UPDATE--As predicted below, SB153 was defeated by a fairly straight party line vote (191-135) Wednesday afternoon. After all, we wouldn't want mere elected officials to get a look at what goes into contracts, now would we?
Passage of SB 153, which would mandate legislative approval of state contracts, is not likely. The bill, sponsored by Senate President Peter Bragdon, passed the Senate on a straight party line vote of 13-11. It went to the House Labor Committee which, by a straight party line vote of 11-9, recommended killing the bill.
The writing is on the wall on this one, but hey, I think it's not only a good idea; it's a great idea. Besides I tire of being on the prevailing (winning) side all the time, so I plan to speak in favor of this bill sure to be defeated this afternon.
Here's what I'll say, but don't expect Democrats to listen. More than likely more Republicans will vote against the bill than Democrats will vote for it.
C'est la guerre.
Floor Speech For Senate Bill 153
Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, Hills. 15
Thank you Madame Speaker. I rise in favor of Senate Bill 153 fully realizing that to get to an ought to pass motion, we will need to overturn the inexpedient to legislate motion.
We can do it; we should do it.
Although this bill comes to us from the Labor Committee, the concept is not new, and it’s really not as much a labor bill as it is about finance and budgeting.
Last session, we dealt with a similar concept in finance.
This bill simply calls for legislators, who have the ultimate responsibility for passing a state budget, to be involved in the process which produces by far the largest portion of funding for any budget, labor contracts.
This bill simply would have us do at the state level what most counties already do.
In fact, tomorrow, the Hillsborough County executive committee meets to look at three labor contracts. The way it works in Hillsborough is that the county commissioners, the executive department of state government, negotiate contracts, and then bring them to the executive committee for a recommendation to the full county delegation for action at the annual meeting.
What’s good and essential for county government, I’ve always thought, should be good and is probably even more essential at the state level.
In order for legislators, yes, that would be us, to responsibly formulate a budget; we have to be cognizant of what’s in it. Since salaries take up the greater part of all budgets these days, we need to know the details of what’s in contracts.
This bill actually represents a compromise. It doesn’t call for the full legislature to approve any contract but merely that they go before the fiscal committee.
You may recall Madame Speaker that just a few months ago, when House budget writers decided to give the governor the power to dip into any of more than 300 special designated funds, we agreed that Fiscal Committee needed to be involved.
Thus, this bill merely follows the pattern that this House already agreed upon.
I would prefer that the entire House and Senate be involved with ultimately approving these contracts, as we are at the county level, but I learned long ago that politics is the art of the possible; that compromise is often needed.
This bill represents that compromise.
I also learned long ago that if we are to sustain government at a rate which will serve the needs of our state’s most vulnerable citizens, we must be wise enough to understand what goes into these contracts.
While sitting on Division I of Finance last term and dealing with the corrections budget, I was astounded to learn that some employees in that department cost us more in benefits than in the basic salary. Very few, if any people, seemed to realize this, and I suspect most of us here today, don’t grasp that fact, but it’s something we as legislators need to know if we are to create responsible budgets. With benefits exceeding salaries, I began to ask myself, can we sustain budgets at a level we can afford.
This bill would provide such information in a timely manner, when contracts are being formulated.
Here’s another thing I learned just in the past month. In dealing with the Hillsborough County corrections budget, I went immediately to the bottom line and found nearly a five percent increase, about $700,000 year to year. Wow, I thought, this is a lot, but then I discovered that one single line is responsible for more than half that increase, and no, it’s not the salary line. It’s an increase in the county’s share of the pension plan for corrections officers, up from about 20 percent to 25 percent this year, a five percent increase which in effect freezes out our ability to do other things we might want to be.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that this increase isn’t necessary, but I am saying that we as legislators need a heads up on such, some type of advance warning that we can expect these kinds of numbers when we begin the budgetary process.
This bill in effect serves as an advance warning system for legislators who must a accept budgets. That’s why I can repeat that it’s really not about labor or negotiations, but more precisely about effectively carrying out our fiduciary responsibility to tax payers who sent us here.
This bill simply asks that we do at the state level what we’ve been doing for a long time at the county level, at least in Hillsborough County, allow elected officials to understand what goes into the budgets they, we, must ultimately approve.
That’s why Madame Speaker I would ask that we overturn the ITL recommendation so that a motion of Ought to Pass can be made. Thank you.