A Second Look At AB 182: ALEC’s assault on Nevada Public Employees

AB 182

REVIEW: If one feels the need for a bit of background information, the origin of bills like AB 182 can be found in the ALEC model legislation package known as “The Public Employee Freedom Act.”  (pdf)  The bill is a veritable laundry list of the ALEC bill-mill wishes:

“(1) AN ACT relating to local governments; prohibiting a local government employer from entering into an agreement to pay dues to an employee organization through deductions from compensation; (2) prohibiting such an employer from providing paid leave or paying compensation or benefits for time spent by an employee in providing services to an employee organization; (3) prohibiting the inclusion of certain employees in a bargaining unit; (4) revising provisions relating to a reduction in force; (5) providing that a collective bargaining agreement between a local government employer and a recognized employee organization expires for certain purposes at the end of the term stated in the agreement; (6) requiring public notice of certain offers made in collective bargaining; (7) eliminating final and binding fact-finding except upon the election of the governing body; (8)  removing a portion of the budgeted ending fund balance of certain governmental funds from the scope of collective bargaining and from consideration by a fact finder; (9) eliminating statutory impasse arbitration for firefighters, police officers, teachers and educational support personnel;…”

Nothing would so please the corporate masters of ALEC and the Koch Brothers alliance than to see public employee unions brought down, scuttled, and preferably stricken branch to root.

Every provision in this bill is strategically calculated to prevent unions from providing their services to their members.  No dues check off, making dues collection more costly and cumbersome for members; combined with the  attack on union leadership – after all, if the leaders can’t afford the volunteer time then service is necessarily reduced.  Eliminate “supervisory personnel,” if they so much as think about making an “independent judgment.”  No lawyers, no doctors, no supervisory personnel, may by involved in a bargaining unit?  No “confidential employee?”

Allow a government agency to reallocate resources such that there is a reduction if force – translation: layoffs – and then say “We did it because we moved the money elsewhere.” Anywhere? Any budget category? For any purpose? For the purpose of laying off personnel?  No “evergreen provisions?” No cost of living adjustments without a new master contract?

AB 182 assumes there will be no employee strikes – illegal for public employees in this state – but there won’t be any resolution options either. No fact finding, mediation, or arbitration results shall impinge on the employer to do whatever the agency wishes.  It’s take it or leave it time.

And, 16.6% of the total “budgeted expenditures” must be kept in reserve.  Really?  While this sounds “financially responsible” it really isn’t.  There are supposed to be funds allocated at the local level for “extraordinary maintenance and repairs or improvements, funds for contingencies, and funds to stabilize operations, and to provide a cushion in case of a natural disaster. [See: NRS 354]  There’s really little more to this than pulling 16.6% away from the bargaining table.

CONSIDER THE SOURCEWho is supporting ALEC?

The corporate sponsorships include:  The American Bail Corporation; the Altria Group (tobacco), AT&T, Diageo, Energy Future Holdings. Exxon Mobil Corporation, Koch Companies  Public Sector, Peabody Energy (coal), Pfizer Inc. PhRMA, State Farm Insurance, United Parcel Service, Amerian, American Express, US Airways, Anheuser Busch, Bayer Corporation, Bell Helicopter, BP America, Burlington Northern, Catepillar, Century Link, Chevron, Comcast, Conoco Phillips (under Phillips 66 brand), Dow Chemical, Eli Lilly Inc, Farmer’s Group, Georgia-Pacific (Koch Bros), Honeywell, Insight Schools Inc, JR Simplot, Marathon Oil, Raytheon, Reynolds American, T Mobile, Transcanada, (yes, THAT Transcanada)Verizon, and Xcel Energy.

However, a more interesting list is who has dropped membership in the organization which provides models for legislation like AB 182: Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Kraft, Intuit, McDonalds, Wendy’s, Mars, Reed Elsevier, American Traffic Solutions, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Yum! Brands, Proctor and Gamble, Kaplan, Amazon.com, Medtronic, Wal-Mart, Johnson and Johnson, Dell Computers, John Deere, MillerCoors, Hewlett-Packard, Best Buy, General Motors, Walgreens, Amgen, Dreyfus, Amgen, General Electric, Western Union, Sprint Nextel, Symantec, Entergy, Merck, Bank of America, Wellpoint, Bristol Myers Squibb, Brown-Forman, Publix Markets, Glaxo Smith Kline, Unilever, 3M, Darden Restaurants, IBM, Intel, Nestle USA, Berkshire Hathaway, NV Energy, Alliant Energy, Microsoft, Pacific Gas and Electric, Yahoo Inc, International Paper, Occidental Petroleum, Overstock.com, Facebook, Google, Union Pacific, eBay, Wells Fargo, and Northrop Grumman. [link]

Not to put too fine a point to it, but the Nevada legislators sponsoring AB 182 – Republicans Kirner, Dickman, Gardner, Oscarson, Wheeler, Edwards, Jones, Hambrick, Ellison, and Nelson – are still promoting legislation (and an ideology) which is no longer all that popular among major corporate sponsors.  The ALEC bill mill has lost some of its patina of late, but 10 Nevada Republicans haven’t quite noticed the train’s left the station?

While ALEC may be headed off to the horizon, the Koch Brothers and their Americans for Prosperity are alive and well.

“AFP adopts the anti-union positions held by its libertarian funders, David and Charles Koch.[56] A video published on YouTube on February 26, 2011 shows Scott Hagerstrom, the executive director of Americans for Prosperity Michigan, advocating “taking unions out at the knees so they don’t have the resources” to fight for workplace benefits or political candidates.” [Sourcewatch]

One has only to look at Michigan, Ohio, and especially Wisconsin under the Koch financed Walker regime, to see that AFP can simply adopt the legislative packages from ALEC, and insert these into state legislatures – like Nevada.

Thus, Republicans Kirner, Dickman, Gardner, Oscarson, Wheeler, Edwards, Jones, Hambrick, Ellison, and Nelson are simply doing the bidding of the Koch Brothers and promoting their reactionary agenda.

CONSEQUENCES:   This assault on unions, and specifically the attack on public employee unions, are part of the general hostility of corporations toward labor, and toward government.  The results are obvious.  As union membership has declined over the years so have middle class incomes.  [MJ] [APO] [EPI]  And, how did many families move into the middle class in the first place?  By becoming police officers, firefighters, teachers, community health nurses, librarians, land management specialists, transportation specialists, heavy equipment operators, social workers, public health service workers, and so on.

The wages and salaries earned by public employees, as determined by negotiated master agreements, put more families into the middle class, and more money into local economies.  Once again – the Koch Brothers aren’t interested in Bob’s Bodega or the Smith Family Furniture Store, or Jill’s Fashions —  the kinds of small businesses which form the core of local economies.  Possibly the view from inside the 0.001% bubble doesn’t allow for the possibility that products such as Koch Brother’s brands wouldn’t sell in such quantities without local retailers – local retailers who rely on middle income consumers to produce their revenue?

The anti-union, anti-labor perspective is ultimately unsustainable.  Yes, paper towels (like Koch’s Brawny brand) are basic household items, but put too much downward pressure on household income and people will discover that re-washable rags will work as well.  Every household needs toilet paper, like Koch’s Angel Soft, but households under pressure to save pennies may find cheaper brands to purchase.  While the Koch’s can fall back on Flint Hills energy products, local grocers can’t fall too far back from their local demand.  Grocers average a margin of 1-6%, [AZBus] which is not a large cushion to sustain too much drop in customer demand.

Perhaps it’s easier to sit back insulated by a top 0.001% annual income and think of Liberty, Freedom, Personal Accountability, and other abstractions, but the middle class consumer, including the middle class firefighter, police officer, teacher, social worker, or public health nurse doesn’t have that luxury.  Freedom for most people comes down to what Franklin D. Roosevelt called “Freedom from Want.”  The freedom which allows a family to procure all that’s necessary for basic needs, and leave  little left over for a home, for retirement, for an education for their children.  They want, and need, the freedom to breathe between paychecks.

Bills like AB 182 take the air out of the room.  If Republicans Kirner, Dickman, Gardner, Oscarson, Wheeler, Edwards, Jones, Hambrick, Ellison, and Nelson would pull this bill, people could all breathe a little easier.

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Filed under Nevada economy, nevada education, Nevada legislature, Nevada politics, Politics, public employees

ALEC and Nevada GOP launch vote suppression bills

vote suppression

It isn’t quite true to say that vote suppression bills are “a solution in search of a problem,” because the “problem” as seen by ALEC and associated Republicans is that too many people are voting, thus placing a permanent GOP majority in doubt.  Here’s a portion of AB 266, the perfectly predictable photo ID bill:

“Section 2 sets forth the acceptable forms of proof of identity which are: (1) certain government-issued documents or identity cards that show a recognizable photograph of the person to whom the document or card is issued; (2) a voter identification card; or (3) certain documentation from an administrator of certain health care facilities that are licensed by the State.”

What’s the problem? Just show the election officials your driver’s license? That, according to the Brennan Center isn’t a solution to the real problem – encouraging more people to participate in our electoral politics.

“Approximately ten percent of voting-age Americans today do not have driver’s licenses or state-issued non-driver’s photo ID. Based on Americans’ moving patterns, many more do not have photo ID showing their current address. And getting ID costs substantial time and money. A would-be voter must pay substantial fees both for ID cards and the backup documents needed to get them-up to $100 for a driver’s license, up to $45 for a birth certificate, $97 for a passport, and over $200 for naturalization papers. The voter may also have to take several hours off of work and travel significant distances to visit government offices open only during select daytime hours. Finally, many identifying documents cannot be issued immediately, so potential voters must allow for processing and shipping, which may take from several weeks to an entire year.”

As the Brennan Center relates, there’s nothing “free” about the documentation needed to get voting photo identification cards, even though the card itself is supposed to be issued at no charge.  And, who are those most likely to be suppressed by this legislation?  No surprise here:

“The impact of ID requirements is even greater for the elderly, students, people with disabilities, low-income individuals, and people of color. Thirty-six percent of Georgians over 75 do not have a driver’s license. Fewer than 3 percent of Wisconsin students have driver’s licenses listing their current address. The same study found that African Americans have driver’s licenses at half the rate of whites, and the disparity increases among younger voters; only 22% of black men aged 18-24 had a valid driver’s license. Not only are minority voters less likely to possess photo ID, but they are also more likely than white voters to be selectively asked for ID at the polls. For example, in New York City, which has no ID requirement, a study showed that poll workers illegally asked one in six Asian Americans for ID at the polls, while white voters were permitted to vote without showing ID.”

Whose vote is in jeopardy?

Predictably that would be elderly people, students, people with disabilities, low income Americans, and people of color.  We’ve covered this territory before in terms of Nevada voting, especially in rural areas.  The geography of this state, and the fact that most of the population tends to live in just two counties, means that rural voters are also at risk.

It’s also no surprise that some of the same people who walked off the ALEC gang plank into the depths of vote suppression are the same who made the same march previously, see here.  AB 266 also brings back memories of Senator Roberson’s 2011 SB 373.

How does this fly in the face of American judicial principles? 

Here’s a reminder:

“If you signed your registration form in Nevada declaring under penalty of perjury that you are at least 18 years of age, are a citizen of the United States, are not among the classes of persons held ineligible, and are a resident of the state.  The burden of proof that you have committed perjury rests with the state.

The burden of proof always rests with the state — in any prosecution for anything.  If a person is alleged to have voted once in Clark County and again in Nye County that would call for a prosecution of a crime under NRS 293 — but the burden of proof rests with the state.   If a person is alleged to have voted using an assumed identity, then this calls for prosecution, and once again — the burden of proof rests with the state.

Any suggestion that the citizen be required to “show proof of citizenship” at the polls is not only redundant, but shifts the burden of proof from the state to the individual.  That’s not the way the American system of jurisprudence works.  It’s not the way the American judicial system has ever worked.

A person in any court in the United States is never presumed guilty until he or she can demonstrate innocence.  A person need never prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he or she did not commit a burglary, an arson, a theft, a manslaughter — the burden of proof always rests with the state.  Demanding “proof of citizenship” at the polling stations presumes that unless a person can “prove” otherwise he or she is a fraudulent voter upends the very foundation of our criminal justice precepts.” [DB]

Fancy Focus Group Terms Don’t Hide The Intent

Conservative Republicans are fond of using terms like “election integrity,” as if there was something amiss in our current system.  There isn’t.  The one question these advocates of vote suppression don’t want to answer is:  How many cases of voter impersonation fraud have been identified in this state?  As of August 2014, there were 31 cases of voter impersonation fraud in the entire country, and not one case was associated with a Nevada election. [WaPo]

But, but, but…sputter the advocates, “Photo ID will make people feel better about their elections.”  That’s false, too.  When researchers from Harvard and Columbia put this to a statistical test, the results didn’t support this contention:

“Because actual evidence of voter impersonation fraud is rare and difficult to come by if fraud is successful, reliance on public opinion as to the prevalence of fraud threatens to allow courts to evade the difficult task of balancing the actual constitutional risks involved. In this short Article we employ a unique survey to evaluate the causes and effects of public opinion regarding voter fraud. We find that perceptions of fraud have no relationship to an individual’s likelihood of turning out to vote. We also find that voters who were subject to stricter identification requirements believe fraud is just as widespread as do voters subject to less restrictive identification requirements.” (emphasis added)

Conclusions

Vote suppression bills are precisely that – legislation intended to make it more difficult for groups least likely to need or afford photo identification to vote in state and national elections.  They are promoted by associations like ALEC, which produces the model legislation, in order to secure a permanent GOP majority in elected bodies.  Let’s slip out on the tree limb and conjecture that if the elderly, students, the disabled, and the poor were voting for eliminating the minimum wage, enhancing corporate tax breaks, and terminating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau … the GOP would be demanding same day registration, and ALEC’s bill mill would be going full bore.

Vote suppression bills are unconstitutional. Discrimination should be the last thing found in polling stations. Further, to place the burden of proof on a “defendant” is counter to the very basic principles of American justice.

Vote suppression bills serve no one except corporate interests, as the Harvard/Columbia research reports – they don’t even make people feel any better.

AB 266, and its companions SB 169, and AB 253 should find their way to the bottom of some committee file cabinet – and not their way to the Governor’s desk.

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Filed under Nevada, Nevada legislature, Nevada politics, Vote Suppression, Voting

Nevada Legislature and Gun Club: SJR 11

Deer with Gun The Nevada Assembled Wisdom and Gun Club is considering  SJR 11, the proposed “right to hunt” amendment to the Nevada Constitution; it’s on the agenda for today’s session of the Senate Natural Resources Committee.  So, here we have yet another piece of legislation beloved and promoted by the NRA and the “firearms industry trade association” the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

“To most people, these amendments probably sound like a solution without a problem. But the NRA has been warning voters and state legislators that “radical” animal rights groups could come for their guns and traps any day now. As the NRA’s legislative arm, the NRA-ILA, wrote on its blog, it’s working to “protect the citizens’ hunting heritage from attacks initiated by well-funded anti-hunting extremists who have assailed sportsmen throughout the country in recent years.” [Salon]

Those “radical” animal rights groups include the Humane Society of the United States.   First, no one is “assailing sportsmen.” This image is part of the well known NRA/NSSF campaign to convince gun enthusiasts (ammosexuals) they are the “victims,” of something… anything… everything.

Secondly, the language is a bit dangerous. “This resolution proposes to amend the Nevada Constitution by adding a new section to Article 1 to preserve the right to hunt, trap and fish for residents of this State. This resolution provides that hunting, trapping and fishing are the preferred means of managing wildlife in this State.”

The language as presented incorporates the assumption that all forms of ‘wildlife’ are over populated and therefore the preferred management option is killing them.  Thus, the constitution would be amended to ‘prefer’ killing off a population of beasts, as opposed to protecting a population of those classified as endangered, or even considered at risk, as a form of ‘management.’

We could, therefore, risk ‘managing’ our wildlife on their way to joining the Pinta Island Tortoise, the Vietnamese Rhino, the Yangtze River Dolphin, the Western Black Rhino, the Zanzibar Leopard, the  Javan Tiger, the Blue Pike, the Caribbean Monk Seal, the Passenger Pigeon, and the Dodo.

The problem with SJR 11 isn’t that hunters, trappers, and fishing folk are somehow deprived of any rights, it’s that the NRA/NSSF want to promote the “management” of some wildlife to possible extinction – if it makes the shooters happy.

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Filed under Gun Issues, Nevada legislature, Nevada politics

GOP Age of Un-Enlightenment: Heller one of the #Iran47

Heller 3

Nevada’s junior Senator, Dean Heller (R) is one of the  signers of the now infamous ‘enlightenment letter’ to the Iranian leadership.  Heller, who has a certain flare for the dramatic – if not the practicable – has demonstrated his willingness to participate in amateur political theatricals before.   Witness the “Balanced Budget Amendment” which he hauls out every session only to be reminded that the budget of a sovereign nation doesn’t have the same characteristic as a household budget in East Deer Breath.  Or, there was the gallant attempt to repeal the Dodd-Frank Act, in tandem with former Senator (now Heritage Foundation guru) Jim DeMint. This scene evaporated as well.   Considering the matter at hand, here are some absolutely unsolicited bits of advice for the junior Senator:

#1.It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system.”  Before signing on to this line, one might be aware that the recipients include  Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who attended Drew College Prep in San Francisco, got his B.A. in International Relations from San Francisco State University in 1981, and a Master’s in 1982. He did post graduate work at the Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver, and received his PhD in International Law and Policy in 1988. Here’s guessing that the Iranian Minister for Foreign Affairs might have some knowledge of U.S. governmental operations?

Opening lines such as this are patronizing or at least condescending, and one of the Things Not Done in international relations is being… patronizing or condescending.  Iran, love it or loathe it, is a sovereign nation, and that pompous, supercilious, opening sounds suspiciously like the #Iran47 would like to teach their “little brown brothers” about U.S. politics. 

#2. Don’t make obvious errors.  It really doesn’t do to have a legal heavyweight from the Bush Administration tell you that the Senate may “offer advice and consent,” but “The Senate does not ratify treaties. Instead, the Senate takes up a resolution of ratification, by which the Senate formally gives its advice and consent, empowering the president to proceed with ratification” (my emphasis). [Goldsmith]  In athletic parlance, this fumble is often called an Unforced Error.

#3. You will be known by the company you keep.  Very junior Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) has made it very clear that he wants to scuttle all attempts at diplomacy with Iran.  “The end of these negotiations isn’t an unintended consequence of congressional action. It is very much an intended consequence. A feature, not a bug, so speak,” Cotton said in January, speaking at a conservative conference hosted by the advocacy group Heritage Action for America.” [Huffington Post]  This puts the #Iran47 deep in the realm of American hardliners who see no practicality in negotiating a deal with the current Iranian government.  Not everyone has dived into that pool, including acknowledged foreign policy expert former Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN).  If Senator Heller would like to retain his “periodically moderate” label, this is not the way to do it.

#4. The more flexible you are the more options you’ll have.  Taking the hard line stance as a signatory to the Cotton Letter means that diplomacy is off the table.  What does that leave?  Let’s assume the old adage is correct: War is the failure of diplomacy.  If diplomacy is removed as an option then the only way to resolve an international dispute is with armed forces.  But, what of economic sanctions?

#5. Don’t discard options merely because they require assistance.  Unilateral economic sanctions never work.  At best they can be functional in about 13% of their applications, at least since 1970, and  usually with small countries. (Rhodesia comes to mind)  [Hill]  Then there’s this observation from the Director, Institute for International Economics, a panelist at the CFR:

“There is no case—repeat, no case—where unilateral sanctions have ever worked to induce a sizable country to make a major change in policy, no case in history that we have been able to discover. The simple reason is that the United States no longer dominates the world economy. There are always alternative sources of export, import markets, finance, whatever it may be. We alone cannot coerce others. And there are always alternatives, and they will always be available.”

And, this leads us to the next point.

#6. The more friends you have the better.  The current negotiations involve  members of the P5+1 who are actually negotiating the deal with Iran.  The U.S. isn’t the only country with a negotiating interest in the talks, the other nations include the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, Germany, and the U.S.  Some care should have been taken that what was perhaps meant as a poke at Iran wouldn’t be received as a slap in the face of the other negotiating countries.  Now, consider the next point –

#7. If the #Iran47 intend for the talks to collapse, then the intended (or unintended?) consequence could be the U.S. wedded to a unilateral policy calling for a military solution to the issue of Iranian nuclear development? After all, why would the UK, France, or Germany participate in military operations if they assume their negotiations were in good faith, and the U.S. was the one to pull out?

Should the U.S. become embroiled in a war with Iran,  a nation with about 450,000 regular military personnel, some 120,000 in the Army of the Guardians, and about 3 million combat trained paramilitary Basij, it should be reasonably obvious that the conflict would not be a simple matter of a few air strikes.  And, while the U.S. is thus engaged what happens in, say, Ukraine? Iraq? Central Africa? Nigeria? North Korea? Libya?

#8. “Regime Change” is a term freighted with negative associations. In an ethereal world of ideals, as opposed to the practical one in which we are living, we could bargain very nicely with a ‘new’ regime in Tehran.  That is, IF, the new regime was cooperative.  However, as we learned to our dismay in Iraq, a new regime doesn’t necessarily equate to a cooperative ally.  The ‘new regime’ in Iraq refused to negotiate a status of forces agreement with two American administrations, insisted on the pull out of U.S. combat forces, and then proceeded to make a hash of Sunni-Shia power relationships giving ISI a wedge into the fray.

#9. Striking a pose and taking a position are two different things. Striking a pose is easy.  One may be belligerent – fists at the ready, emotions on high;  or pacific – fists down, brain engaged. Taking a position requires thought, especially forethought, and the inclusion of a host of factors which may or may not prove to be critical elements.   One of the conveniences of militarism is that it requires little forethought – have a problem with someone? Simply shoot’em up.   The current situation in the Middle East is not a scripted melodrama from film writers; the good guys are difficult to identify and may not always be ‘good,’ and the bad guys may be helpful in one area (think Iran and its assistance against ISIL) and unhelpful in others.

Signing on as an original founder of the #Iran47 wasn’t the best idea Nevada’s junior Senator has had, and in fact it may prove to be one of his worst moments.  Unless, of course, he would like to posture as a belligerent, mindless subscriber to militarism and the notion that not only is might always right but it also always works.  This is a dubious proposition at best, and it certainly offers a future challenger an opening on an unforced error.

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Filed under Congress, Foreign Policy, Heller, Iran

Union Busting 101: Nevada’s AB 182

Union busting If anyone is functioning under the happy delusion that the current session of Nevada’s Assembled Wisdom is intent upon securing the happiness of the middle class – look no further than AB 182.

“It would clarify the rules that exclude supervisors from collective bargaining, prohibit using government funds to pay employees engaged in union activities, require employees to seek union deductions before they would be collected by a government entity, and make agreements retroactive to the date of the expiration of the previous contract. It would also require a final contract offer to be made public, among other provisions.” [LVRJ]

Welcome to the re-labeled world of corporate sponsored legislation as defined by ALEC and the related ACCE.  The “public final offer” part is straight out of ALEC model legislation.   This has not been overlooked:

“ACCE’s first meeting coincided with ALEC’s national conference. One workshop topic was “releasing local governments from the grip of collective bargaining.” Another report discusses the conservative Heritage Foundation’s plan for localities across the country to experiment with “local” right-to-work initiatives. Heritage predicts that these experiments could provoke a legal challenge ending up in the hands of the US Supreme Court, which they hope will effectively end “fair share” of agency fees for public employees currently under collective bargaining agreements.” [Teamsters]

There’s an agenda at work here, and it’s NOT one conducive to maintaining the middle class families involved in local government, firefighting, police and public safety, teachers, and others who perform vital public services at the state and local level.   The Republican Noise Machine has been relentless in its messaging about public employee unions and the members they serve, and the term “messaging” is appropriate because what’s been transmitted isn’t rational, and often isn’t even factual.

“Two widely shared misperceptions are helping to drive this shift of opinion. The first holds that public sector workers now earn more on average than their private sector counterparts, making them what Indiana’s Republican governor, Mitch Daniels, calls “a new privileged class in America.” The leading candidates for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination have helped promote this view. “Average government workers are now making $30,000 a year more than the average private-sector worker,” declares Mitt Romney. “It used to be that public employees were underpaid and over-benefited,” adds Tim Pawlenty. “Now they are over-benefited and overpaid compared to their private-sector counterparts.” The second perception is that collective bargaining contracts have been major contributors to the growing budget deficits of the states, a view promoted by Chris Edwards, the director of tax policy studies at the Cato Institute.” [Dissent]

What is conveniently omitted from the discussion is the fact that most government workers are older and have more education than the “average private sector worker.”  Using a term like “counterpart” makes it appear that the opponents of public sector unions are comparing average government workers to average private sector employees – they aren’t.  If the term “counterpart” is defined strictly as one person doing an essentially similar job then the numbers don’t back up the union opponents.  The facts are:

Jobs in the public sector typically require more education than private sector positions. Thus, state and local employees are twice as likely to hold a college degree or higher as compared to private sector employees. Only 23% of private sector employees have completed college as compared to about 48% in the public sector.

Wages and salaries of state and local employees are lower than those for private sector employees with comparable earnings determinants such as education and work experience. State workers typically earn 11% less and local workers 12% less.

Benefits make up a slightly larger share of compensation for the state and local sector. But even after accounting for the value of retirement, healthcare, and other benefits, state and local employees earn less than private sector counterparts. On average, total compensation is 6.8% lower for state employees and 7.4% lower for local employees than for comparable private sector employees. [NIRS]

Thus we can discount the “Pigs at the Public Trough” argument for what it is – propaganda, using misleading numbers and comparisons to make an ideological point.  And, we can dismiss the “driving the deficit” argument as well:

“There is no direct correlation between states with unionized public workers and those facing budget deficits. New York State, which boasts the highest percentage of unionized public employees of any state, is running a projected budget deficit of 16.9 percent for fiscal year 2012, while North Carolina, which prohibits public sector collective bargaining, faces an even larger budget deficit (20 percent) according to the data of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Similarly, there is no direct correlation between collective bargaining and pension obligations that have gone unfunded. According to the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, New York has done a better job at funding its pension obligations (currently at 100 percent funding) than Virginia, which does not permit public sector collective bargaining and is currently funding only 80 percent of its obligations.” [Dissent]

Not only is there no correlation between collective bargaining and budget deficits, but we should also take into consideration the unasked question: Why is it always a matter of cutting expenses, and not a question of whether more revenue should be raised to sustain public services?

There is a correlation ALEC and ACCE don’t want to discuss.  As the EPI documentsthere is a correlation between declining wages and the decline in union membership.   Unless one subscribes to the illogical and oligarchian ideologies of the ultra-conservative think tanks and the billionaires who support them, the logic of good old fashioned capitalism is obvious – the more wages, the more demand, the more demand, the more sales, the more sales, the more profits, the more profit the better for all concerned.

And, this holds true for public employees who pay their mortgages, buy groceries in the local supermarket, buy clothes from local retailers, purchase automobiles from local dealers, pay for gas at the local station, and get their hair cut by local barbers and beauticians.  However, ALEC and ACCE’s perspective isn’t driven by any concern for ‘those small businesses,’ but by a concern for the corporate bottom line – a bottom line which would be enhanced if levels of state and local taxation were to be reduced.  It sounds seductive to the local business owner to hear “we’re going to reduce your taxes,” until that coin is flipped to the obverse and the people who depend on those taxes for income stop thinking about the new car, defer car maintenance, put off buying new clothes, and reduce personal expenditures.

AB 182 launches some very specific attacks on public sector unions which bargain for wages and working conditions.  For example, who is a supervisor? 

Sections 2, 3, and 7 exclude school supervisory and administrative positions from membership in bargaining units, and expands the definition of an excluded confidential employee to include any employee whose duties entail access to proprietary or confidential information.  Therefore, anyone with any supervisory duties is excluded – good by principals and administrators, and with a bit of creativity that “proprietary or confidential” information clause could exclude many others.

Section 1 is a double whammy.  First, there will be no dues deductions. This is nearly always the first point of attack, and if we didn’t figure this out already, there’s a model bit of legislation from ALEC called the Public Employer Payroll Deduction Policy Act.  There are also some alternatives offered by ALEC to this same end. Secondly, the opponents of public employee unions have noticed that union leadership is voluntary and if there is any remuneration it isn’t all that much. So, the “head of the serpent” can be removed by simply refusing to grant leave for union purposes, and also by removing anyone who is not compensated by the union from participating in union activities because they’ll lose time and benefits for doing so.  That would wipe out most committee chairs, officers below the top level, and most local activists.

Section 6 gets rid of the Evergreen provisions. It “generally provides that upon the end  of the term stated in a collective bargaining agreement, and until a successor  agreement becomes effective, a local government employer shall not increase any  compensation or monetary benefits paid to or on behalf of employees in the  affected bargaining unit.”  Thus much for previously bargained cost of living adjustments.

And if there’s an impasse in the bargaining process?

“If an impasse is reached in collective bargaining negotiations, existing law  establishes a process of fact-finding. Under existing law, the findings and  recommendations of the fact finder are final and binding if the parties so agree or a  statutory panel determines that the findings and recommendations are to be final 40 and binding as to some or all of the issues in dispute. (NRS 288.200-288.203) 41 Sections 10 and 15 of this bill eliminate the panel.”

And, there’s more:

“Under existing law, an impasse in collective bargaining negotiations involving  firefighters, police officers, teachers or educational support personnel may be  submitted to an arbitrator, whose decision is final and binding. (NRS 288.215, 59 288.217) Section 15 repeals those provisions, eliminating the statutory right to  arbitration as a means of impasse resolution.”

Remember, public employees in Nevada have no “right to strike” protections, and AB 182 removes the fact-finding and the arbitration options to settle an impasse.  So, what’s left? If an impasse remains unresolved the government entity can’t raise any compensation and the employees are frozen in place?

AB 182 is, for all intents and purposes, an ALEC/ACCE dream piece, based on ideology rather than a rational approach to economic and social requirements, and supportive of corporate as opposed to local economic interests.   The Committee on Commerce and Labor should file this one away in the “unconscionable” part of its cabinetry.

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Filed under Economy, Nevada economy, Nevada legislature, Nevada politics, public employees

Nevada’s AB 196: The Wall Street Casino Protection Act

AB 196 Let’s talk Repos – since it’s a topic under discussion in the Nevada Legislature, specifically in AB 196 being heard by the Assembly Committee on Government Affairs today.  AB 196 is relatively straight forward:

There’s this part:

“Sections 1-3 of this bill authorize the investment of the money of this State, the State Permanent School Fund, the State Insurance Fund and the governing bodies of local governments in reverse-repurchase agreements if those agreements meet certain requirements, which are similar to the requirements on repurchase agreements, to avoid a violation of Section 3 of Article 9 of the Nevada Constitution. Sections 1-3 also impose additional requirements on reverse- repurchase agreements which depend upon the purpose for which the reverse- repurchase agreement is made.”

If the reaction to this verbiage is “Huh?” Let’s back up a step.  Repurchase agreements (repos) and reverse repurchase agreements are defined as:

“A form of short-term borrowing for dealers in government securities. The dealer sells the government securities to investors, usually on an overnight basis, and buys them back the following day.

For the party selling the security (and agreeing to repurchase it in the future) it is a repo; for the party on the other end of the transaction, (buying the security and agreeing to sell in the future) it is a reverse repurchase agreement.”  [Investopedia]

Still baffled?  Here’s another way to explain the gamble:

“In a repo, borrowers agree to sell primarily government-backed bonds to another party for cash, with the promise to repurchase the bonds at a slightly higher price in the future. Borrowers are often hedge funds, and lenders are typically money-market funds. Banks stand in the middle, moving cash between the two.”  [WSJ]

That “future” is tomorrow morning (more or less) and those government backed bonds are municipal bonds, state bonds, and/or federal treasuries of some form.  If, say, the state insurance fund decided to buy securities of this type and sell them off almost immediately, that would be a “reverse repo” deal.  The next question, of course, is why on God’s Green Earth we’d want to do this?

We really need to ask this question in light of the divestment in “repos” by the major banks, and the instability “repos” tend to create in financial markets.   Gaze back in time, back to 2008, when Lehman Brothers was for all intents and purposes out of securities it could use as collateral to back up the short term loans it needed for its own survival.  Lehman’s mad scramble to stay alive put a spotlight on the Repo Market on Wall Street.  What lit up wasn’t pleasant.

Enter the Dodd Frank Act, which required banks to maintain more capital in order to absorb potential losses in the Repo Market.  The banks, in turn, have cut back on their participation in the Repo Market game. [WSJ]  However, the Repo Market at present isn’t all rose blossoms, there are still some thorns. As of August 2014, the Boston Fed chief was calling for still more capital reserves to maintain stability in the Repo Market. [NYT Dealbook] (see also: BFR pdf)

Thus we have a Repo Market which is still too volatile for the comfort of the Boston Federal Reserve, in which the major banks are diminishing their participation, and in which the sponsors of AB 196 would have our state and local governments dabble more vigorously.  And, then there’s this:

“Section 3 eliminates the requirement that, when the governing body of a local government purchases commercial paper issued by certain corporations or depository institutions as an investment of its money, the purchase must be made from a registered broker-dealer. Section 3 also eliminates the prohibition against investing the money of the governing body of a local government in a repurchase agreement which involves securities that have a term to maturity at the time of purchase in excess of 10 years.” [AB 196]

Get that? AB 195 eliminates the requirement that the purchases must be made from a registered broker-dealer.  Excuse me, but I get a bit nervous when state and local officials are informed that they can use unregistered broker dealers when those folks  have been under SEC scrutiny since 2013. [Dinsmore] [Kurth]  A registered broker-dealer has to submit to an SEC investigation, and oversight by the SEC and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority – and yet AB 196 eliminates the need for such certification and oversight when state and local government funds are involved?

When a bill such as AB 196 allows such actions by county commissions, school boards, and county treasurers are invited to indulge in a bit of Wall Street Casino gaming without benefit of a certified, regulated, supervised broker-dealer – What could possibly go wrong? Other than Everything?

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Filed under Economy, financial regulation, Nevada economy, Nevada legislature, Nevada politics

Think of the Children?

AB 167 The current convention of the Nevada Assembled Wisdom seems to have Guns on the Brain – now it’s a couple in Las Vegas who want to pistol-pack while fostering children.  AB 167, sponsored by our own Baking Soda Solution Pistol Packing Mama (Assemblywoman Fiore, R-NRA), would allow such behavior.

This is wrong on several levels.  First Floorchildren and guns are not a good combination. A nationwide review of statistics suggest that we are seriously under-counting the number of gun fatalities involving children. [NYT]  More specifically,

“In 2007, there were 122 unintentional firearm deaths in children, and an additional 3,060 nonfatal gun and shooting accidents, which resulted in an estimated 1,375 children needing to be hospitalized for their injuries. Unintentional firearm deaths in children have remained at about the same levels since, with 114 deaths in children and teens less than age 18 in 2010.” [Ped]

NRA arguments that swimming pools, poisoning, and falls may also be deadly is fallacious.  Yes, these do present dangers to infants and children.  However, that argument is distractive and beside the point – we have made significant efforts to prevent poisoning (think about the caps you can barely remove from the top of the container); we have made great strides with child safety seats; and, we’ve enacted regulations about pool safety measures in local communities.  We also know that “unintentional injury” is the leading cause of death for youngsters aged 1 to 14. [CDC pdf]  (*See also: Comedy Central Daily Show’s takedown of a Florida law preventing pediatricians from discussing guns with clients.)

Too many of these “unintentional injuries” are related to firearms:

“The United States accounts for nearly 75 percent of all children murdered in the developed world. Children between the ages of 5 and 14 in the United States are 17 times more likely to be murdered by firearms than children in other industrialized nations.

Children from states where firearms are prevalent suffer from significantly higher rates of homicide, even after accounting for poverty, education, and urbanization. A study focusing on youth in North Carolina found that most of these deaths were caused by legally purchased handguns. A recent meta-analysis revealed that easy access to firearms doubled the risk of homicide and tripled the risk for suicide among all household members. Family violence is also much more likely to be lethal in homes where a firearm is present, placing children especially in danger. Murder-suicides are another major risk to children and are most likely to be committed with a gun.” [Slate]

Second FloorNevada lacks gun storage laws which assist in the prevention of incidental access to guns by children, and which encourage gun owners to safely store their firearms. [DB 10/23/13]  IF Nevada had safe storage requirements, and IF Nevada reformed its laws on liability of parents who allow access to firearms by children, or who don’t take common sense measures to restrict such access – then we might re-visit this topic.

Third FloorThere are structural differences with foster children in family dynamics.   By definition, a foster placement is temporary.  The contention that “my child would NEVER mishandle my gun,” doesn’t necessarily apply to a youngster who (1) has not been raised in the family since birth, and (2) may or may not have come from a family in which gun safety was a priority, and (3) may or may not have enough familiarity with firearms to overcome parental attempts at restraint.  If the answer to any of these issues is “I don’t know,” then the obvious answer is not to place a foster child in a situation in which firearms and ammunition are present.

Perhaps it’s time for some people to decide – which is more important, having a gun, or having a foster child?

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Filed under Gun Issues, Nevada legislature, Nevada politics