By John L. Valentine
President of the Utah State Senate
Senate District 14
Passing HB 213 was one of those sobering instances where the responsible decision was not the most popular.
In 1984, the value of one day's sick leave was roughly equivalent to the cost of one month's insurance premium, so we created a policy allowing for an exchange at retirement. Today the value is far far less, and the gap seems to be widening exponentially. Given the spiraling cost of health care, we had to adjust that expenditure to ensure the solvency of state budget into the foreseeable future.
The Utah Public Employees Association sued the state.
This morning the Courts ruled against them.
The judge said the plaintiffs had no vested right or legal claim, and that they failed to establish that the individual harm to them was greater than harm done to the public by keeping this policy. They reiterated that the Legislature must have the flexibility required to deal with future debt, and there is no way to determine what health care costs may be 10 years from now.
The plaintiffs indicated they intend to file an appeal. At the hearing this morning they asked for an injunction pending an appeal, which was also denied.
So, the request for a preliminary injunction was denied and the overall case was dismissed.
I feel the Court's ruling was appropriate but it does nothing to dispel the somber feeling of being forced to a disappointing conclusion. Sometimes being a legislator is rewarding. Passing HB 213 was not one of those times.
We anticipate good budget news tomorrow. It would be very fitting for us to examine what more we can do for our hardworking state employees.