*Your help is needed to ensure that very important legislation is passed out of the Business and Labor Committee and onto the Unicameral floor for debate and a vote by all Senators.*
*PLEASE PLAN TO ATTEND, IF AT ALL POSSIBLE, HEARINGS AT THE STATE CAPITOL IN LINCOLN ON MONDAY, FEBRUARY 7.* Additional details about the hearings can be found, below.
The State of Nebraska has been running a budget shortfall for over two years and the only way we have managed to “balance” it is by taking in large amounts of Federal funding. Many local governments in the state are struggling with budget and debt problems, particularly Omaha and Lincoln. One major aspect of government cost is public employee wages and benefits, and, in Nebraska, these costs are particularly high due to existing State laws. Provisions allowing for collective bargaining and the entity that oversees the process, the Commission of Industrial Relations, has resulted in a system of public employee wages which is not based on what the employing governmental entity can afford.
With 16% of Nebraska’s workforce employed by State and local governments and a trend in which public employment growth is outstripping growth in the private sector, the situation must be addressed. Unless Nebraska law changes, it will be virtually impossible to reduce the expenses associated with public employees and we Nebraska taxpayers, already burdened at levels higher than any of our neighbors, are likely to see higher taxes.
Nine pieces of legislation have been introduced in the Unicameral that propose various reforms and changes. Unfortunately, most of them are “nibbling around the edges” or “kicking the can down the road”. At the heart of the problem is the fact that government workers, who are supposed to be public servants, are allowed to unionize and collectively bargain. The existence of collective bargaining and the CIR ensures that government work is more lucrative than comparable jobs in the private sector.
We are calling upon all Nebraskans who are committed to seeing a return to Constitutional, limited governance at all levels to support the passage of legislation that would prohibit collective bargaining for public employees. Two legislative measures stand to accomplish that goal and they are explained below.
*HOW YOU CAN HELP:*
- Plan on attending hearings MONDAY, FEBRUARY 7, 1:30pm if at all possible
- Room 1524, State Capitol Building, Lincoln
Understand that attending the hearing does not require you to speak; in fact, it is ultimately more effective if there is not a long string of testimony for one measure, but a coordinated effort with a large turnout of people who are clearly in support.
- Prepare a written statement of support addressed to the members of the Committee and bring on the hearing day. (HERE is one example statement, plan on returning to the GiN site for others in the next few days.)
*Notes for Hearing Day:*
Allow ample time in advance of the hearings to find a parking spot near the Capitol. Information regarding parking in the downtown area is located HERE
At the Capitol, look for volunteers with stickers that say “Prohibit Collective Bargaining” who will give you a sticker of your own and collect your written testimony. By wearing the stickers, we will send a clear message to the Committee regarding which measures are being supported, an important element considering that that there are 9 bills on the issue.
Forward this information to as many of your contacts as possible – can you set a goal of at least five? – who want to control government spending and make an effort to encourage as many of them as possible to attend the hearings.
Plan on making follow-up contacts with Committee members and your own Senator in the days after the hearing to ensure LB664 and LR29CA are moved out to the Unicameral floor for debate and a vote.
*IF YOU CANNOT MAKE THE HEARINGS*:
Try to get someone you know who will attend.
Please contact the members of the Committee and your Senator in the couple of days prior the hearing date or as soon after as possible, letting them know your position on the issue. If needed, consult the presentation notes document link, below (or flyer coming), that includes helpful bullet points when making contacts with Committee members.
*RECOMMENDED BILLS TO SUPPORT:* (for detail on all of the measures that have been introduced and even more information on the issue, click HERE)
*Primary Strategy:* Support LB664 and LR29CA introduced by Senator John Nelson. Both bills prohibit collective bargaining for public employees.
LB664 changes Nebraska law.
LR29CA, is a Constitutional Amendment. The prohibition on collective bargaining for public employees would become a provision in our State Constitution, thereby making it more difficult to change later. If passed by the Legislature, Nebraskans would vote on the measure in the November 2012 General Election.
*Secondary Strategy:* Support LB564 AND LR29CA. LB564, introduced by Senator Tony Fulton, is the only bill introduced that provides for significant reform to the CIR. If Nebraska’s Senators do not have the political will to outright prohibit collective bargaining for public employees themselves, they *may* be persuaded to pass the significant reform AND provide Nebraskans with the opportunity to make the decision regarding prohibiting collective bargaining through a November 2012 vote.
- Turns CIR into, largely, a fact-finding body
- Sets definite benchmarks, in terms of time periods, in which certain negotiations have to occur and a Commission hearing has to be conducted
- CIR enters into a fact-finding process and then has to come up with recommendations
- Creates three possible outcomes; last offer of employee, employer, or status quo
- Has many positive aspects, as it does alleviate a number of problems with the CIR by channeling towards status quo
- On the negative side, it is a political compromise; collective bargaining stays in place for public employees, and, therefore, some problems will remain
We are currently working on a one-page flyer for people to print and share. In the meantime, we have the presentation notes and handout given at a meeting last Monday night for the Omaha 9/12 group. You can view the document online and print if you have a Scribd account (free and worth having!).
Listen to a radio broadcast of an interview with Senator Fulton and Omaha Alliance’s Dave Nabity on DriveTime Lincoln regarding the CIR.