an accountant at East Carolina University, sent her tickets back along with a donation. A 25-year veteran of the association, she just thought of it as her contribution to the cause of helping state employees for the year and forgot about the contest, she said. Then one day in early September, she got a call from a number she didn’t recognize. With two kids in college — one at ECU and another at UNC-Greensboro — she decided to answer it. On the other end was a SEANC staffer telling her she was the big winner of $5,000! “I was surprised. It was so unexpected,” Harrison said. “With two kids in college, it was a big help for us.” This year, you could receive that call — but only if you send in your entries! Tickets must be returned with a postmark no later than Aug. 23 to be eligible. Details and rules are posted on the EMPAC section of the SEANC website.

jowens@seanc.org

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The Reporter • July 2013

The Reporter, USPS 009-852 (ISSN 1069 2142), is published nine times a year in the months of February, March, April, May, June, July, September, November and December for $2.50 per year, per member, by the State Employees Association of North Carolina, Inc., P.O. Drawer 27727, Raleigh, NC 27611-7727. Periodicals postage paid at Raleigh and additional offices. POSTMASTER Send address changes to: THE REPORTER P.O. Drawer 27727 Raleigh, NC 27611-7727


Photos SUBMITTED by Lynn Tuthill

Member Action

District 19 member Hazel Lunsford spoke at the district’s annual retiree picnic on May 28 in Hillsborough.

Approximately 200 state employees took part in the Minority Pioneers Annual Reunion Weekend in May. The event celebrates the contributions and achievements of minority employees in the Department of Public Safety. SEANC’s Youth Council recruited seven new members at the event. Pictured from left are SEANC Treasurer Betty “B.J.” Jones, Charles Benton, Emily Jones, Felicia Chiambiro and SEANC Second Vice President Stanley Gales.

District 65 donated funds to Vidant Children’s Hospital during the Children’s Miracle Network Annual Telethon recently, and challenged all SEANC members and state employees to make a donation. Pictured from left to right are members Debbie Austin, Ann Cowan, James Willis, Conya Owens and Lynn Tuthill.

Photo Submitted by James Bridges

Photo By Felicia Chiambiro

Photo by Steve Lawson

District 65 members volunteered recently at the Ronald McDonald House in Greenville, preparing meals for families visiting loved ones at Vidant Medical Center. Pictured are members Cynthia Brown, Bill Dawson, Lynn Tuthill, Mary Johnson and Joanie Tyson.

For the third year, District 37 members took part in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure on June 6 in Raleigh. Pictured are members Wylonda Surles, Sonja Bridges, James Bridges and Teressa Jackson, as well as Nicholas and Sydney Bridges.

The Reporter • July 2013

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Public Policy

Quotes to Note

“While the vacation days are good and are certainly appreciated, quite frankly they won’t put food on the table.” Executive Director Dana Cope, in the June 11 WRAL-TV story “Teachers, state workers seek raises in budget”

From Social media “Thanks to SEANC for your support and thanks to all who support and have supported the NC Oral Health Section. We want to make sure we are able to continue to serve the citizens of NC.” District 20 member Wendy Seymore on a June 19 post on SEANC’s Facebook page (facebook.com/seanc.local2008)

I for one am thankful for everything SEANC does for me. I appreciate the fact that SEANC is up there every day fighting as hard as they can for all state employees. District 59 Chairwoman Kathy Merritt on SEANC’s Facebook page

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The Reporter • July 2013

Congrats to the newest 103 SEANC members who this week chose to join the South’s leading public employees association! #ncgov A June 14 tweet from SEANC’s official Twitter account (@seanc2008)


Insurance

SEANC Insurance Negotiates Vision Rates Decrease By Jonathan Owens

SEANC Assistant Director of Communications

Members can now see clearly for less thanks to more affordable vision coverage from SEANC Insurance. SEANC’s Insurance Board of Trustees and staff recently negotiated with Spectera for a 5 percent decrease on premiums for members. The decrease is effective on July 1. The insurance will continue to offer the same cost-effective nationwide benefit plans and includes eye exams, lenses, eyeglass frames and contact lenses. The enhanced plan option covers many eyeglass lens extras such as progressive lenses and some cosmetic options. Discounts are available on non-covered cosmetic options and laser vision correction procedures. Costco has recently been added as an eye care provider as well. “Vision coverage is one of our most popular plans,” said Insurance Board of Trustees Chairwoman Pam Hailey. “At a time when the cost of everything is going up, we are delighted to be able to offer our customers an even greater value at a lower price.”

Doug Sutton

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Also on July 1, SEANC’s pet insurance plan through VPI Pet Insurance will beg1n offering a standalone wellness plan to members. This plan is designed to cover all of a pet’s routine vet visits, which as any pet owner can attest can add up.

jowens@seanc.org

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The Reporter • July 2013

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Periodical Postage PAID Raleigh, NC P.O. Drawer 27727 Raleigh, NC 27611

Hygienists Educate Lawmakers on Dental Services By Josh McCrain

Dental hygienists in the Department of Health and Humans Services Oral Health division know that they provide a valuable public service. Every day they travel to rural schools and counties all over the state, protecting the dental health of high-risk children through sealants, referrals and education. Many of these students have never seen a dentist in their life. Apparently the N.C. Senate didn’t know that. When the Senate rolled out its budget proposals a few weeks ago, the vital services these hygienists provide were on the chopping block. In June, a group of these hygienists traveled to the General Assembly in Raleigh on their day off to do some educating of a different sort — speaking with policy makers and providing them with facts on why preventative dental services were important to the state’s high-risk children. It was several of the hygienists’ first time at the legislature. They pointed out that the proposal to use county departments to complete their duties would result in no coverage at all in 51 counties across the state. President Sidney M. Sandy said that the opportunity for

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The Reporter • July 2013

Photo by Suzanne Beasley

SEANC Communications Specialist

Members from DHHS Oral Health Division visited the legislature in early June to help educate lawmakers.

senators to hear about the program from the people who work there is a valuable asset in the budgeting process. “Being able to put a human face on the jobs that are facing cuts is a powerful tool,” Sandy said. “It’s not about saving jobs. It’s about seeing children’s smiles because they received the dental care they needed and were able to learn without a tooth ache.” Legislators will decide the fate of the Oral Health division during state budget negotiations, which were ongoing as of press time.

jmccrain@seanc.org

July 2013 Reporter final