Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Things Are Happening Quickly in Lansing

AS REPORTED by MIRS (Michigan Independent Research Service) on March 8th

1) “The Emergency Financial Manager Bills
Despite raucous protest of more than 1,000 people in and outside the Capitol, the Senate today prepared for final passage a six-bill package that gives an Emergency Financial Manager (EFM) the power to terminate union contracts.

The bills are aimed at making it easier to intervene sooner in failing municipalities and school districts.

Democrats slathered the bills with amendments, almost none of which passed. One that did was on HB 4214, sponsored by Rep. Al PSCHOLKA (R-Stevensville), which limited the salary of the EFM to no more than what the Governor makes under the State Officers Compensation Committee guidelines, $177,000. That passed by the skin of its teeth, on a non-record roll call 19-18 vote, despite Senate Education Chair Phil PAVLOV's (R-St. Clair) protest that it would "limit talent." But even that amendment was taken up again and failed with majority Republicans shooting the provision down.

"Collective bargaining and voting rights are very similar -- they are both processes to help solve problems, either in the workplace or in our communities," said Christina KUO, executive director of Common Cause, at a Monday afternoon press conference. "They are the way we ensure that voices are heard, whether they are from a worker or a voter."

"This is union busting," said Bill BLACK from the Michigan Teamsters. Reminded that Gov. Rick SNYDER said it is all about keeping cities and schools out of bankruptcy, Black said, "And we're trying to protect our members and the middle class."

About 1,000 union members began the morning on the Capitol lawn listening to speakers denounce the Emergency Financial Manager package. Iris SALTER, who runs the Michigan Education Association, described it as "A way to again say to labor, you don't count . . . I believe it's just like being in the slave days."

2) Union Release Time Issue Examined

A House panel today took up legislation to prohibit public employer contracts that pay union officials for time conducting union business. It is particularly aimed at school districts, where such contract arrangements are most common. Rep. Marty KNOLLENBERG (R-Troy) is the sponsor of the bill (HB 4059). The practice it would outlaw is generally known as "paid release time."

Knollenberg calls it “common sense reform”. Wanda Cook, Superintendent of Southfield Schools testified for the bill saying that a district should not have to pay for union business. Democrats and union representatives argued that the issue belongs at the local bargaining table as it has been in the past.

3) The State Board of Education Passed TWO Resolutions Today
“The state Board of Education today passed two resolutions both praising and criticizing the Gov. Rick SNYDER administration's cuts to the K-12 budget and the emergency financial manager bills fast-tracking their way through the Republican-controlled Legislature.

On Snyder's education budget recommendations, the Board's resolution applauded his commitment to a "balanced and sustainable budget," and endorsed the "concept of a unified education vision" as well as his efforts to do so "respecting collective bargaining and public employee unions."

However, the board said it does not believe the budget as proposed provides the financial requirements to fund "the threshold elements of the P-20 education system needs in Michigan to provide individual opportunity and economic success."