California Republicans Riled by Brown's Union Deals
By Melissa Maynard, Staff Writer
BANKED LEAVE: Republicans are poised to block the contract proposals that California Governor Jerry Brown has negotiated with unions representing state workers, reports the Sacramento Bee . Unions point to significant concessions in the contracts, including requirements that workers contribute more toward their pensions. But many Republicans in the legislature say the contracts don't go far enough to cut labor costs. The most controversial contract is for prison workers, who would receive an average of 8 weeks of paid time off each year. The contract also would end the current 80-day cap on vacation time that can be banked and cashed out when a state prison worker retires, reports the Los Angeles Times . Even the current 80-day policy is expensive: Retiring state workers cashed out nearly a half billion dollars in unused vacation time from 2006 to 2009, according to California Watch .
MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTIONS: Efforts to limit the way that union dues can be collected from public workers — and the extent to which they can be used for political purposes — are moving through a number of legislatures this session. But a measure under consideration in Minnesota goes further than prohibiting unions from using dues for political purposes without the members' consent. Minnesota unions also would be prohibited from using dues to purchase magazine subscriptions and make donations to foundations without the explicit written consent of members, reports the Associated Press. The sponsor of the bill, state Senator Pam Wolf, is herself a member of a teachers' union and says that about $60 of the $400 she pays in dues each year goes to magazines, foundations and political action committees.
MEGA-AUDIT: The Missouri state Senate passed legislation requesting an audit of almost the entire state government. State Auditor Tom Schweich would be tasked with comparing and analyzing spending in five to ten of the state's largest departments to search for potential cost savings, reports the Associated Press. He would then submit a report about best practices and opportunities to reduce spending to the legislature by August 2013.
HEALTH INSURANCE: Michigan Governor Rick Snyder's budget cuts aid to local governments across the board, but offers incentives to local governments that comply with certain "best practices," including requiring employees to pay at least 20 percent of their health insurance costs. The Michigan Senate is considering a non-negotiable approach, a bill that would make the 80-20 split in health insurance costs mandatory for all state and local governments, public schools, community colleges and universities, reports Michigan Live. This tactic is favored by school officials, who no longer want health insurance to fall under the realm of topics that are collectively bargained.
RECALL: The political fight over labor rights in Wisconsin isn't over. Eight Republicans in the state Senate are being targeted in legislative recall petition efforts for their support of Governor Scott Walker's law severely limiting collective bargaining rights for public employees. Meanwhile, eight Democrats are being targeted because of their decision to flee the state in order to delay a vote on the measure. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel , the organizers seeking to oust the Democrats now say they have gathered more than the required 15,960 signatures needed to force them into a recall election. On the other side, the required number of signatures have been filed for four of the GOP senators targeted for recall.