Is a New Way for Labor to Limit the Options of School Committees in the Legislative Works?

The Rhode Island General Assembly has posted the list of bills from the 2009 session vetoed by the Governor that will be considered for overrides. The House’s list is available here, the Senate’s list is available here.
One bill (passed unanimously by both houses in the last week of the regular session) scheduled for an override that hasn’t garnered much attention as of yet is H5613/S0777, which would limit school committees negotiating heath-benefits in teacher contracts to a choice of plans approved by a newly-created statewide board…

Upon expiration of collective bargaining agreements, only benefit plan designs approved by the board in accordance with this chapter may be specified in future collective bargaining agreements…
And who is it that would be siting on this statewide board?
The board shall consist of twelve (12) members, as follows:
  1. Two (2) members shall be appointed by the president of the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals and may be active or retired teachers or officials from the union;
  2. Two (2) members shall be appointed by the president of the National Education Association of Rhode Island, and may be active or retired teachers or officials from the union;
  3. One member shall be appointed by the president of RI Council 94 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees;
  4. One member shall be appointed by the president of the Laborers International Union of North America;
  5. Two (2) members shall be appointed by the president of the Rhode Island Association of School Committees;
  6. Two (2) members shall be appointed by the Rhode Island School Superintendents’ Association;
  7. Two (2) members shall be appointed by the president of the Rhode Island Association of School Business Managers.
Each appointing authority may remove or replace any member appointed by that appointing authority at any time.
Governor Carcieri vetoed this particular bill despite his support in principle for consolidating school-system health plans, stating that
The Board consists of twelve (12) members, at least ten (10) of whom are potentially direct beneficiaries of whatever benefit plans are negotiated. Additionally, none of the proposed membership represents municipal or state government or Rhode Island’s taxpayers. Municipal officials and the people elected by the voters to balance budgets, fund education and set property tax rates should have more control over school budgets, not less.
As the Governor explains, this legislation is yet another attempt to subordinate the budgetary authority of elected representatives to an unelected panel, to move some actual decision-making power to a body whose members are are directly accountable to special interests, rather than to the taxpayers whose money is being spent.
Or, stated more pragmatically, if the citizenry doesn’t like the limits on their representatives that are imposed by this new board, how exactly do they go about changing its membership?
H5613/S0777 would also continue Rhode Island’s unfortunate tendency to obscure the clear lines of responsibility that should in exist in a government budgetary process. The ever-increasing layers of indirection added by the state serve mainly to allow officials to point fingers at someone else for the problems that exist — think of a school committee suing a city or town council in court through the Caruolo Act — and claim there’s nothing they can do to help correct bad situations (other than raise taxes), because the important decisions have already been made somewhere else.
Unless I’m missing something here, this is one bill that legislators should think twice about and have to explain to the public before voting to override.

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MadMom
MadMom
11 years ago

Clearly, the make-up of this board needs to change. This is another situation about which the citizens and reform groups must speak out against en masse. Nee promises to go on offense on Binding arbitration this session. The votes of the GA will be exposed this year, so come election time, folks will know who voted to continue to send RI down the drain vs. those who at least attempt to not inflict more mortal wounds to the state’s perilous financial picture.

BobN
BobN
11 years ago

This bill’s sponsors are Representatives McNamara, Gallison, and Malik. I urge all AR readers, and your families and friends, to contact these reps by phone or email and ask them to withdraw the bill on Tuesday.
This bill is an excellent example of how our state’s systemic corruption is buried in subtle details. The prima facie argument for it was that centralized purchasing of a large-volume contract would get lower pricing from the insurers. Nobody said anything about how centralized design of the plan by union representatives would drive up costs and ensure that the employee burden would be minimized at the expense of maximizing the burden on taxpayers.

Dan
Dan
11 years ago

One of the more interesting definitions of the word “bureaucrat” I’ve heard is “somebody who does not have to take responsibility for his or her own actions.” Seems a bit silly when you first hear it, but then it’s startlingly accurate. What’s the first thing you hear when you try to complain to anyone in a government job? “Hey, don’t blame ME…”

Monique
Editor
11 years ago

“Upon expiration of collective bargaining agreements, only benefit plan designs approved by the board in accordance with this chapter may be specified in future collective bargaining agreements…”
This is not only a stunningly bad idea but it flies in the face of existing law. The power to set budgets (including the establishment of “benefit plans”) and to tax has been vested solely with one elected body: the city or town council of each municipality.

Scott Bill Hirst
Scott Bill Hirst
11 years ago

Hi!
Obviously not a balanced committee. What is perhaps mostly missed is this: Generally speaking the Supts. salary is kept appreciately higher than the other staff and especially teaching staff and principals!
Regards,
Scott

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