Mike Muhammad

Michael Muhammad

DART’s Administrative Committee advanced a form of domestic partner benefits to the Committee of the Whole this afternoon. The regional transit agency’s full board must still vote on the plan twice. The first vote is scheduled for Sept. 10.

A year after first discussing a proposal to offer benefits to the same and opposite-sex domestic partners of employees, the committee agreed to a “Plus One” plan recommended by Equality Texas. The group’s recommendation came after Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott issued an advisory opinion saying he believes other types of DP benefits plans violate the state’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

Earlier this year, the Committee of the Whole postponed discussion of DP benefits until after the U.S. Supreme Court issued rulings in two marriage equality cases, which came in June. LGBT advocates have addressed the DART board at numerous meetings this year, calling on the board to move forward with the proposal.

The Plus-One plan would allow any DART employee who is not insuring a spouse to insure a non-related adult living at the same residence.

The employee and non-related adult must have lived together a year, which is not required of heterosexual spouses, and they will have to show proof of cohabitation. Marriage licenses wouldn’t be among the approved documents, and documentation would have to be presented annually.

The committee’s vote came after discussion of overall health insurance costs for the agency, which run into the millions of dollars. In his presentation, Michael Muhammad, DART’s vice president of diversity and innovative services, estimated that the annual cost for DP benefits for the agency will be $67,000 for medical insurance and $3,000 for dental insurance.

Muhammad said there is no evidence that new dependents will have different utilization than current dependents. He also said there could actually be cost reductions in the total plan with the new dependents.