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Platte Institute: CIR bill “neither significant nor meaningful” reform

The Platte Institute for Economic Research today called Sen. Steve Lathrop’s CIR bill “neither significant nor meaningful reform of the Commission on Industrial Relations.”

The Platte Institute is a nonpartisan think tank that promotes free enterprise and limited government.

“The legislation under consideration does not remedy an untenable situation but actually makes it worse,” said Platte Institute Executive Director John McCollister. “The bill subjects private business to intrusive subpoenas, rewards failing teachers and doesn’t help governments control and reduce employee costs.”

“Unfortunately the call for significant and meaningful reform has gone unheeded, primarily because it further perpetuates a public policy that fails the taxpayer,” said McCollister.

The Platte Institute called the CIR an “antiquated relic” and said Lathrop’s bill gives it greater authority and no additional transparency. The group said the bill creations confusion by making a complex process even more complex and creates the potential for disparate impacts based solely on the type of employer. For instance, only school districts are permitted to present evidence of an inability to pay –- not cities and counties.

Among their other points:

LB 397 Subjects Private Business to Intrusive Subpoenas
Because the CIR retains its subpoena power, LB 397 could force private businesses to disclose documents relating to wages, health benefits, pensions and retirement in an attempt to compare public to private employers. For example, because Omaha has few in-state public employers for its comparison array of clerical employees, the CIR may compare Omaha with Mutual of Omaha or First National Bank and would have subpoena authority over all relevant employee records.

LB 397 Opens the Door to Mandatory Collective Bargaining
LB 397 could make any staffing issue a mandatory subject of collective bargaining. The recent Omaha Fire case made a distinction between purely managerial staffing issues and staffing issues related to “safety”.

LB 397 Rewards Failing Teachers
LB 397 further undermines the authority of school districts to assign teachers to underserved or “academically underachieving” schools by requiring districts to negotiate incentive pay for new and existing teachers. This could provide up to a 20 percent raise to the teachers who created the circumstances for the “underachieving” designation in the first place.

LB 397 Does Not Cut Spending
LB 397 allows the CIR to create an hourly rate value based on insurance premiums and pension values to adjust wage rates. Only wages for new employees or demoted employees may be diminished, wages for existing employees can only be frozen until they are below comparability – i.e. they can never be diminished.

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