Legislature(1993 - 1994)
01/25/1994 01:00 PM CRA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HOUSE COMMUNITY AND REGIONAL AFFAIRS STANDING COMMITTEE January 25, 1994 1:00 p.m. MEMBERS PRESENT Representative Harley Olberg, Chairman Representative Jerry Sanders, Vice-Chair Representative Con Bunde Representative John Davies Representative Cynthia Toohey Representative Ed Willis Representative Bill Williams MEMBERS ABSENT None COMMITTEE CALENDAR *HB 255: "An Act relating to application of the Public Employment Relations Act to municipalities and other political subdivisions." MOVED OUT OF COMMITTEE WITNESS REGISTER REPRESENTATIVE AL VEZEY Alaska State Legislature State Capitol Building, Room 102 Juneau, AK 99801-1182 Phone: 465-3719 Position: Chairman of the House State Affairs Committee, Prime Sponsor of SSHB 255 VERNON MARSHALL, Executive Director NEA-Alaska 114 Second Street Juneau, AK 99801 Phone: 586-3090 Position: Testified in opposition to SSHB 255 ED FLANAGAN, Southeast Representative Alaska State District Council of Laborers 710 W. Ninth Street Juneau, AK 99801 Phone: 586-2860 Position: Testified in opposition to SSHB 255 CHRYSTAL SMITH, Director of Member Services Alaska Municipal League 217 Second Street, Suite 200 Juneau, AK 99801 Phone: 586-1325 Position: Testified in support of SSHB 255 PREVIOUS ACTION BILL: HB 255 SHORT TITLE: LOCAL EXEMPTION FROM PERA SPONSOR(S): STATE AFFAIRS JRN-DATE JRN-PG ACTION 03/26/93 794 (H) READ THE FIRST TIME/REFERRAL(S) 03/26/93 794 (H) STATE AFFAIRS 03/29/93 838 (H) CRA AND FIN REFERRALS ADDED: 03/29/93 838 (H) CRA, STA, FIN 04/15/93 (H) CRA AT 01:00 PM CAPITOL 124 04/16/93 (H) CRA AT 01:30 PM CAPITOL 124 01/14/94 2061 (H) SPONSOR SUBSTITUTE INTRODUCED-REFERRALS 01/14/94 2061 (H) CRA, STATE AFFAIRS, FINANCE 01/25/94 (H) CRA AT 01:00 PM CAPITOL 124 ACTION NARRATIVE TAPE 94-2, SIDE A Number 001 CHAIRMAN HARLEY OLBERG called the meeting to order at 1:04 p.m. He noted for the record Representatives Willis, Toohey, Sanders, Bunde and Davies were present and noted that a quorum was present. Number 024 REPRESENTATIVE AL VEZEY, CHAIRMAN OF HOUSE STATE AFFAIRS COMMITTEE, PRIME SPONSOR OF SSHB 255, testified saying, "In 1972, the State of Alaska Legislature and the Governor signed into law the Public Employees Relations Act. There were provisions in the Act for communities to either select, to go out from under the coverage of the Act, or to stay under the Act, or come under the Act. Since that time, all but 13 communities in the State of Alaska have opted out Public Employees Relations Act (PERA). The court decisions that have occurred since 1972, particularly the Kodiak case, the Petersburg case, which are attached as part of your packet, the legislature has preempted, what I believe, was a very clear intent on the part of the legislature, to provide for a democratic means for communities to decide whether or not they want to be covered by PERA. When the statute was passed in 1972, local determination was kept at a maximum, and I would refer you to the 1972 Session Laws of Alaska where it talks about (indiscernible). That is the enabling clause that talks about communities being able to opt in or opt out. (A copy of those Session Laws are on file.) But subsequent court decisions, as I said, have modified the legislatures original intent of the law. Now, it's not necessarily impossible, but almost impossible, for a community that is under the PERA to, on its own, opt out of the system, which is to say that one governing body of a community can convince all future governing bodies of a community. This bill merely provides a means of correcting what amounts to the court enactment of legislation or laws, by providing a democratic process that would allow communities to decide whether they want to be under the PERA provisions or whether they wanted to opt out." REPRESENTATIVE BILL WILLIAMS joined the committee at 1:09 p.m. Number 085 REPRESENTATIVE CON BUNDE said, "We have considerable response from what I assume are state workers in POMs (public opinion messages), and a comment from the municipal league, but no other reaction from the general public. How many people or municipalities, governments would you anticipate would hold an election to opt out or opt in?" REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY replied, "I have no idea. Apparently there are three communities - Bethel, Kotzebue and Haines which are going through court procedures trying to opt out. I would predict they'll be unsuccessful, but I don't know. I just assume if they're unsuccessful in their in their court, they might elect to go through the democratic process." CHAIRMAN OLBERG referred the committee to the third page of the Legislative Research Agency's Research Request #93.232 dated July 8, 1993, which lists Alaskan communities by their PERA status. (A copy of this report is on file.) Number 112 REPRESENTATIVE JOHN DAVIES said, "In the justification for this, and in your statements just now, you said that one body obligates all future bodies. I'm not sure that I understand how that is. It seems to me that the obligation is derived more from the community, and the test has been whether or not public employees have chosen to organize or not. It's not the governing body that's making the obligation, but the combination of the actions of the public employees and the 1972 legislature." Number 130 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY replied, "PERA is not a unilateral grant of the right to collective bargaining. This is a process that among other things provides for binding arbitration. It's the court decisions that have decreed that...you read the enacting statutes of '72 and it appears to me...the very clear legislative intent was communities can have self determination on whether they elect to be covered by PERA or not. The supreme court has said that there was a window opening and those communities that did avail themselves of the window have sacrificed forever the opportunity of doing so. So all this bill is doing, really, is trying to put the legislation of law back into the legislative, the elected body as opposed to the court system, where it is right now." REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE clarified, "I assume that window was for opting out." REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY said, "Yes, that window was for opting out." REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE said, "Would the same window apply for someone that would want to opt in?" Number 145 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY said, "It doesn't appear to, but there have been no lawsuits over trying to get in to PERA." REPRESENTATIVE CYNTHIA TOOHEY asked, "Do we need to adopt the substitute?" CHAIRMAN OLBERG said no. REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY said, "The sponsor substitute was read across the floor by the Speaker and it is the bill before you." Number 166 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES asked, "Is this a bill from State Affairs or is this a bill from Representative Vezey?" CHAIRMAN OLBERG said, "It says it is from State Affairs." REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES asked, "Has State Affairs adopted this bill?" CHAIRMAN OLBERG said, "It has not been to State Affairs yet." Number 178 VERNON MARSHALL, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NEA-ALASKA, testified in opposition to SSHB 255 by reading from a position paper he handed out to the committee members. (A copy of this position paper is on file.) He then added, "We feel that the sponsor substitute is a bad bill. We feel the bill is a bad bill, and we would encourage the committee to oppose the legislation." REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE said, "You indicated that under the initial legislation, if I understood you correctly, schools were not allowed the option of opting out, but yet you feel that if this legislation passed, then schools would have the option of opting out, even though they didn't have the option originally." MR. MARSHALL replied, "We're changing the law to apply to other political subdivisions of the state and the question is, I guess we're taking the worst case scenario, we assume a school district is a political subdivision of the state, and they would follow under the umbrella of this particular bill and if so, the opt out provision through election would apply." REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE referred the same question to Representative Vezey. Number 240 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY said, "The only way I can answer that is to say that the law of 1972, and this isn't in statute, it's part of the enabling Act..." and he read from the Session Laws of 1972, Chapter 113, Section 4, where it says, "This Act is applicable to organized boroughs and political subdivisions of the state, home rule or otherwise, unless the legislative body of the political subdivision, by ordinance or resolution, rejects having its provisions apply." REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY continued, "The Session Laws of Alaska 1992...in 1992 the legislature enacted this provision amending the Session Laws of 1972, Title 23.40.070-260, notwithstanding Section 4, Chapter 113, Session Laws of Alaska 1972, a municipal school district or regional education attendance area may not reject application of Alaska Statute 23.40.070 to 23.40.260 to employment relations with public school employees. As I understand your question, the answer is at this time, there is no way anyone who's covered by PERA (can) opt out. The educational community cannot opt out by statute, the remaining political subdivisions cannot opt out..." REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE asked, "Were your bill to pass, would schools then be able to opt out?" REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY said, "The answer is yes. The bill is written such that any political subdivision can opt out." Number 296 REPRESENTATIVE TOOHEY asked, "Is this by vote of the members, or the municipality?" REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY said, "It would be a vote of the citizens of the political subdivision." ED FLANAGAN, SOUTHEAST REPRESENTATIVE, ALASKA STATE DISTRICT COUNCIL OF LABORERS, testified saying, "I am also speaking today on behalf of the Alaska AFL-CIO. We adamantly oppose HB 255, as should all supporters of collective bargaining, because this bill is intended to do nothing less than eliminate collective bargaining for thousands of Alaskan workers employed by political subdivisions. By establishing a revolving door, voted in one year, voted out the next...will not only deny the basic human right to collectively bargain with one's employer, to employees and political subdivisions which then opt out of the system. You'll also render meaningless the system you leave behind for those areas which continue to bargain with their employees, since the notion of good faith bargaining is essential to meaningful negotiation and a healthy relationship will cease to exist when an employer can always threaten to opt out if it doesn't like the way things are going in negotiations. The immediate practical effect of this legislation will be full employment for attorneys, to the detriment of both taxpayers and employee groups. The legal issues raised by an election to opt out while a collective bargaining agreement is in effect. These issues alone will tie both the courts and your state labor relations agency in knots. Even where a healthy and viable bargaining relationship exists...that is still subject to threat. A small number of voters in the community with an anti-union (inaudible) of sufficient number to put the issue on the ballot by initiative, and then require an annual election on whether a municipality will continue to bargain in good faith and with the intended expenditure of both public and private resources which can certainly be better used elsewhere. PERA has governed public employment relations in this state for twenty years. There was nothing inadvertent about its intent to apply to political subdivisions. The Koslosky Amendment, which opened the door to opt out was, in fact, a floor amendment and the courts have determined it was a one-time option. The rationale given on the floor was to allow political subdivisions to develop their own systems. In fact many of those that have opted out, their system is, we won't bargain, we won't recognize you. Some decisions have to be seen by the political subdivisions and any government agency as final and binding. This is certainly one of those decisions. We urge you to go on record in support of collective bargaining and keep this bill in committee." Number 347 REPRESENTATIVE TOOHEY asked for clarification, "This is giving the local municipality the option to do this...to do it or not." MR. FLANAGAN said, "It's currently mandated by the state, except for those political subdivisions which, within a reasonable period of time, which varies with the court decision of the enactment of PERA, I think the effective date was January 1, 1974, to elect to opt out or new political subdivisions as they are created, then have an opportunity to opt out. But once you opt in or you're not taking affirmative action to opt out..." REPRESENTATIVE TOOHEY said, "You said that during a particularly messy bargaining, they can go to the people, that doesn't sound very practical." MR. FLANAGAN said, "The way I see it and I think it's a very likely result, if a political subdivision currently under PERA is bargaining and having a tough bargaining situation with its employees, it doesn't like the way it's going. It decides we'd rather just cut their wages without negotiating with them on it or impose some other things that are currently items that they have to negotiate, then they just say, fine. We'll get somebody out there that can even do it at arms length. We'll get somebody out there to get the 10 percent or 15 percent of the voters in the last election to sign a petition on the initiative and then adios." Number 386 CHRYSTAL SMITH, DIRECTOR OF MEMBER SERVICES, ALASKA MUNICIPAL LEAGUE, testified in favor of SSHB 255 saying, "As many of you well know, there are a lot of municipalities covered by PERA and have some financial constraints as a result of their labor contracts, and we believe in giving maximum flexibility to the municipalities to deal with the situations that are facing them... We just feel the need for local people to be able to decide whether they're covered by this or not." REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE said, "There are three municipalities currently trying to opt out. Are there others on the horizon?" MS. SMITH said, "I'm really not sure about that, Representative Bunde. As a matter of fact, people have asked me how many are covered and I'm sorry...I don't know...it looks to me like about a third of the job classes of the ones that we cover are covered..." REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES asked, "If we were to pass this and we got into the situation where there was negotiations going on, and the situation arose that we were just discussing, the municipality then would effectively have an election to opt out in the middle of the negotiating process. Would you consider that to be an essentially fair labor practice?" MS. SMITH said, "I don't know whether I could say that was a quote, fair labor practice. ...I'm certainly not a labor law expert at all..." Number 431 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE asked, "We've got a situation where a municipality is finding difficulty in meeting their financial responsibilities based on contracts...what would be the time line for a municipality involved that wanted to opt out. They aren't going to do this in two weeks." MS. SMITH replied, "No, if you're going to schedule an election its going to take a considerable amount of time I think, you're talking maybe three months in terms of getting an election scheduled. It's nothing you can pass like that. Boom." CHAIRMAN OLBERG said, "It might be a court of last resort, but it isn't going to be a negotiating tool...because of the time lag it takes to hold an election." REPRESENTATIVE WILLIAMS said, "There are some contracts that do take a little bit longer than two weeks to negotiate. Sometimes two or three years." MS. SMITH said, "Well certainly within the two to three year period, you would be able to schedule an election." Number 462 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE asked, "You're presenting the stand of the municipal league. Is this an unanimous position? How much input did you have?..." MS. SMITH said, "This is a position that the league has held for some time. Its been in our policy statement as long as I've worked at the league, which is about six years now... Our policy statement itself is readopted every year..." Number 480 CHAIRMAN OLBERG said, "I'd like to say that in the last year we've had a number of local control issues come before us and sometimes it's interesting to see who's for and who's against. But I think that anytime we can put the democratic process back somewhere near the individual voter in a practical way that we serve a worthwhile purpose." REPRESENTATIVE ED WILLIS said, "I personally believe in the individual right to collective bargaining. The American worker has through literally many, many dozens of years both nationally and the state level worked to win these rights, and I personally consider a right to bargain collectively in the same realm that I hold a civil right. I think that the workers have this right whether it's in the private sector or the public sector...I oppose this bill." REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES agreed with Representative Willis's testimony and added, "If we were to apply this, that it would open up just a rats nest of all kinds of legislation, and it would not be practical, and it would not be fair to the workers of the State of Alaska." Number 525 CHAIRMAN OLBERG said, "I must be hanging around with the wrong people, because the perception I have is that many people who do not work for any government entity observe that public employees generally have become, how can I say this, an elite group of workers. World class benefits, world class salaries, world class vacations. My nearest relationship with a place where I think this perception is very evident is Fairbanks, Fairbanks and the Fairbanks North Star Borough. The City of Fairbanks particularly, I think, has some financial problems that if they can't be addressed any other way, maybe this is a way to keep the city out of bankruptcy. But unionism has evolved over the last fifty years into something that perhaps isn't recognizable as it was in its earlier form. Somebody, somewhere, sometime, is going to have to give something back or we will, as a society, collapse of our own inertia and our own weight. And I'm not suggesting that public employees are the only people that ought to consider giving something back. I'm suggesting that it's one segment of our society that might consider giving something back. As a consequence, I favor this legislation, because it does give local communities the option to decide how their lifestyle relates perhaps to their local public employees lifestyle and maybe there needs to be some parity there." REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES said, "Being from Fairbanks...there are two entities in Fairbanks. There's the Fairbanks North Star Borough and the City of Fairbanks. There's been a lot of dissention within the City of Fairbanks, in terms of relationship between the city government and the union workers there. And there's been a lot of attempt to hang the financial problems on the City of Fairbanks on the backs of the union workers. The Fairbanks North Star Borough does not have that problem. The Fairbanks North Star Borough has about five different collective bargaining units. They negotiate in good faith. They come to agreements with their workers. So I don't think we can point to unionism as the problem. Rather it's the management of the City of Fairbanks." CHAIRMAN OLBERG asked, "Did I leave that impression? I think it's difficult to compare the Fairbanks North Star Borough and the City of Fairbanks, because the services they provide are so very much different..." Number 576 REPRESENTATIVE TOOHEY said, "I just see coming down the line, Anchorage going through the same thing that Fairbanks has gone through. I support the Chairman's position one hundred percent..." REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE said, "I'd observe that Anchorage isn't under PERA. They opted out. And they're still having trouble meeting their obligations..." Number 584 CHAIRMAN OLBERG clarified, "I'm not here to suggest that it's an employee problem and not a management problem. I think in the case of the City of Fairbanks, I think that I would agree with you that management deserves as much of the, if we're going to pass blame around, certainly there's enough blame to pass around for everybody and I'm not suggesting that management, city administrations, public entity administrations, aren't as much of the problem as anybody else." Number 593 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE said, "I'm still having trouble understanding where the drive for this legislation is coming from. There are three small communities that are in the process of trying to opt out when they had the window twenty years ago, the majority of the people stayed in and yet I hear from the Municipal League that this has been a request for years..." REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY said, "I think we've all seen a lot of changes in the last six years, but you cannot confuse the intent of this bill with collective bargaining. This bill does not take away collective bargaining rights. We have a system in Alaska called PERA. It provides for parameters in which collective bargaining and settlement of disputes takes place. Other municipalities, other political subdivisions, the majority of them, use a different system of conducting their collective bargaining and I feel it should be up to the local citizenry as to which system they choose to use to negotiate their relationships, their contracts with their employees. I don't know how many different systems there are in this state. I know Anchorage has one that's different than...Soldotna has probably the most unique system in the state. They take their collective bargaining and they put their best proposal on the ballot, and the other side puts their best proposal on the ballot, and whichever one gets the most votes wins. There are other means of structuring collective bargaining." CHAIRMAN OLBERG said, "The people who've opted out are by and large, if not entirely, collectively bargaining with their employees in some fashion, I would think. Somebody mentioned the fact that if negotiations weren't going well the administration would opt out of PERA. It brings to mind a personal case in Cordova right now, where there's a tremendous financial crunch coming and the employees are now deciding maybe they should have a collective bargaining unit. It works both ways. And that's not to say it's not a valid concern, but where finances are a serious problem...the more flexibility and the more local control you have, the better in my opinion." Number 628 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES said, "I do think that because of the possibility of dragging the negotiations out to one, two, three years that, if we were to pass this bill, that it would in fact, be an attack on organized labor and on the ability to bargain, because it would be held as a threat that we could just drag this thing out and we'll just renew contracts until we get an election and take the right to bargain out from under you... This legislation is indeed an attack on the ability for the workers to negotiate their salaries and benefits and working conditions." REPRESENTATIVE TOOHEY moved to pass the bill out of committee with individual recommendations. REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES objected to the motion. REPRESENTATIVE WILLIS also objected to the motion. A roll call was taken. Representatives Davies, Willis and Williams voted NO. Representatives Bunde, Sanders, Toohey and Olberg voted YES. THE MOTION CARRIED. Number 650 CHAIRMAN OLBERG adjourned the meeting at 1:25 p.m.