Welcome to "Mike's Memo," an update on what's
happening in the 48th Legislative District, the State Capitol, and the progress
of my legislative priorities. If you haven't done so already, please take a few
moments to visit my website at
www.senatorfolmer.com to learn more about issues that may affect you and
Week of July 13, 2015
Bills Signed into Law by Governor
Senate Bill 284 – Act 17 and
Senate Bill 285 – Act 18 – authorizes an “Honoring Our Veterans” license
plate for motorcycles;
Senate Bill 397 – Act 16 – privatizes and regulates Bail Bondsmen;
House Bill 1276 – Act 15 – clarifies recent changes to the Child Protective
Palmyra High School Marching Band Represents PA in Washington, D.C.
Congratulations to the 47 members of the
High School marching band, and their Director, Andrew Spotts, on being one
of 17 bands selected, and the only band from Pennsylvania, to participate in the National
Independence Day Parade in Washington, D.C.
Congressman Charlie Dent nominated the
marching band in March 2014.
"Marching down Constitution Avenue on July 4th was a
wonderful experience. There were tons of people cheering for us and we could
see famous buildings.” - Emily Moore, Senior
Their selection allowed them to participate in the
mile-long parade down Constitution Avenue playing a patriotic medley while
doing their signature “Cougar Shuffle.” While in Washington, D.C., the group
toured several museums, and watched fireworks and the A Capitol Fourth
concert on the U.S. Capitol Lawn. Photographs courtesy of Jill Buchle.
“The band (members) were celebrities. I had people
coming up to me to have their pictures taken with a real live drummer.”
- Zach Caley, Junior
Column: Fighting for Openness, Transparency & Accountability
One of the first questions anyone asks whenever making a large purchase
or entering into a long-term contract is: “how much is it going to cost?”
The answer usually determines if we make a purchase or enter into an
agreement. It’s pretty simple.
The General Assembly does the same thing: any legislation that could
potentially cost the Commonwealth money cannot be passed by either the House
or Senate unless it has a “fiscal note” from their respective Appropriations
Committees. This gives elected officials and members of the public
information on how much a proposed bill is going to cost before it becomes
law. It’s both routine and noncontroversial.
Senate Bill 644 attempts to apply this same principle to one of the
biggest state budget items: state employee contracts. With over 72,000 state
employees under contracts of over $4.5 Billion, each 1% increase would cost
taxpayers approximately $45 Million per year – with additional costs for
health care and pension benefits.
SB 644 would give the Independent Fiscal Office (IFO)
two weeks’ time to provide a cost analysis of collective bargaining
agreements the Governor has negotiated with state employee unions – two
SB 644 would answer the question: how much are these agreements going to
cost before they’re signed?
As its name suggests, the
impartial and timely analyses of fiscal, economic, and budgetary issues to
assist residents and the General Assembly evaluate proposed policies. The
IFO does not
support or oppose any policy it analyzes and it discloses its methodologies,
data sources, and assumptions used in published reports and estimates.
SB 644 would not stop labor agreements from being signed.
SB 644 would not inject the General Assembly into negotiations between
the Governor and the unions.
SB 644 would not change in any way any proposed agreements.
Consider how 12 other states handle collective bargaining.
- Alaska requires schools allow public comment on issues
to be discussed during bargaining and requires public inspection of
initial proposals, last-best-offers, tentative agreements before
ratification, and final agreements reached by the parties;
- Florida makes bargaining sessions between government agencies and
employee representatives open under their open meetings law;
- Idaho requires open meetings and records of all labor negotiations
(although government officials can meet privately to strategize);
exempts labor negotiations from its open records law but allows the
public to attend sessions where both employer and employee sides present
their “initial bargaining positions”;
- Kansas labor negotiations are open meetings (but a government agency may go into
unless the employee side is present); records pertaining to collective
bargaining negotiations are also open (unless they would reveal information
“discussed in a lawful executive session ”);
- Minnesota negotiations, mediation sessions, and hearings with public
employees are open to the public, although government officials
may close meetings to discuss strategy (but the meetings must be recorded and records kept
for two years after the contract is signed and made available to the
- Montana enshrines open access in its Constitution and requires all
governmental bodies’ meetings to be open to the public
(plus records of government business, meetings, and transactions);
- An Ohio Supreme Court decision ruled draft and final collective
bargaining agreements are public records because they document government
- Oregon requires labor negotiations be open unless both sides request
negotiations shift to executive session;
- Tennessee labor negotiations between public employee
unions/associations and representatives are open to the public and both
sides must give advance notice of when and where negotiations will be held;
- Texas requires collective bargaining agreements be publicly available
after a government entity is ready to ratify any proposed agreement and
deliberations between a governmental entity and employee association must be
open to the public, and;
- Colorado requires school boards negotiate collective bargaining
agreements in meetings open to the public.
SB 644 argue it’ll bring “chaos” to the collective bargaining process,
it will delay negotiations, it is anti-union/anti-worker, and it conflicts
with the Right to Know Law.
Please! All my proposed
SB 644 does is call for two weeks’ time to allow the
IFO to develop
a cost estimate – nothing more. It’s that simple.
Please feel free to contact me at any time on state-related issues that are
of concern to you. I may be reached through my
website or my Lebanon or Harrisburg offices.
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