Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The WOLF is at the Door - Legislation Caps

Below is a legislative update from the MEA's Capital Comments. This is just for Tuesday and Wednesday. Things are moving VERY FAST!Tuesday at the Capitol. The bills highlighted in red will have the most financial impact on your wages and benefits. I have bolded other legislation to hopefully give you a quick way to read through this overwhelming list of legislation under consideration.

The House approved final changes to legislation dealing with state takeovers of public schools and municipalities. Gov. Rick Snyder is expected to sign the measure, which would allow emergency financial managers to throw out union contracts and overrule locally elected officials, including school board members. Media reports indicate that the legislation would have almost immediate impact on the state''s largest school district -- Detroit’s current emergency manager wants to turn 41 public schools into charter schools and the new legislation would allow him to do so without school board approval.

• School superintendents from Hanover-Horton, Concord, Garden City, and Avondale testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on School Aid Tuesday. Each superintendent spoke against further budget cuts, as outlined in Snyder's proposal. "The cuts to our district would be devastating," said Michelle Cline, superintendent of Garden City Public Schools, who added that her district would "almost undeniably shut our doors. . . . Passage of this budget would be crushing." The subcommittee doesn't yet have a formal budget bill; Snyder wants the budget completed by May 31.
The House Oversight, Reform, and Ethics Committee approved House Bill 4059 to prohibit public employers from paying release time for union officers or bargaining representatives. The bill passed 4-2, with Republicans voting in favor and Democrats voting "no." MEA opposes the bill; please contact your state representative and senator and tell him/her to continue to allow local schools the ability to decide this issue at the local level. This bill would prohibit a full time release president like myself. It would also mean that all bargaining would have to occur after school hours and on weekends. Considering the hours our WLEA teams have spent in bargaining in the past, this could be grueling on Bargaining team members and perhaps even prohibitive for some.

Wednesday at the Capitol
The House Education Committee will take testimony on a bill to force districts to get bids to outsource the jobs of many educational support professionals. MEA opposes House bill 4306 and one of our lobbyists will testify before the panel. If you plan to be in Lansing by 9 a.m. Wednesday, go to Room 519 of the House Office Building to monitor developments. For more information, go to
The Senate Reforms, Restructuring and Reinventing Committee on Wednesday will listen to testimony about Senate Bill 7, a bill that would require all public employees pay a certain percentage of the cost of their health insurance. MEA opposes this bill -- the issue should be settled locally at the bargaining table, not in Lansing. In many instances, school employees have previously sacrificed wages or other benefits to maintain health insurance.
The Senate Education Committee will take up House Bill 4152, a bill to freeze wages, including step increases, for public employees when a contract expires and before a new contract is negotiated. Employees who receive health, dental, vision, prescription, or other insurance benefits would have to pay any increased cost during that time. Employees could not receive any retroactive payments for wages or health insurance costs as part of settling the contract. MEA opposes the bill.

This bill could be particularly damaging to MEA members during a time when settling contracts is difficult due to the proposed draconian cuts to school funding that currently exist. It could force a bargaining group to accept an unwise settlement because not-to-settle would cost their members even more. If insurance goes up 15% and Retirement goes up 4% (this is as it looks this year), the members would be totally responsible for those increases with no chance of having that money reimbursed.

Also, in the past, if a contract wasn't settled at the beginning of the year, members usually had a pay freeze, but members in the steps still got their step increases. This bill would disallow that. It is not clear to me whether those lost wages could be recovered.