Brothers and Sisters,
Many of you have contacted me and expressed concern over a bill that was printed in the Senate State Affairs committee last Friday. The bill, SB 1124, would not only repeal collective bargaining rights for those that have it (teachers and firefighters), but would make it illegal for any public employer to voluntarily recognize and negotiate with a public employee union. In other words, even if our cities and fire districts wanted to negotiate in good faith with us they would not be allowed to.
Obviously, this is a very concerning proposal. Fortunately, the bill was printed but will not receive a committee hearing and is dead for the year. The sponsor stated that she wanted it printed to start a discussion about it, but was not intending to run it this year. This means it will most certainly be back next year and will probably be pursued in earnest. The lobbying team is preparing to deal with this issue when it rises again. At this time there is no reason to hit the panic button. Please hold off on independently sending letters to the editor, contacting your legislator, etc. When the time comes we want to have a coordinated effort with a consistent message. We will let you know.
Regarding PERSI…We came into the year very concerned about the pension system. We had heard rumblings that there may be legislation to change PERSI. There was discussion about changing the plan from a defined benefit to a defined contribution, capping the employer’s cost, reducing the guaranteed COLA, and other ideas. With deadlines approaching for introducing bills I feel confident that we probably won’t see any of those ideas introduced this year. The healthy state of the fund also takes away some motivation to make any changes. As of yesterday the funding ratio was at about 89%. Even with the health of the fund, we are preparing for this type of legislation for next year.
The other issue we thought we might be dealing with this year is EMS. With the Office of Performance Evaluation (OPE) in hand, it seemed likely that the legislature would push forward with some kind of legislation. A proposal has been drafted that looks very similar to the legislation that we saw last year. It is encouraging to see that it looks very similar to the amended bill we agreed to support last year that died at the end of session. I have gotten indications that the legislature may hold off on this legislation for the year. I would still like the EMS convention committee to follow through on their assignment to evaluate the issue and make recommendations for our organization’s stance.
I look forward to seeing you next week at convention. Please contact me with any questions or concerns.
Executive Vice President
Professional Firefighters of Idaho