June 21, 2016

Last minute victories make the difference in legislative session

Author: Ned Hoskin
Source: NYSUT Communications
legislative wrap-up

In the final minute of the seventh game of the National Basketball Association championship final, offensive excellence and defensive dominance were equally important for the Cleveland Cavaliers to secure the result.

At the crack of dawn on the Saturday before that game, you would have said the same about NYSUT's efforts in the 2016 state legislative session, which didn't end until the sun came up.

"In the closing days of the session," said Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta, who oversees the union's legislative and political department, "the legislative team worked tirelessly to ensure the passage of good legislation and the defeat of bills that would have been very bad for our membership. Their efforts, powered by the solidarity and activism of NYSUT members, resulted in significant achievements for labor and education."

"Through endless days and nights, members and staff committed to 'be the union.' Our collective voice that cannot be ignored carried the day again," said NYSUT President Karen Magee.

Bills passed by both houses of the Legislature now go to the governor, whose signature enacts them into law. Passage by both houses undeniably denotes victory for the union.

Here's a rundown of some of the major developments.

First, the bills NYSUT was able to get passed by both the Assembly and Senate:

Military veteran retirement credit

Already signed by Gov. Cuomo, this law — which NYSUT has sought for three years — allows all veterans to receive service credit in the state's public retirement systems for their service, regardless of when and where these personnel served.

NYSHIP health care buyout

This bill would protect the collective bargaining rights of public employees with respect to negotiated health insurance buyouts. It would permit school district employers and employees, including teachers, administrators and school-related professionals, to continue to offer and receive the health insurance buyouts the parties have already negotiated.

Extension of the deadline for evaluation plans

NYSUT was able to extend from Sept. 1, 2016, to Dec. 31, 2016, the deadline by which school districts must implement annual teacher and principal evaluation systems and to have such plans approved by the state education commissioner.

SUNY/CUNY capital funding

NYSUT secured an additional $50 million in capital funding for SUNY ($30 million) and CUNY ($20 million).

Rate increase for Special Act Schools and 853 Schools

NYSUT strongly lobbied all session for funding increases for Special Act Schools and 853 Schools, gaining a 4 percent boost for both.

Safe drinking water in schools

NYSUT secured legislation to ensure that drinking water in public schools is safe and free of lead contamination. It requires the testing of potable water sources and systems through regulations established by the Department of Health and the State Education Department.

Mayoral control

The current mayoral control statute for New York City was extended for an additional year.

PSC contract settlement

NYSUT helped the Professional Staff Congress at CUNY secure a long overdue collective bargaining agreement.

Here are some of the items NYSUT opposed and defeated:

Pension forfeiture

The proposal to strip pensions from elected officials convicted of felonies became contaminated with language that would have broadened it to inappropriately undercut public employee pension rights. The union stopped it and the original intent of the legislation carried.

Education tax credits/vouchers

NYSUT and its allies defeated a tax credit that would have funneled public funds to private and corporate charter entities.

Statewide school district reporting

These requirements would have reduced local control and provided the state budget director with undue authority.