Friday, March 18, 2011

Senator Leibham Explains His Vote

I know that there are many still wondering what those who voted for the budget repair bill were thinking. (As though fiscal responsibility wasn't a good enough reason.) there are also those claiming, that because a judge issued an injunction to the implementation of the budget repair bill, that laws were broken to pass that bill into law. As I pointed out in the post "Not One Penny For Tribute" it is unlikely that any laws were broken.

The point of this post is not to address the legal nonsense that will surely go on for far too long and cost WI taxpayers yet more money, but rather to share the reasoning of one of the Senators who voted to pass this bill for those who still don't understand that WI is broke and that means there must be cuts somewhere. I am sharing Sen. Leibham's "Capital Connection" column. Rep. Kestell called into my radio show and the link to listen that or download it is on the player on the side of the page.

Capitol Connection

By State Senator Joe Leibham

February 24, 2011

~ Information on Senate Bill 11 ~

Governor Scott Walker has unveiled a proposal that seeks to provide local government elected officials (city council members, school board members, etc.) with the authority to make decisions regarding most issues related to the people they employ. In addition, the plan would specifically require most government employees, including myself, to pay a greater portion of health care premium costs and half of the annual contribution to pension/retirement plans. Governor Walker believes these changes are necessary so that state and local elected officials will have all the tools needed to best manage upcoming budgets that will receive less state aid due to our ongoing budget crisis and economic slow down.

Without a doubt, the Governor’s proposal (officially known as Special Session Senate Bill 11) has created an historic level of interest and concern. It has been an amazing week as tens of thousands of citizens from our state (and now on a daily basis – more and more people from across the nation) have decided to participate in the law making process by sharing input with their government, protesting or demonstrating in public rallies. While things have gotten a little intense at times, overall this has been a positive experience.

The amount of input provided to me and questions asked has also been amazing. Thousands of district residents have called, e-mailed, or visited with me personally to discuss the bill, ask questions, and share their thoughts both in support and opposition. While I have tried my hardest to return calls, meet with people personally, and respond to e-mails, the sheer volume has been a challenge to manage. I appreciate everyone’s patience as I work to read and respond while managing all of my legislative responsibilities.

Many of the contacts have included questions about the bill. In an effort to provide answers, below I have attempted to summarize the major questions raised and provide factual information regarding specific provisions in the bill:

Will existing public employee contracts be impacted by the provisions in this bill? Existing employee contracts cannot and will not be impacted by the bill. The provisions included in the bill will only go into effect after an existing contract comes to an end.

What is required in the bill regarding contributions to state pension plans? State, school district, and municipal employees that are members of the Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS) would be required to contribute 50% of their annual pension payment. The payment amount for WRS employees is estimated to be 5.8% of salary in 2011.

What is required in the bill regarding contributions for health insurance? State employees would be required to pay at least 12.6 percent of the average cost of annual health insurance premiums. Local employers participating in the Public Employers Group Health Insurance Plan would be prohibited from paying more than 88% of the lowest cost plan. Local government employers who use other health insurance plans or are self-insured would be able to set the contribution rate and the subject would be prohibited from the process of collective bargaining.

Will legislators and the Governor be required to participate in these changes to health care and pension contributions? All elected officials including legislators and the Governor will be required as of April 1, 2011 to make these contributions for health care and pensions. For elected officials the pension contribution is estimated to be 6.65% of salary in 2011.

Will public employees still be allowed to form unions? Public employees will still be allowed to form unions. An annual vote will be required to maintain certification as a union, and dues would be collected by the unions, not by the employer.

What will happen to the process of collective bargaining? The process of collective bargaining would continue for the establishment of the base wage for represented public employees.

Will there be caps on base pay? Base wage increases could not exceed increases in the consumer price index (CPI) unless approved by a referendum.

What will happen to items like overtime, premium pay, merit pay performance pay, pay schedules and automatic pay progressions? These items will be determined by the local employer (school board, local municipality, county board, etc.).

What will happen to various workplace rules that are currently bargained for collectively? At the local level these items will be managed and approved by the local employer. For state employees, work place rules would be developed by Office of State Employment Relations and approved by the legislature’s Joint Committee on Employment Relations.

What workplace protections will remain for public employees after passage of the bill? Wisconsin’s Civil Service System (WCSS) will not be changed by the bill. WCSS is a system for hiring, retaining, and promoting employees based on an objective assessment of their qualifications and ability to do their work. The system that has been in place since 1905 is grounded on two cornerstones: hiring decisions are merit based, and removal from service must be based on just cause. An employee cannot be discharged, suspended, or demoted except for just cause. The system includes two processes under which a public employee can pursue a grievance against their employer. The first is through the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission and is found in Wisconsin Stats s. 230.44. You can view this statute by visiting:

Matters which affect an employee’s condition of employment are covered by a grievance procedure found in chapter ER 46 of the Wisconsin Administrative Code:

In addition, the bill now requires, per an amendment I sponsored, that a local government employer either adopt the WCSS or establish a grievance system that covers at least all of the following: (a) a grievance procedure that addresses employee terminations; (b) employee discipline; and (c) workplace safety.

If a local governmental unit creates a grievance procedure under these provisions, the procedure must contain at least all of the following elements: (a) a written document specifying the process that a grievant and an employer must follow; (b) a hearing before an impartial hearing officer; and (c) an appeal process in which the highest level of appeal is the governing body of the local governmental unit.

Are law enforcement officers exempt from the provisions of the bill? Fire fighters, law enforcement officers, and members of the State Patrol are exempted from the provisions in the bill.

How many votes will be required to vote this bill out of the Senate? The state constitution requires twenty (3/5’s of the total members) senators present for the vote to take place, but only 17 votes (a simply majority of the total members) for the bill to pass.

As the legislative process and deliberation continues on this bill, I am hopeful this factual information will be helpful.

It is an honor representing the residents of the 9th District in the State Senate!


Joe Leibham
State Senator
9th District

"And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season?
"~ Luke 12:32

No comments: