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Legislative Changes Affecting Salary Administration, 80th Legislature

FPP F.021

Note: Unless otherwise noted, these changes from the 80th Legislature are effective Sept. 1, 2007.

Pay increase for certain employees

House Bill (HB) 1, the General Appropriations Act, provides appropriations for salary increases for state agency employees in fiscal 2008 and 2009, contingent on the Comptroller of Public Accounts certifying that there is a sufficient increase in available general revenue in excess of the amount shown in the 2008-09 Biennial Revenue Estimate. On July 10, 2007, Comptroller Susan Combs certified that the funds will be available to give agency employees the pay raises during the biennium. Clarification of the policies regarding the pay increase can be found in the Guidelines for the Salary Increase for Certain State Employees.

Changes to hazardous duty pay

Senate Bill (SB) 737 and HB 2498 make changes to the maximum amount and calculation of hazardous duty pay in the Government Code.

SB 737 removes the $300 per month limitation on the maximum amount of hazardous duty pay that can be paid to an employee in a hazardous duty position.

HB 2498 also removes the $300 per month limitation on the maximum amount of hazardous duty pay that can be paid to an employee in a hazardous duty position. This bill also adds a new provision for hazardous duty pay for correctional officers of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice that sets a:

  • new rate of pay at $12 per month for each year of hazardous duty service and
  • limit on the amount of hazardous duty pay of no more than $300 per month for these employees.

Changes to authority to provide performance incentive awards for services to veterans

SB 310 amends the enabling statute for the Texas Veterans Commission. The bill provides the authority for the commission to make an incentive award to an individual or an entity for providing services to veterans and changes the provisions for incentive awards.

The new authority specifies that the award may be monetary or non-monetary. The bill repeals the existing language in the Government Code that authorized state agencies to make awards for providing services to veterans. The effect of the repealed language and the addition of the new language is that only the Texas Veterans Commission may make awards for providing services to veterans.

New type of longevity pay for certain judges

SB 1519 amends the Government Code to include new authority for longevity pay for certain active judges and justices who participate in the Judicial Retirement Plan One and Judicial Retirement Plan Two retirement systems:

  • The amount of longevity pay is $20 per month for each year of service credited in the judicial retirement system.
  • The longevity pay begins following the month in which the judge or justice completes 16 years of service and does not increase with additional service.
  • The Employees Retirement System of Texas (ERS) has advised the Comptroller's office that this longevity pay is included in the calculation of insurance salary and is not included in the calculation of retirement salary for the purpose of calculating the standard service annuity.
  • The additional monies are subject to reduction by deferred compensation plans (401k and 457).
  • The new longevity pay will be paid using Comptroller’s Expenditure Object Code 7022.
  • USPS will include the special pay (057), but agencies will be required to enter the entitlement to the pay, based on guidance from the retirement system regarding eligibility.

New requirement for automatic default enrollment in 401k plan by new employees

HB 957 requires that newly hired employees participate in a default 401k plan unless they opt out of the program:

  • Employees newly hired on or after January 1, 2008, become automatically enrolled in TexaSaver 401(k) plan at the rate of one percent of their salary, with an option to opt out of enrollment.
  • The deferral will be to a default investment product selected by the ERS Board of Trustees.
  • At any time, an employee may elect to end participation in the 401(k) plan, change the investment product or change the amount contributed to the plan.
  • The ERS Board of Trustees are to adopt rules to administer this provision and provide guidance to state agencies that participate in a 401(k) plan on how best to inform new hires of their automatic enrollment and their right to opt out of enrollment.
  • Agencies are to use existing resources to provide information, and guidance should be included in the new employee orientation process.
  • Agencies are required to maintain documentation that shows the new hires’ acknowledgement that they received information about opting out of the automatic enrollment.

New authority for leave for certain employees

SB 11 includes new leave provisions for amateur radio operators who participate in disaster relief services, and HB 1297 allows for leave as an incentive to participate in an employee wellness program.

SB 11 provides authority for amateur radio operators to use up to 10 days of paid leave each fiscal year to participate in specialized disaster relief services. The number of state employees eligible for this type of leave may not exceed 350 employees statewide at any one time during a state fiscal year. The Governor’s Division of Emergency Management is responsible for creating and maintaining the list of eligible employees.

HB 1297 allows a state agency to implement a wellness program that includes the incentive of eight hours of leave time each year to an employee who:

  • receives a physical examination and
  • completes either an online health risk assessment tool or a similar health risk assessment conducted by a worksite wellness coordinator.

This is an optional provision that agencies may choose to adopt in addition to other incentives, such as the authority to use 30 minutes during normal working hours for exercise three times each week or allowing employees to attend on-site wellness seminars when offered.

Both new leave types will be included in the USPS Leave Accounting module. Contact the State Auditor’s Office for additional guidance.