Labor Bill In Legislature Blasted

By: Associated Press / WOWT Email
By: Associated Press / WOWT Email

A bill in the legislature that supporters say will reform the Commission on Industrial Relations will be the focus of a public hearing Wednesday.

Tuesday the Platte Institute For Economic Research blasted the bill as being "neither significant nor meaningful" reform. To the contrary the Platte Institute says if the bill becomes law it would make some problems worse.

The Commission, or CIR as it's known, is the agency in state government that resolves contract disputes between various levels of government and the employee associations or unions with which they negotiate.

Critics say the CIR for some time has been tilted in favor of public employee unions while tying the hands of local governments.

LB 397 is a bill that supporters say is the product of negotiation and compromise from a broad cross section of interested parties. The bill, however, was rapidly introduced to the public and then voted on in a single day and was never the subject of a public hearing.

Under pressure the Business and Labor Committee agreed to hold a public hearing which is Wednesday, April 13th.

In it's critique of the legislation, the Platte Institute claims, among other things, that the bill creates more complexity, not less; that it could force some school districts to pay poor performing teachers even higher wages; and that it could allow the CIR to dig into the employee files of private employers.

Some members of the Business and Labor Committee argue the bill is, indeed, real reform. They note the new bill would require the CIR to consider pay scales in private industry as well as the public sector when determining wage scales. Right now, the CIR only compares public employees to public employees who often are paid more to begin with.

Supporters argue the new bill will help local governments curb costs.

Some labor leaders say the whole process is being driven by a sour national mood about government spending.

The bill is still in the early stages of becoming a law. The Business and Labor Committee could vote to make changes. When the bill gets to floor debate it could also be amended there.

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