Crunch time: Lawmakers juggling several bills

Michigan Capitol

Michigan Capitol

It’s crunch time in Lansing, where lawmakers have just two session days – and a packed schedule – remaining before heading home for most of the summer.

They hope to complete work on legislation dealing with public employee health care and bills that curb collective bargaining and dismantle teacher tenure. All MEA members will be negatively affected by these bills.

MEA members and staff are at the Capitol right now, lobbying on your behalf. But your help is needed! Please contact your legislators NOW to share your view on several bills, including House Bill 4572 and Senate Bill 7 as well as House Bills 4625-4628 and Senate Bill 503.

We’re planning to fill the Capitol Thursday with MEA members – and we need you there!

Because we anticipate that the Legislature will try to push through insurance caps and tenure bills tomorrow, they need to see hundreds of MEA members watching them and encouraging them to do the right thing. Please take time to travel to Lansing to hold your legislators accountable. MEA will provide briefings at 8:30 a.m., 10:00 a.m., and 1 p.m.  The 8:30 briefing will be at MEA Headquarters in East Lansing. The location of the later briefings will be announced in Capitol Comments later today.

Here’s what you need to know about the key bills:

House Bill 4572 and Senate Bill 7

House Bill 4572 would place a so-called “hard cap” on the amount that public employers could pay for employee health insurance. The cap would range from $5,500 for a single person to $15,000 for family coverage, beginning in 2012. The House approved this bill and it is pending in the Senate Reforms, Restructuring and Reinventing Committee.

Many problems exist with this anti-family bill, including the fact that it could push families that suffer an expensive medical emergency into bankruptcy. It’s also unfair, considering that an employee making $15,000 a year would pay the same for their benefits as someone earning $60,000.

Meanwhile, Senate Bill 7 would prohibit public employers from paying more than 80 percent of the cost of insurance. This bill also is faulty. Grand Rapids Superintendent Bernard Taylor today told the Senate Reforms panel that lower-income employees would have difficulty paying 20 percent of the cost of their health insurance. He suggested that the bill would create a “class of working poor,” and that his district might have to counsel employees on how to obtain public assistance to buy food.

Some lawmakers are considering a compromise that would give public employers a choice between these two plans. Lieutenant Gov. Brian Calley told the Senate committee today that Gov. Rick Snyder would support either plan or a compromise.

House Bills 4625-4628 and Senate Bill 503

The House Bills, which already passed the House and are pending in the Senate, curb collective bargaining and dismantle tenure. MEA strongly opposes these bills, which attempt to fix some known problems with tenure but also include a hodge-podge of bad laws that muddy the water with issues of seniority, evaluations, and collective bargaining.

The real problem is the time and costs associated with dismissing ineffective tenured teachers. Lawmakers can easily fix this problem with Senate Bill 503, a bill that MEA supports, that makes the process faster and less costly than the current system.

Senate Bill 503 is a commonsense reform measure that fixes the real problems with tenure without taking away due process and collective bargaining rights from teachers.

Contact your legislators and tell them to support Senate Bill 503 as bipartisan, teacher-supported tenure reform that will help students AND to reject House Bills 4625-4628 as an attack on public school employees, their due process rights, and collective bargaining.