June 2016 Issue
June 27, 2016

NYSUT's full-court legislative press pays off in the end

Author: By Ned Hoskin
Source: NYSUT United
On Long Island, members of the Levittown United Teachers rallied for public education at Wisdom Lane Middle School.
Caption: On Long Island, members of the Levittown United Teachers rallied for public education at Wisdom Lane Middle School. Photo by Linda Rosier.

In the last minute of the seventh game of the 2016 National Basketball Association championship final, offensive excellence and defensive dominance were equally important for the Cleveland Cavaliers to secure the historic win over the Golden State warriors.

At the crack of dawn on the Saturday before that game, you could 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 E. 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 through both houses:

Military veteran retirement credit

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

The legislation would 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 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 increase for both.

Safe drinking water in schools

With mandated lead testing and some state funding, this bill would ensure that drinking water in public schools is safe and free of lead contamination.

Mayoral control

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

Revenue for education

Union efforts ensured that funding for public education was included in any authorization of daily fantasy sports.

Regents transparency

NYSUT advocated for greater transparency for the Board of Regents — including posting advance agendas and meeting minutes — to foster greater public involvement.

Phys ed in elementary

This legislation would require school districts to report compliance with elementary physical education instruction requirements.

Opioid crisis

This would be the nation's most aggressive plan to combat heroin and opioid addiction; it allows public libraries to administer opioid antagonists in the event of an emergency.

Lyme and tick-borne diseases

This would develop instructional tools and materials for an education and awareness program to protect children. (See related article, p. 21.)

PSC contract settlement

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

Hospitals

NYSUT secured legislation that would provide transparency in the awarding of $700 million in capital funding to health care facilities in Brooklyn, and would enhance Medicaid reimbursement to drive more funding to SUNY hospitals.

Cancer screening

These bills would ensure equity for all public employees throughout the state to get up to four hours of paid leave for breast or prostate cancer screenings.

Energy efficiency

The legislation would simplify the process for schools considering the installation of energy efficiency technologies.


Here are some 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.


In other (important)business ...

Ethics and election law

Legislative ethics and election law changes took center stage this session, and perhaps the biggest changes were to the rules for independent expenditures (IE). The new rules will require significantly greater disclosure of financial donors to all IE accounts and stronger separations between candidates and those running IE committees.

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