Saturday, March 7, 2009

House Bill 1032 - The Modernization Bill

In previous weeks I have made the case that state government's massive budget shortfall presents an exciting opportunity to spend less money. To accomplish this, the government will be forced to make long needed changes. Instead of the downturn being a detriment to the people, I believe many of these changes will actually improve the quality of service provided to the people. The downturn is in fact a blessing, as it forces the government to do what it should have done a long time ago.

Some of these proposed changes are reflected in a bill I am authoring. House Bill 1032 has already been approved by the House Modernization Committee and is awaiting action on the House floor.

The primary focus of the bill is to make all license and permit operations accessible online. The Oklahoma web portal would be able to offer the same services as web site. From that web site, you can participate in such tasks as renewing your occupational license or license plate.

The obvious benefit to this reform is cutting through cumbersome state bureaucracy and allowing direct access to these services without having to use government resources. This should put an end to the old practice of waiting in long lines to get a license or permit.

This benefit recently became very obvious in the California when part of the state government was forced on a furlough because of a massive money shortfall. Normally this would be a huge problem because people were unable to go to the tag office to renew their licenses. But since they could renew online, online registrations increased by about 20% during that time.

The Oklahoma State Board of Medical Licensure is already saving $20,964 per year because of an online professional license renewal system. Staff time was cut by fifty percent. It also appears that 99% of license renewals now occur online.

Another important reform contained in HB 1032 is transparency. The bill requires more state spending be made available for public review through the state's online portal. As the state institutes more reforms geared towards public accountability, there will be more and more opportunities for greater transparency. It is this transparency that will discourage abusive spending practices.

HB 1032 would also convert state payroll to a bi-weekly system. State government appears to be one of the few organizations that still issue monthly payroll. This leads to any number of problems: from hindering the recruitment of employees to what appears to be the unnecessary need for a supplemental payroll system. The conversion to the bi-weekly system could save the state millions, as man hours are freed up from recalculating and issuing supplemental payroll.

HB 1032 joins HB 1410, HB 1704 and SB 980 as part of the effort to modernize government this legislative session.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As a state employee of Oklahoma, the payroll change is going to hurt. I currently make $38K annually. Since I get paid monthly, my salary is paid in twelve equal installments of $3,166.67. If I start getting paid bi-weekly, my annual salary will get broken down into 26 equal payments, or $1,461.54. For ten months out of the year I’ll receive two payrolls, the other two months I will be paid three times. Just to make this clear, in ten out of twelve months I will only get $2,923.08 instead of the $3,166.67 I get now.
I’m assuming that I will also be paid after the end of a pay period, I think two weeks is probably how long after. The current monthly system pays me on the last day of the pay period, in my case the last day of the month. So under the bi-weekly payroll plan I’ll be getting paid later. For example, I work the first two weeks of the month and get paid for that about two weeks after. I’ll get my first paycheck near the end of the month but it will only be for $1,461.54 instead of the $3,166.67 I’m used to. I won’t get paid for the rest of the month until sometime the following month. The first month on the new payroll system I don’t even get half of what I get now!
Both of these contribute to a problem for me. Most all of my bills are due around the first of the month. I use the paycheck I get on the last day of the month to pay those bills. If I’m getting paid less most months, how do I cover all my bills? I’m also getting paid later than I used to. I don’t think my bill collectors are going to be willing to wait.
As I ask myself why the state of Oklahoma would do this to its employees in these tough economic times I remembered that the bill is supposed to save the state money. But how will it do that? Right now, my employer processes a monthly payroll each month and a supplemental payroll each month. That’s a total of 24 payrolls per year. There are 26 bi-weekly payrolls per year. So isn’t switching to a bi-weekly system causing more work, not less?
Can anyone explain why this is a good thing for us, the states employees?