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Legislative update: Arbiter rules Quinn violates agreement via planned facility closures, layoffs

October 3, 2011
Lori Clark

Lori Clark

In Springfield …

An arbitrator today issued a ruling stating that Gov. Pat Quinn’s recent announcement that he intended to close seven state-run facilities and layoff more than 1,900 state workers by the end of the year violates a collective bargaining agreement between the governor and the AFSCME union.

This is the same arbitrator who ruled against the governor when he sought to block the automatic pay raises contained in collective bargaining agreements.

As reported in Capitol Fax:

“The arbitrator also reiterated what he wrote about the consequences of the governor’s usage of ‘subject to appropriation’ language to subvert a union contract

“If the state is correct in its statutory and Constitutional arguments, the result will be that public sector employers and unions will have to negotiate collective bargaining agreements every year instead of having multiyear agreements (typically three to five years and sometimes longer) which bring labor peace and stability. Some public sector contracts in this state have taken years to negotiate or settle through the interest arbitration process under Section 14 of the IPLRA. Having been involved in the collective bargaining process as a mediator and interest arbitrator for over 25 years, I estimate that thousands of multi-year collective bargaining agreements have been settled in this state.

“If the State is correct that economic provisions of multi-year collective bargaining agreements are not enforceable or are contingent upon subsequent appropriations for the out years of the agreements, then the collective bargaining process will be, to say the least, severely undermined. If the State is correct, the result will be most chaotic and costly as public sector employers and unions will now have to drudge through the often laborious, time consuming and costly collective bargaining process on a yearly basis. Unions will do that. Public sector employers will be loathe to have to engage in that costly and time consuming endeavor on a yearly basis. If the State is correct in its statutory and Constitutional arguments, the multi-year collective bargaining agreement is, for all purposes, probably dead.”

The governor is expected to appeal this decision.

Meanwhile …

NIU’s Division of University Relations launched a new website today to monitor and report activity in Springfield related to performance-based budgeting.

Beginning in Fiscal Year 2013, the Illinois Board of Higher Education budget recommendations to governor and the General Assembly will include allocations to public institutions of higher education based on performance metrics.

The IBHE’s Higher Education Performance Funding Steering Committee is devising a system for allocating a percentage of state higher education funding support based upon performance in achieving state goals related to student success and certification and degree completion.

Performance based budgeting is also known as outcome based budgeting, an approach that is increasingly gaining support in states throughout the nation. Incentives come for graduating students, not just enrolling them.

University Relations will update the new website as needed.

In Washington, D.C. …

As reported last week, a temporary Continuing Resolution (H.R. 2017) was passed by Congress last week to allow the government to keep paying its bills.

The House, using an unusual procedural move, agreed to keep the government operational through Tuesday, Oct. 4, at which time they would then consider the short-term CR passed by the Senate (H.R. 2608) to keep the government running through Friday, Nov. 18. The House and Senate are both scheduled in this week following their week-long recess.

Nothing is guaranteed these days in Washington, especially with anything related to funding and budget issues, so all eyes will be focused on the House to see if  it is able Tuesday to pass the CR.

In other budget news, the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations released draft version of the proposed FY2012 appropriations bill, and there are several items of concern regarding Pell Grants. The House proposal would make the following changes:

  • Eliminate eligibility for less than half-time students.
  • Eliminate eligibility for awards that are less than $555.
  • Reduce Pell use from 18 semesters to 12 starting July 1, 2012.
  • Reduce zero Estimated Family Contribution from $30,000 to $15,000.
  • Expand the definition of Untaxed Income to include five items that are currently NOT included as income (the amount of additional tax credit claimed for tax purposes; welfare benefits; earned income credit claimed for tax purposes; credit from tax paid on special fuels; untaxed social security benefits).

The draft proposal also significantly reduces or eliminates the following institutional support accounts:

  • Strengthening HBCUs (minus $85 million)
  • Hispanic Serving Institutions (minus $87 million)
  • Strengthening Predominantly Black Institutions (eliminated)
  • Asian American Pacific Islander (eliminated)
  • Strengthening Alaska Native and Native Hawaiin Serving Institutions (eliminated)
  • Strengthening Native American Serving Nontribal Institutions (eliminated)
  • Strengthening Tribal Institutions (eliminated).

In addition, the proposal would prevent the administration from implementing and enforcing the Gainful Employment rule and the definitions of Credit Hour and State Authorization.

NIU will continue to work with our national higher education associations, including APLU and AASCU, to advocate in support of the Pell Grant Program and student financial assistance – without these proposed changes, as negotiations begin between the House and Senate on omnibus appropriations.

Meanwhile …

Members of the Joint Deficit Reduction Super Committee have continued to meet to work on reducing at least $1.2 trillion from the federal deficit. Most of these meetings are occurring behind closed doors and its members are avoiding the press, leading to widespread concern about the “secret” nature of these negotiations.

The Obama administration, through the Department of Justice, is calling on the U.S. Supreme Court to review the 2010 health care act (“Obama-care”).

Justices are being asked to review the decision of a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta, which is the only appeals court to say that Congress exceeded its power in passing this law. The law requires almost every American to have health insurance. The White House is likening these challenges to other landmark legislation like the Social Security Act, Civil Rights Act, and Voting Rights Act.

The Obama administration also is escalating its crackdown on tough immigration laws.

According to the Washington Post, its lawyers are reviewing four new state statutes to determine whether the federal government will take the extraordinary step of challenging the measures in court.

Legal experts are commenting that this level of federal intervention is highly unusual, especially because civil rights groups already have sued most of those states. Justice Department lawyers have sued Arizona and Alabama, where a federal judge last week allowed the state to proceed with implementing some parts of their law while blocking other provisions.

Federal lawyers are talking to Utah officials about a third possible lawsuit and are considering legal challenges in Georgia, Indiana and South Carolina.

The Voices section of NIU Today features opinions and perspectives from across campus. Lori Clark is director of State and Federal Relations for NIU.