|Pictured from left: Scott Merriman, state Office of Financial Management (pro); Dennis Eagle, WFSE/AFSCME Legislative and Political Action director (pro); and Maxford Nelsen, Freedom Foundation (neutral).
2/2/17 The first legislative hearing on the two bills that ask legislators to change state law to enact negotiated family-friendly leave provisions got a good reception in the House State Government Committee Wednesday (Feb. 1).
HB 1434 is the bill that would make the required change in state law to enact our negotiated language that would add the use of shared leave for employees who are sick or temporarily disabled because of pregnancy disability or for the purposes of parental leave to bond with the employee’s newborn, adoptive or foster child.
This good humanitarian bill was sparked by language in the shared leave articles of our negotiated 2017-2019 contracts that would take effect July 1. The language agreed to by the governor and the Federation and ratified by members in September explicitly says the changes would “require” the Legislature to change the state law; if the Legislature declines, the current language in the applicable sections of the shared leave article would stay the same as in the current contract. So the governor and union proposed and agreed to the shared leave change, but with the clear understanding the family-friendly language is contingent on legislative action.
Scott Merriman of the governor’s budget office said both sides forwarded these changes to the Legislature because “we want to be a family-friendly employer.”
Merriman said there is no fiscal impact to this expansion of shared leave.
The Federation’s Dennis Eagle said the parental leave shared leave idea will help address the state’s recruitment and retention crisis.
And, he said, it’s another way “co-workers can support each other and help young families get off to a good start.”
Surprisingly, in a roundabout but controversial way, the anti-state employee Freedom Foundation weighed in as neutral. The anti-collective bargaining think tank’s Maxford Nelsen said the corporate-backed foundation has “no formal position” and “no objection” to the policy issues raised by HB 1434.
But Nelsen raised the ire of committee chair Rep. Zack Hudgins when Nelsen said the foundation was concerned about the “precedent” being set here. Nelsen incorrectly said something “illegal” had been negotiated by both sides; again incorrectly saying both sides were now asking forgiveness from the Legislature. Nelsen said the Legislature would be “rubber stamping after the fact.”
Hudgins interrupted Nelsen’s bizarro rendition of what happened.
“We all know how the legislative process works,” Hudgins told Nelsen.
When Nelsen amped up his “rubber-stamping” accusation against the Legislature, Hudgins said Nelsen had crossed the line.
“We up here try not to assign motives or intent to each other,” Hudgins lectured Nelsen. “I generally ask folks who present to the committee not to assign motives or intent as well.
“My understanding of the collective bargaining process is the governor agrees to contracts, that the Legislature doesn’t rubber-stamp anything....The contracts are contingent on (legislative approval)....
“I’d ask you to be careful in any future testimony not to assign motives to us....
“’Rubber-stamping’ might be sort of name-calling and we try not to do that in these rooms.
“Save that for someplace else.”
So a stern lecture to an opposing group that is actually neutral on the bill but ended up being effectively censured for trying to score debating points in their overall mission to take away state employees’ rights to have a voice at work. And that includes the contract-negotiation process and the Legislature’s key role there.