As we complete our analysis of the amendment introduced by Business and Labor Committee Chair, Senator Steve Lathrop, what we've found in it during the first full sweep makes us ask the question...
Where are our elected officials' heads?
Apparently, Senator Lathrop, and his "working group", all see the world far differently from that which exists in reality. At least, that is the impression one gets when reading the amendment to LB397, AM1116. That "working group" included two other Business and Labor Committee members (Ashford and Utter), labor union lawyers, lobbyists, and strangely, one of Governor Heineman's policy aides.
Many people followed the health care law debate. We all knew the resulting bill would be bad news - we just didn't know how ugly it really was until the details started to come out. While Lathrop's AM1116 is by no means as comprehensive as the health care "reform" bill, it is similar "reform", which is no reform at all. Just as the health care "reform" law is only going to worsen all matters pertaining to health care and have additional negative ramifications, Lathrop's AM1116 looks to have a similar impact on collective bargaining, the CIR, and ultimately, the burden to taxpayers.
While there are some details we're still looking into, there are some things that are perfectly clear. One seems like a poke in the eye to the very people who are among the most adamant to see actual reform.
The people of Omaha were outraged by a police union contract in 2010 that was cited as the reason for several local tax increases. The backlash resulted in a campaign to recall their mayor (ultimately unsuccessful at the ballot box). As time passed, Omahans realized that Nebraska's collective bargaining statutes played a huge role. To add insult to injury, in January, Omahans learned that the CIR had ordered their city to pay fire fighters retroactive pay increases dating back to 2009, the full costs for which were not immediately clear, but amounted to millions of dollars.
Now the poke in the eye...
Lathrop and company's AM1116 actually MANDATES that police and fire fighters will have yet MORE to bargain with; it makes staffing levels a subject open for bargaining. Rather than allowing police and fire chiefs to determine how much staff is necessary to carry out the tasks to provide for public safety, unions will bargain to set staffing levels. Should AM1116 pass, Omahans and Lincolnites are likely to see increasing personnel costs for police and fire fighters.
Where ARE these peoples' heads?
Are they really this arrogant or are they living in their own little world?
The trouble is, the analogy to the health care "reform" bill must end with the fact that Lathrop's "reform" is no reform at all. While an argument can certainly be made that Congressional Republicans did not do enough to stop the bill, it's just a fact that they were very much in the minority at the time.
Anyone who sat through the CIR hearings on February 7 and was capable of seeing reality for what it actually is knew that promised "reform" from Lathrop and company would be ugly. But, even though the product of Lathrop's "working group" was predictably bad news, the balance of power in Nebraska's legislature is quite the opposite of that which existed in Congress in 2009 and 2010. That being the case, we have to wonder why much more has not been done by the advocates for "substantive, meaningful reform", particularly by those supposed advocates who hold seats in the Unicameral and occupy the Governor's office.
With a super-majority Republican legislature, it is difficult to understand how quiet it has been and why Lathrop's convening of such a "working group" has gone virtually unchallenged by any other elected official despite the many questions that process raises.
So we must also ask...
Just where are the heads of reform advocates?
For those of us who do live in reality, not the political one that apparently exists ONLY inside the State Capitol, we are simply left to scratch our heads.
We hope to release bullet points about AM1116 later today, recommend some action, depending upon how much time people can allocate, and provide links, etc. for contact information.
In the meantime, we have a video to share. It's an animation of Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". We're wondering if it provides a potential explanation of how differently we all see reality from the version seen by our elected officials.
In viewing the video, I recommend thinking of our elected officials as the people strapped to the board, the shadow play as the business in the Capitol, and the rest of us as either always living in reality or as the fortunate fellow who was set free and comes to understand the difference. Seems like we all have to do the hard work here; we need to go down in that cave and drag those guys out into the sun, so they too, can see reality.