Legislators, Union Leaders Agree to Compromise on Benefits Committee Bill, Will Consider in January

Compromise amendment will be crafted during legislative break

DOVER – Lawmakers and union leaders have agreed on the rough framework of a compromise on legislation that would provide Delaware public employees with representation on the State Employee Benefits Committee and agreed to work the bill when the General Assembly reconvenes in January.

Legislation that would add two representatives from a collection of state employee unions passed the Senate earlier this session but has remained in the House Administration Committee since last month. Gov. Jack Markell’s office has opposed Senate Bill 21 and an earlier incarnation that passed the Senate last session.

House Majority Leader Rep. Valerie Longhurst, who chairs the Administration Committee, and Senate Bill 21 sponsor Rep. Larry Mitchell worked with union officials last week to reach a general compromise on the measure and will iron out details of an amendment during the legislative break.

“We know that the unions really want this bill to move forward, but we know there is opposition from the administration too,” said Rep. Longhurst, D-Bear. “There also is a good amount of support within our own caucus for the bill, so I have committed to Rep. Mitchell and the unions that we will work out an agreement during the break and come back in January, get the bill released from committee and put it on the floor for a full House vote.”

Currently, the Employee Benefits Committee is comprised of seven members, with the insurance commissioner, Supreme Court chief justice, state treasurer, controller general and heads of the Office of Management and Budget, Department of Finance and Department of Health and Social Services or their designees serving on the panel. The committee is charged with selecting carriers or third-party administrators to provide coverage to state employees and adopting rules and regulations for those coverages.

SB 21 as written would expand the committee by two, with the governor appointing two members from the state teachers union, the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, the correction officers union and the state troopers association. The appointments would be three-year terms, and a person could serve no more than two consecutive terms.

“All the unions want is a seat at the table so they can weigh in on decisions that directly affect their benefits,” said Rep. Mitchell, D-Elsmere. “Our state labor unions represent thousands of Delaware families, and their goals are the same as the other members of the Employee Benefits Committee – protect and preserve benefits for those hard-working employees. I’m grateful that we are working together to get something done, and I’m optimistic that we will pass legislation in January that accomplishes our goal and gives unions a voice on the committee.”