While appearing on Ken Davis’ Chicago Newsroom yesterday, Ken asked me about Governor Rauner’s attack on agency fees, also known as Fair Share.
I explained the law and the principle.
When I was a teacher and union president I signed up new teachers to our union. Nobody was required to join our union. But since we bargained a contract on their behalf and had the duty of fair representation if they got into trouble with administration, or if they felt their contractual rights had been violated, they had to pay a fee. That payment is called Fair Share or an agency fee.
Rauner says agency fees are unfair.
He appears not to have the same moral outrage about the millions in fees he got from investing our public pensions.
He only feels that someone should get something for nothing when it comes to the benefit of the work of public employee unions.
Governor Rauner is challenging the right of unions to collect a Fair Share payment. He has seized that payment from some state employee unions and has his La Salle Street corporate lawyer pals like former Attorney General Dan Webb doing pro bono legal work and is suing the unions.
When I was explaining all this to Ken and his viewers I compared Bruce Rauner to a first grader.
Before I retired, kids would return to school after summer break full of excitement and energy. I always knew what to expect. Students will test an adult – whether a parent or a teacher – to see how far they can go. It is natural. A part of their development. And this testing of limits inevitably happened the first few weeks of school.
I responded to children’s testing of limits as any adult would, with firmness and a loving understanding that this was what young people do.
And so it is with the new Governor. He is a wealthy Wall Street wheeler-dealer who is used to getting his way. So his bad-boy behavior is understandable.
The difference is that the Governor is not lovable.
I told Ken that what was required was for Democrats and our union leaders to demonstrate firmness in response to Rauner’s testing of limits.
And as we contact our legislators, something very interesting is happening.
The firmer our demand that they say no to non-union work zones and say yes to Fair Share, the more they are speaking out in opposition to Rauner’s anti-union agenda.
I’ve published some of those statements from legislators that I hear about.
Even Representative Nekritz has joined in.
Send me the ones you get.
I am also hearing that Democratic Attorney General Lisa Madigan will oppose the Governor in court over Fair Share. For this she may have to take time away from pursuing her claim of police power over our promised pensions.
It seems those who opposed us on pensions when there was a Democratic pension-busting governor are now agreeing with us in opposition to a union-busting Republican governor.
I’m not surprised. Standing firm when limits are tested mostly works.
While on this panel with the inestimable Ben Joravsky and Aldertrack’s Claudia Morell, I said that part of the game in Springfield is dealing with The Speaker.
Some may disagree, but I don’t think The Speaker gives a rat’s behind about Fair Share or non-union work zones. The Speaker cares about The Speaker and holding on to power. Rauner will test The Speaker.
With veto-proof majorities in both chambers they will have to deal with each other. And hopefully they will have to deal with us.
I am always frustrated with those who view us as just spectators in all this.
Jim Broadway has a good tutorial and anti-civics lesson on how legislation works in Springfield.
For example, he explains what a shell bill is.
Broadway uses the current Senate Bill 1, sponsored by Senator Andy Manar, as an example what is not a shell bill.
Senate Bill 1 is this session’s version of last year’s Senate Bill 16. It addresses the state’s school funding formula, falsely claiming it reallocates money from wealthy district’s to poor ones.
It is conceptually flawed because it adds no new money to the education pot, redividing an already inadequate resource of dollars and hitting Chicago and suburban Cook County hardest. Chicago and Cook are where most of the state’s poor kids are.
Okay, so 112 purported School Code bills are empty shells. What do the other 60 bills do? Well the one potentially with the most impact would be SB 1. Yes, Technically it is still a shell bill, sound and fury signifying nothing. But it now has an amendment, filed but not yet debated or adopted, filed and there to be read.
Read it if you wish, but it runs 437 pages.
It will remind you greatly of SB 16 from the last General Assembly. You know the bill, the one that combined almost all state support for public education into one massive stream of dollars flowing through a revised General State Aid formula. The one that rewarded poverty and punished the affluent school districts.
Sen. Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill), sponsor of SB 1, seems determined to make 2015 the year that school funding in Illinois is “reformed” to reduce the disparities in educational resources per student from one district (probably in an affluent suburban county) to another district (in a high-poverty urban or rural community).
When it’s done above-board and not in the blur of a shell game, large and controversial bills like SB 1 move slowly, in fits and starts, with one amendment after another being adopted as the sponsor seeks just the combination of provisions that will balance what a legislator hates about a bill with something he finds tolerable.
A sponsor doesn’t need every vote, just a majority. That’s 30 of the 59 senators; 60 of 118 House members. If the bill is vetoed, it takes 36 votes in the Senate and 71 in the House to “override” the governor’s action. (Since Gov. Bruce Rauner is of the same party as both minority caucuses, vetoes may become common.)
Manar is an above-board, principled legislator. SB 1 will stay on the surface. There will be plenty of time for legislators to read the amendments before the vote. Constituencies that are affected (like the special education interests were about his SB 16 last year) will be able to communicate, testify and plan their tactics.
My sense is that SB 1 will escape the Senate in some form. The passion is there. It will lie dormant in the House until the end of the session. At that time, Madigan will calculate the politics of the thing. Possibly he will have made a deal with Rauner – most likely on a completely different issue – to hold the bill in his chamber.
This is how The Speaker operates. He doesn’t care about unions or school funding except how they fit into his calculations.
This bears no resemblance to democracy.
It’s the legislature in Springfield.