Thanks to Nancy Carr and Reverend Shannon Chestnut for bringing this issue to my attention. I have been a little pre-Occupy-ed lately.
UPDATED December 3, 2011
Nebraska's Board of Regents is apparently poised to approve a provision that would extend the University systems' employee benefits to same sex and unmarried cohabiting partners. Reportedly, the rationale for extending those benefits is to ensure that Nebraska's "institutions of higher learning" ----- YES I use that term VERY loosely ----- remain competitive with peers in the ivory towers of the upper crust elites known as universities and colleges. The pressure to be competitive, I now read, has increased since Nebraska became a member of the Big Ten.
Geez. Making football the center of a state's universe actually has consequences, huh?
UPDATED: Thanks to the very helpful Glen Flint for giving us more information on this subject.
The new benefits offering, proposed by Board of Regents President James B. Milliken, has a name; it's called "employee plus one". Included in the sales pitch by Milliken was the following...
"Nationally, more than 300 higher education institutions offer partner benefits, including public universities and systems in at least 30 states and most of the highly ranked research institutions. In the private sector, more than 80 percent of Fortune 100 companies and almost 60 percent of Fortune 500 companies offer health insurance benefits to employee partners. In Nebraska, a number of major companies offer such benefits, including ConAgra Foods, Union Pacific, Mutual of Omaha, Ameritas, HDR and Kiewit."
As a couple of commenters have pointed out, this may not be so much about keeping up with the Joneses, as the title of this article states, considering how many of these institutions there are in the country. Only a small percentage offers these kinds of benefits. According to one link, also provided by Glen, there are over 7,000 "institutions of higher learning" in the U.S. Another figure, provided by UNESCO (a U.N. institution) via Wikipedia lists 5,700+.
Even if the figure were 3,000, according to Milliken's report, that means only 10% of these entities are offering the benefits he proposes. Not a very convincing when using a "get on the bandwagon" appeal.
Milliken's report also informs of the overall cost of such benefits currently, and the proposed increased:
The university estimates that extending health insurance benefits to employee partners would cost about $750,000 to $1.5 million, based on an estimated increase of 1 to 2 percent, or about 100 to 200 new employee sign-ups. Total costs for the university’s health insurance plan today are more than $120 million.
Translation? The expenses for this proposal are just a drop in the bucket!
And finally, from the report:
Individuals such as an employee’s parents, grandparents or other relatives would not be eligible for “plus-one” designation.
Sometimes those "selling" such this sort of social agenda, i.e. gay marriage, try to sell the softer version known as "civil unions" and explain that such legal arrangements would allow individuals to provide for a relative they are supporting, like a parent. But this plan excludes that option. Imagine if you are an employee of the University of Nebraska system and your mother or father lives with you because you are pooling financial resources or, as is more common, you are providing care for them. If this passes, your co-workers, who have another adult in their household, not related to them, get employee benefits, but you cannot! Yes, this is a very family friendly policy.
It seems that the NU Regents were scheduled to vote on the benefits provision on December 8, but have now delayed that action for an unspecified period, according to the Omaha World-Herald report on Thursday, December 1. The reason given was that not all eight regents will be able to attend the meeting.
Anyone buying that? Based upon the contents of my email inbox, I'd say that this information is not playing well in...Papillion (or Pawnee City, Pender, Peru, Pierce, Plainview, Plattsmouth, Ponca[1. Did you know that Wikipedia has a list of Nebraska's cities in alphabetical order? Neither did I, till I wrote this article.] or most other towns and cities except liberal bastions Lincoln and Omaha.) Readers will excuse my skepticism, but this delayed vote business seems suspect. For those who have not seen this particular politicians' ploy before, note that it is S-O-P for boards, councils, commissions, and committees to delay controversial votes until people get distracted by some other bright shiny object. Americans following actions of government more closely in the past few years will recognize this tactic as identical to those employed to obtain Nelson's cloture vote on health care and to pass the Stimulus in February, 2009.
But, it's up to Nebraska's taxpayers who see the moral and fiscal hazards here to not get distracted and to keep the heat on the Regents. According to the Omaha World-Herald, five of the eight regents were in support and the other three "want more information", so I recommend voters give those three a particular kind of "information". Since the Omaha World-Herald story doesn't list which five and which three, seems like they all need "information". Anyone else grown weary of political cover for politicians as brought-to-you-by Nebraska's two largest newspapers? The stand of each of the regents seems like rather important information, doesn't it?
Information about the Board of Regents:
Main website page HERE
To find your regent, see maps page HERE.
Meetings Schedule HERE
Board Members' page HERE (clicking on the name will provide the individual board member's page, including email address)
There is also a generic form (found listed under the Board of Regents menu) for Public Comment found HERE.
Finally, for those wishing to mail a "snail mail" letter to their Regent and/or to the Board instead of or in addition to an email, the main Board of Regents page instructs "Persons wishing to provide information to the board or to appear before it" should contact:
University of Nebraska
Lincoln, NE 68583
If either Nancy or Rev. Shannon happens by this article before receiving an email I'm sending requesting to publish their example letters here, I ask that you reply via comment. Readers, too, are encouraged to provide example letters for others (of course, as long as they conform to GiN's usual comments policy ;-) ).
I'll try to get back here and update this with an example letter of my own as soon as I can.
Of potential interest: Domestic partner benefits
Note on the image: A depiction of the "money hoarders and wasters" found in Dante's fourth circle of hell (avarice). This is a deliberate jab at all of those people who call themselves conservative out there who think we can set "the social issues" on the shelf and only make fiscal arguments.