"Elections have consequences." – NH House Representative Steve Vaillancourt, Manchester
On January 19, 2011, the NH Senate passed SB1, "eliminating the automatic continuation requirement for public employee collective bargaining agreements." That was the "evergreen" provision. The House soon followed with the passage of the bill on February 16, 2011. The bill repealed the automatic inclusion of the "status quo" when a union contract was not agreed to by both sides by the time the previous contract expired. Those contracts with that provision negotiated within them would have the provision honored but in order to have it in the next contract, it had to be renegotiated. It would not be automatic.
Last week, the Finance Committee added an amendment to HB2, part of the budget process. The new language would not only remove the mandatory inclusion of "evergreen", it would prohibit the inclusion of the status quo in any future public employee contracts. A firestorm has developed.
The Finance Committee has been accused of attacking education, destroying the collective bargaining process, and adopting the amendment behind closed doors without a hearing as the Democrats did with their passage of the LLC and campground taxes in the last session.
None of those things are true. HB2 has had many hearings and been
completely open. Hearings are not held on each new amendment proposed and
all sub-committee meetings, work sessions, and executive sessions (where
the committee recommendations are actually voted to the floor) are always
open to the public. This new amendment will be voted on separately in full
session this week. The previously mentioned Democratic taxes from last
year came out of the Committee of Conference meetings which reconciled two
versions of the budget bill in the last session, CofC proposals are
presented on the floor for an "up or down" vote. They can no
longer be amended.
Nor is this an attack on education. There are no mandates here for curriculum changes, class sizes, or other educational issues. This bill is strictly confined to labor relations. Some may considerer "educators" to be "education" but I cannot subscribe to that assessment.
This amendment does not "destroy collective bargaining." Although not universal, it is certainly pervasive in the private sector. Unions still have their collective bargaining tools intact. One item would be removed from the table. Myriad other issues remain.
There is opposition from a number of legislators with regard to local control. There is no effect on the state budget when we discuss city, town, and school district negotiations and many think that this amendment should be filed as a separate bill. The sponsor responds that this amendment was written to prevent state and local unions from stalling. With a down economy, why would unions focus on getting a lesser contract when all of their current provisions continue?
I am reserving judgment to study this issue. Yes, I know why I was elected – to balance the budget without new taxes or downshifting. And I have been sent to Concord to represent ALL of the taxpayers in District 3, not just public employees.
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