Brothers and Sisters,
The 2012 Legislative Session has begun. As I mentioned in my last email, the collective bargaining bill is a realistic threat and is our number one priority. Our goal is to keep it from ever getting off the ground or to kill it quickly and quietly if it does end up getting printed. I am really encouraged about our prospects. We have been meeting with numerous legislators over the past two months and have been working on this issue. I am very encouraged by the discussions we’ve had with numerous legislators about this issue. I have not heard any solid leads on anyone intending to run the legislation, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Sen. McKague taking another shot at it. The Idaho Freedom Foundation has also put out a wish list of items it would like to see accomplished in the 2012 session. One of them is to continue the reforms of public sector unions. Do not hit the panic button, we are still well-positioned for this fight and may not even see it. We will not know however until several weeks to a month into the session what is in store. Stay tuned – If this issue does get off the ground, I will be calling on all of you to help in a grass roots campaign.
We will also be closely watching PERSI as we know there are people out there who would like to change the current system. Again, no solid leads on anyone with legislation in the works. We’ll have to wait and see.
Concurrent with our defensive efforts we intend to pursue an offensive agenda as well. This year we will be working more aggressively than we ever have before on presumptive illness legislation. We have been working on this bill for over ten years. In that time, we have been unable to make any significant progress but have worked diligently nonetheless. I believe that hard work is finally starting to pay off.
In this interim (the time between legislative sessions), we ran our bill through the “Work Comp Advisory Board”. This is the first stop for any legislation regarding workers compensation. Any bill regarding work comp needs to be reviewed by this committee or it has no chance of passing. The committee makes recommendations to the legislature on a consensus basis. As the committee is made of players from all sides of the issue (employers, employees, insurance companies, lawyers for and against claimants, etc.) it is rare to get consensus on a piece of legislation.
We have shopped this bill to the committee for several years now. At first we had difficulty getting the group to even give the issue a serious look. This year, however, with plenty of persistence and the help of expert testimony from a medical doctor provided by the IAFF, our issue was assigned to a subcommittee to evaluate and provide recommendation to the greater committee. After six months of going back and forth, negotiating details of the legislation, the subcommittee decided it was split and could not make a recommendation one way or the other. Even so, the subcommittee provided a great critique of the bill with no consequence. We’re grateful that the bill could go through this “trial by fire” before being evaluated by the legislature – better to have arrows shot at us now and figure out how to combat them than in front of a legislative committee that can kill it for the year. With no recommendation from the subcommittee the greater committee abstained from making a recommendation also. We consider this the best case scenario from this committee.
We have two excellent sponsors for the bill and several other key allies. We have a pretty good strategy for moving this forward. It will still be an uphill battle, but I feel like we are moving the ball down the field. I will update you as we progress through the session. Again, I may be calling upon some of you to assist with this issue. Stay tuned.
Please contact me with any questions or concerns.
Professional Firefighters of Idaho
Executive Vice President