Wednesday, September 30, 2009

News of the Day

Today’s Goal: Complete the 2009-10 Budget

The legislature rolled into Lansing Tuesday with the goal of completing the 2009-10 budgets. It will likely take until the last minute on Wednesday to reach that goal.

In a statement, House Speaker Andy Dillon (D-Redford Twp.) said, "The House is preparing to move budgets agreed to with the Senate on Tuesday. House Democrats are also are preparing plans to protect police and fire protection, health care for children and seniors, Promise Scholarships, K-12 education and other programs that are essential to Michigan's economic turnaround."

Several advocacy groups criticized lawmakers for pushing through a budget with serious cuts without a balance of new revenues to cover needed services to maintain a quality of life for Michigan.

It’s not too late to make your voice heard in the waning hours. Please contact your state senator and representative immediately to tell them how further cuts to education will hurt your students and your community.

Reminder: Many school districts have policies about communicating with legislators on school time and equipment, so wait until you are away from school to contact your legislators or use your personal cell phone when you are off duty. To stay informed at home, sign up to receive the MEA Votes e-newsletter at

Latest Update

Conference committees on Revenue Sharing, Department of Community Health and Department of Human Services have all reached a deal and have signed conference reports. Reports will now go to the floor for debate and votes by each chamber. Early Tuesday afternoon the Michigan Department of Education Budget passed the House and was sent to the Senate for approval.

Just the Facts – Powers and Duties given to State Government by HB 5345

Speaker Dillon’s proposed mandatory government-run health plan

Each day we will provide some of the powers and duties that this legislation gives to state government that normally is provided at the local level by local school board members, city councils, county commissioners, etc.

* The board shall review recommendations of the office of state employer as to health benefit plans and total premium cost for each plan to be adopted as part of the MI health benefits program to be offered for public employees or other beneficiaries. Sec. 7(a)

* The board shall adopt or reject the recommendations of the office of state employer based on the criteria listed in sections 8 and 12. Sec. 7(b)

* The board shall issue directions to the office of state employer as to changes to be researched, developed, included, and resubmitted for any rejected recommendation. Sec. 7(c)

* The board shall assess the financial stability of the benefit plans proposed for adoption as parts of the MI health benefits program. Sec. 7(d)

* The board shall assess the financial stability of the MI health benefits program not less than annually after adoption and implementation. Sec. 7(e)

State health scheme vs. federal health reform

How does the proposal affect the state and federal budgets?

State Plan

Speaker Dillon claims the proposal could save $900 million. But there is no proof that purported savings will materialize. If there are any savings, they will come from significant benefit reductions and increased employee out-of-pocket costs. Many states that run health plans for public employees are having financial difficulties with the plans, even running deficits. If the Michigan plan runs a deficit, taxpayers will be forced to pay the bill regardless of costs.

Federal Health Reform Plan

Obama estimates his plan will cost $900 billion over 10 years. Most of the money will be reallocated from current health care expenditures. Additional money will come from reduced health care costs and premiums paid by consumers.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

News of the Day

House and Senate canceled Sunday sessions

When the House and Senate convene tomorrow morning, they will have less than 48 hours to pass a budget or force the state to shut down.

House speaker Andy Dillon (D-Redford Twp.) and Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop (R-Rochester) announced Saturday that they had canceled sessions scheduled for Sunday afternoon. However, the three scheduled conference meetings were convened. They included committees on the Department of Corrections, the Department of Human Services and the Department of Education.

Session was not held today (Monday) because of the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.

Over the weekend Mr. Bishop expressed confidence that a deal might at last be close. He said negotiators had resolved one of the five troublesome budgets although he declined to say which one. He remained confident that the logjam might finally break and the House would pass the 2009-10 budget based on all-cuts, no tax increases model to which he and Mr. Dillon agreed.

Just the Facts – Powers and Duties given to State Government by HB 5345
Speaker Dillon’s proposed mandatory government-run health plan

Each day we will provide some of the powers and duties that this legislation gives to state government that normally is provided at the local level by local school board members, city councils, county commissioners, etc.

- The Michigan health benefits program board is created as an autonomous entity in the department of management and budget. Sec. 3(1)

- The board shall exercise its powers independent of the director of the department of management and budget. Sec. 3(1)

- The state employer shall serve as chairperson. Sec. 5(1)

- After the first meeting, the board shall meet at least monthly. Sec. 5(1)

State health scheme vs. federal health reform

Would all public employees have exactly the same health insurance?

State Plan
No. Public employees would lose the plans they have today and would be forced to choose from a limited menu of plans mandated and designed by the state-run program.

Federal Health Reform Plan
No. National health care reform would preserve choice for people who have insurance today and extend coverage to provide affordable choices to people who are presently uninsured.

School Reform
House Bills 4787, 4788, 4789 – School Reform/Takeover

These bills allow so-called “failing schools” to be targeted for special help. Schools with chronically low student achievement would be placed under the oversight of a state reform/design officer and operated as a “redesigned school” with modified staffing rules that could be negotiated with employees.

The district could authorize special charter schools, or “turnaround schools.” That would provide students with an alternative education option.

These bills have passed the House and have been referred to the Senate.

The reform measures in these bills are as follows:

- Provide for improving the education of children and working conditions of employees.

- Control over the school is given to someone with experience and the authority to reform the school.

- Protects the rights of employees to bargain changes in working conditions. It also expands bargaining rights to include the ability to bargain over the privatization of support services, the terms of a leave of absence to teach in a charter school and the first day of school.

- Creation of a turnaround charter school is the last resort, not the automatic first option. Extensive oversight of the charter schools is provided.

- Establishes alternative routes to certification.

Monday, September 28, 2009

News of the Day

Senate Passes Continuation Budgets

A divided Senate passed two continuation budget bills that would provide funding for October--but at all the cut levels agreed to by Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop (R-Rochester) and House Speaker Andy Dillon (D-Redford Twp.) SB 0252 provided money for K-12 funding from the School Aid Fund. SB 0831 was for all other departments.

Democrats took issue, saying that the continuation budgets were based on the target agreement and not a "true" continuation budget based on numbers from the current fiscal year. SB 0252 cuts schools by $20 per pupil and cuts Intermediate School Districts (ISDs) by 4 percent. SB 0831 funds departments for a month at half of the levels set in the target agreement.

The State House of Representatives Continues to Work

At this time, they continue to negotiate the budget in conference committees. Speculation is that the House will return on Sunday when the Senate returns.

Just the Facts
Speaker Dillon’s proposed mandatory government-run health plan

HB 5345 could export Michigan jobs and taxpayer dollars to other states and overseas if a large national insurance player with deep pockets wins the bid to underwrite the state-run fund. Currently 90 percent or of the public employee health insurance market is served by Michigan companies.

State health scheme vs. federal health reform
Would those currently without coverage receive coverage?
State Plan - No
Federal Health Reform Plan - Yes

School Reform

Senate Bills 636, 637, 638 – Neighborhood Charter Schools

These bills are being touted as reforms that are necessary for Michigan to qualify for Race to the Top funds established under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Since these bills are pending before the full Senate, they could end up as part of budget negotiations.
The reform measures in these bills are as follows:
- Removes the cap on charter schools without requiring them to be accountable.
- Eliminates collective bargaining agreements.
- Eliminates teacher tenure
- Establishes alternative routes to certification.

MEA opposes these bills.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Public Hearings Continue on HB 5345

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Flanagan testified Thursday before a House panel considering House Bill 5345, a proposed mandatory state-run health plan for public employees. Asked if forcing workers into a state-run insurance program would save $900 million, as purported by bill sponsor Rep. Andy Dillon, Flanagan pegged the savings as "between zero and $900 million."

Flanagan told the House Public Employee Health Care Reform Committee that public schools might be able to further cut spending by consolidating services and wringing other efficiencies, though other expert witnesses have questioned the alleged savings in this proposal. Flanagan also told the panel that he didn't want to see his teacher-daughter lose her health benefits -- and, he said, collective bargaining helps public employees.

"I think people would be screwed if they weren't represented by unions," Flanagan told lawmakers.

Brian Morris, a senior consultant at Gabriel, Roeder, Smith & Co., said based on the information he's seen in the revised white paper, he doesn't have an estimate on the possible savings.
Mr. Brian Morris, who is a health care actuary who works with public employers, told lawmakers he does see a potential for savings, particularly the part about administration of benefits, but savings are lowered when there are more than "tens of thousands" of benefit recipients in the pool.

Wayne Cass, chair of the Coalition of Labor Organizations at Michigan State University, said there is no guarantee that some employees won't see benefit reductions. The proposal doesn't address the real issue of rising health care costs.

The committee's next public hearing is Sept. 24.

Please continue to contact your legislators!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Capitol Chaos – Tuesday, Sept. 15

Budget Talks Heat Up

On Tuesday, in a radio interview, Majority Leader Mike Bishop announced that he and House Speaker Andy Dillon agreed to move forward with a 2009-10 fiscal year budget based on the Senate- passed cuts.

Under this plan, once the budget is completed, the House would consider tax increases to pay for the restoration of some spending. The Senate would consider any revenue proposals passed by the House. However, Mr. Bishop stated that there are no votes currently in the Senate Republican caucus to support a tax increase.

Later in the day, Senator Bishop clarified his morning comments by stating that there is no agreement on the budget. He did say, “We have an agreement on process and that is to get these conference committees moving and get some forward momentum on our ultimate goal. …All we’ve done is told our subcommittee chairs that they need to go out and negotiate using the cuts that we’ve put on the table.”

Mr. Bishop also said that he and Mr. Dillon agreed that if they are unable to complete a budget before October 1, they would pass a continuation budget to buy officials more time to craft a plan.

Appropriations subcommittee chairs planned to caucus today after session.

Our message remains to tell your legislator to say “no” to the disastrous Senate budget cuts.

Thank you to all members and staff who made calls to legislators today about the budget shortfall.

Just the Facts
Speaker Dillon’s Proposed Mandatory Government-run Health Plan

A mandatory state government-run health plan could actually make Michigan’s long-term structural budget deficits worse. Now is not the time to add billions more in financial liability at the state level. North Carolina’s $2.2 billion mandatory state health fund just needed a $658 million taxpayer bailout. As proposed in HB 5345, Michigan’s fund will be twice as large – making the financial risk twice as large as well. Other state government-run health funds are also in serious trouble. To keep funds solvent, New Jersey’s voluntary state health plan just increased premiums by 25 percent for participating school districts.

In addition to putting state taxpayers on the hook when the plan runs a deficit, Sec. 20 of HB 5345 also makes counties, cities, townships, universities, school districts and other local governments financially liable for any shortfalls. In testimony September 3 before the House, Speaker Dillon’s paid consultant said that when the state-run health plan ran a deficit, the state would bill local governments and school districts.

Committee Notice
Public Employee Health Care Reform Committee

More testimony is scheduled to be heard on HB 5345 on Thursday, September 17, 2009. The hearing will begin at 1 p.m. or after committees are given leave by the House to meet, whichever is later. The hearing will be held in room 519 of the House Office Building in Lansing.

Testimony will be given by the following:
Mike Flanagan, Superintend of Public Instruction, Michigan Department of Education
Brian Morris, Senior Consultant, Gabriel, Roeder, Smith & Co.
Richard Cauchi, Health Program Director, National Conference of State Legislatures
Wayne Cass, Chair of the Coalition of Labor Organization at Michigan State University

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Alert and Call to Action

We have received word that the Speaker of the House has agreed with the Senate budget plan. This plan contains only cuts to programs, no additional revenue. If this plan is adopted, it will mean a $110 cut to the foundation allowance and cutting almost all categorical programs in education. Adoption of a budget based on the Senate cuts will be devastating to education.

House leaders are reportedly ready to approve the Senate budget that cuts more than $1 billion from the state budget. They are rushing to do something rather than taking the time to do the right thing.

For K-12 public education, per pupil funding would be reduced by $110 and almost all categorical funding would be eliminated -- a total slash of almost half a billion dollars.

Pick up the phone. Send an e-mail. Tell your state representative to just say NO to the disastrous Senate budget cuts. (Remember: Don't use your school email or phone)

· Tell them to maintain funding for public education -- the only way to ensure our long-term economic recovery is to prepare our students for the jobs Michigan needs.

· Our leaders in Lansing must stop the political maneuvering around other issues (such as the mandatory health plan for public employees and ill-advised school reforms) -- it's time to focus on fixing our budget.

The only way to fix our budget is to update our antiquated tax structure and bring in revenue from the areas of our economy that are growing (such as services).

Lansing Update

Budget Update

Budget talks are moving very slowly with no evidence of progress.

· Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop stands pat on his Senate-passed budget cuts (see attachment).
· Governor proposes an estimated $600 million in additional revenues.
· House is still sitting on its passed budget, which provides for a continuation budget for 2009-10, but lacks the revenues to fund it.

The stage is set for a repeat of 2007 with reforms being offered up for revenues in the dead of night. The question now is what those reforms might be. Possibilities include:

· Modification of PA 312 for police and fire.
· Modification of PERA.
· Failing schools reform.
· Creation of Neighborhood Public Schools
· Eliminate University charter caps.
· Certification changes.
· Changes to the Tenure Act.
· Public employee health care.

The attempt to gain additional revenue by the governor would provide an additional $200 million to the school aid fund, which would reduce the need to make cuts nearly in half.

The only good news is that August revenues were higher than anticipated. That means that only $75 million of the stimulus money padding that was placed into the 2008-09 budget will get used up instead of the prior projection of $134 million. While that helps, it will not cure the projected shortfall for 2010-11.

On the Reform Front

SB 336, SB 337, & SB 338 Awaiting Senate Action

The Senate Neighborhood Public Schools (NPS) package is on General Orders on the Senate floor awaiting action by the full Senate. The package includes SB 636, SB 637, and SB 638.

This package of bills allows for the creation of neighborhood public schools where a majority of parents and teachers agree to split the school away from the home district.

There is no limit to the number of NPS that can be created or chartered. Each of these schools would have less accountability, less transparency and more control than other charters. Teachers in an NPS school would be exempt from their bargaining unit and could not accrue tenure.

MEA opposes this package of bills.

Just the Facts
Speaker Dillon’s Proposed Mandatory Government-run Health Plan

Speaker Dillon’s idea is not a structural fix for the state budget. In fact, a state government takeover of all public employee health insurance would add about $4 billion in new financial liability for the health care of hundreds of thousands of local employees to the state’s long-term structural budget. Sec. 18 of HB 5345 creates a “MI health benefits fund” in the state treasury to collect premiums and pay plan expenses, putting the good faith and credit of state’s taxpayers on the line.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Your Health Care is on the Chopping Block

Your new health plan will be whatever the state says you can have.

Your health benefits will be cut, but you’ll be paying more for them.

A state Control Board will determine who your doctor will be and what treatments you can have.
Bargaining with your school district for health insurance is no longer your right.

This is your future as a public school employee if you let Speaker Dillon’s Michigan Health Benefits Program become law.

This scheme claims to save millions of dollars by putting all public employees—including school employees—into one giant health plan. But the only way to do that is to gut your benefits and force you to pay more out of your pocket for them.

Time is running out for you. This bill is on the fast track.

Act now to stop this attack on your health benefits and bargaining rights:

1. Go to to read the latest information on the mandatory public employee health plan.

2. Contact your state legislators. Urge them to oppose this plan since there’s no evidence the state can effectively manage such a project or that it will actually save money. Share your stories of wage freezes, concessions and other efforts you’ve made to help your district save money.

3. Volunteer to attend and testify at the committee hearings. Contact your UniServ director for details.

Get educated! Get involved! Fight for your right to bargain quality health care!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

PAC Update

Esther Turner has been hired as a PAC Snap for the Kent County. She is available to assist in any capacity with your local PAC drive. The major push is for all contributions to be turned in by October 31, 2009. This year's goal is for 100% participation and $20/member.

"We want this to be an exceedingly banner year!" says Esther. "The opposition is determined to continue to take away our bargaining rights. We need to say 'heck no,' we will survive, and PAC is our voice."

You may contact Esther at or 616-957-1944.