Malloy administration selects Lisa Grasso Egan to oversee state employee negotiations

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Lisa Grasso Egan will be the Malloy administration’s new labor lawyer, according to an announcement released late last week.

Attorney Egan’s on-line professional biography brags,

“Ms. Egan has successfully defended employers in numerous litigation matters brought by discharged employees whose claims have included wrongful termination, First Amendment retaliation, and discrimination.”

Malloy’s Budget Director and Secretary of the Office Policy and Management announced Egan’s appointment saying,

“Lisa’s long experience representing government entities makes her the right person to take on the task of reorganizing this critical function at OPM.”

The CT Mirror reported the news last Friday.  Apparently the Malloy administration remains committed to releasing any controversial news on Fridays in order to minimize media coverage.

According to the CT Mirror,

“Lisa Grasso Egan, a labor lawyer with a history of representing municipalities and government agencies, was named Friday as the state’s undersecretary for labor relations.

Egan succeeds Linda Yelmini, a longtime state employee who was forced out of the job.”

Although Attorney Egan is now a senior partner for the law firm of Berchem, Moses & Devlin, her political connection to the Malloy administration appears to be through New Haven, where she had previously worked as director of labor relations for the city of New Haven and was a major, $5,000 donor, to former mayor DeStefano’s unsuccessful campaign for governor in 2006.

According to her on-line biographies, “she represented the City [of New Haven] in all aspects of collective bargaining, including the negotiation of subcontracted municipal operations. She also managed the City’s Labor Relations, Personnel, Affirmative Action and Civil Service divisions.”

Outside of her work in New Haven, Egan has taken on numerous labor law cases for a number of municipal housing authorities and boards of education around the state, including the Bridgeport Board of Education.

In a relatively more recent controversial case, Egan and her fellow attorneys convinced the Connecticut Supreme Court to reverse a 2008 trial verdict in the case of Perez-Dickson v. City of Bridgeport.

The trial granted Perez-Dickson $2,003,000, later reduced to $1,003,000, for alleged retaliation, racial discrimination, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

According to Egan’s law firm, the case was noteworthy because, “the Supreme Court found that the Plaintiff’s statements to the Department of Children and Families (“DCF”) were not protected speech under the First Amendment.”

“Additionally, the Supreme Court vacated the decision under C.G.S. § 17a-101e, holding that an individual may not bring a private cause of action for retaliation in reporting alleged child abuse.

In a summary posted on the Berchem, Moses & Devlin website,

“The decision’s precedential impact will be far reaching. It was cited several times in another opinion: Schumann v. Dianon Systems. In Schumann, the Court vacated an award of over 10 million dollars that was brought under C.G.S. § 31-51q by a private employee, who made statements voicing disapproval of a new urinalysis test and was subsequently terminated, because “the contentious nature of the plaintiff’s dispute…did not render his speech constitutionally protected…because when an employee has spoken in furtherance of his duties, the fact that he persists in such speech after a supervisor has told him to stop does not, without more, transform his speech into protected speech.”

The Malloy administration’s decision to select Attorney Egan to replace veteran civil servant Linda Yelmini sends an interesting message to Connecticut’s state employees, especially when it comes to the issue of their First Amendment Rights while working for the State of Connecticut.

Breaking News: State employee layoffs coming to UConn

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Updated with statement from UConn spokesperson (see end of blog post)

According to high-ranking UConn administrators, who asked to remain anonymous due to concerns about retaliation, a series of layoff notices will be going out soon to state employees at the University of Connecticut, including unionized employees.

Despite a 6.5 percent increase in tuition and fees that have already been approved for next year, inadequate state support will mean that a significant number of UConn employees will be receiving layoff notices, the first time there have been a substantive number of layoffs at the University in at least 20 years.

The UConn administrators report that the initial round of layoffs will be hitting the School of Law, the School of Social Work and at other major programs at UConn.

Governor Malloy’s record cuts to Connecticut’s public institutions of higher education have already been taking a tremendous toll.  As the State of Connecticut reduces its state budget support for UConn, the Connecticut State Universities and Community Colleges, students and their parents are being told they must pay more and get less.

In a related move to cut spending, the Connecticut Board of Regents is blindly rushing to approve a “Transform CSCU 2020” plan that will dramatically diminish the Connecticut State University and Community College System.

The disturbing news of impending layoffs comes on the heels of the decision by Governor Malloy’s political appointees on the UConn Board of Trustees to dramatically increase UConn President Susan Herbst’s salary and compensation package.

Voting at a special board meeting on December 29, 2014, the UConn Trustees approved a new compensation package that will push President Herbst’s  salary to $831,000 by 2019.  Herbst’s new contract increases her salary by 5 percent each year and provides that the UConn Board of Trustees or a committee shall review her salary annually and may increase, but not decrease her compensation package.  In addition, Herbst will receive an $80,000-a-year “deferred compensation” payment, along with a $38,000 “supplemental retirement benefit.”  The new contract also promises her a $40,000 performance bonus each year and guarantees her two “retention bonuses” totaling $200,000, one in 2016 and one in 2019.

But when the Trustees met at the specially called meeting to approve the UConn President’s new compensation package, they failed to reveal that a plan to layoff state employees at the University of Connecticut was already taking shape.

The news that UConn is facing a massive budget crisis is not news, but the use of layoffs is in stark contrast to Governor Malloy’s campaign message, which was that if re-elected, he would not raise taxes or cut vital services and would not need to engage the State’s public employee unions in any negotiations about concessions.

The state employee unions used that commitment to support a massive political effort that helped Malloy beat his Republican opponent by about 40,000 votes.

Despite Malloy’s rhetoric, state employees, including those at UConn, will be feeling the devastating impact of the projected $1.4 billion budget deficit in next year’s state budget.

As the CT Mirror reported last March, “The University of Connecticut is facing a $46.2 million budget deficit for the fiscal year that begins July 1 — a 4 percent shortfall in the funding needed to continue existing programs.”

The CT Mirror added, “Further tuition increases, cuts to research funding, scaling back financial aid and stalling faculty hiring have not been ruled out to close the gap, a university spokeswoman said.”

According to reports produced by the University of Connecticut, State funding for UConn has decreased by more than $55.3 million a year since Malloy took office.

The Malloy budget cuts take the University of Connecticut back to 1995 when a New York Times article entitled, “UConn Plans Tuition Rise And Layoffs,” reported that, “Tuition at the University of Connecticut will rise 10 percent in 1994-95 and some part-time faculty members will lose their jobs this fall, the school’s trustees have decided.”

The New York Times added, “This is the sixth consecutive year that the university has called for a double-digit tuition increase. Over five years, tuition has doubled and the university has trimmed about one-fifth of its faculty and staff.”

In 1995, the State of Connecticut provided a block grant to the University of Connecticut that covered 32 percent of the University’s total operating budget.

Thanks to Malloy’s on-going cuts, the State of Connecticut’s operating grant now only provides 18.7 percent of UConn’s total operating costs.

It has been twenty years since those disastrous cuts, yet the on-going lack of state support for the University of Connecticut is jeopardizing the quality of the University and putting a UConn education more and more out of reach for Connecticut families.

As noted previous, the result of these constant budget reductions has resulted in a tremendous shift onto the backs of students and their parents.  The cost of tuition, room and board for an in-state student has at UConn has gone from $9,784 in 1995 to $23,496 this year.

And now UConn students are being told that although they will need to cough up 6.5 percent more to go to the University of Connecticut next fall, they can expect fewer staff and reduced programs.

In response to a request for a comment, UConn spokesperson Stephanie Reitz issued the following statement, it provides an interesting spin on how the University is going to explain the upcoming cuts.

“At this time, any workforce reductions at the university are very limited in number, affecting very few employees, and are due to reorganizations within a particular office, department, or school, not because of financial need or any reduction in state support.”

Re-post – Is it Malloy’s greatest “Wait, What?” Moment?

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Re-posting for Monday Readers;

As Governor Malloy and his administration prepare to roll-out his new “Transportation Initiative,” the Governor’s press office issued a press release Friday (January 9, 2015) to proclaim that the Governor will soon be proposing legislation to amend the Connecticut State Constitution in order to, “ensure revenues earmarked for transportation cannot be diverted for other purposes.”

Although the process to change Connecticut’s State Constitution takes two years or more, Malloy said, in his prepared statement, “We must make sure every penny we raise for transportation goes toward our vision to transform Connecticut – now and in the future,”

This incredible “Wait, What?” statement comes from the same individual who has consistently worked to balance Connecticut’s State Budget by raiding various funds and transferring money from dedicated accounts to the State’s General Fund.

But Governor Malloy now says that he is committed to ensuring that the money collected for a particular purpose will actually be spent on that purpose…

For starters, one might ask, on behalf of Connecticut’s state employees, why Governor Malloy still hasn’t created the “Health Care Trust-Fund Lock Box” that he promised to do as part of the 2011 SEBAC state employee concession agreement.

The SEBAC concession agreement provided that all state employees give up 3% of their pay to help fund future state employee retirement health care premiums.  At this point, the program is generating about $120 million dollars a year, but the money isn’t even being put aside in a special “Lock Box” fund and invested for long term growth, as Malloy promised.

The State employees have fulfilled their end of the bargain, and although the State doesn’t start matching those contributions until 2017, the SEBAC agreement required that the funds collected are to be deposited into a special “Trust Fund.”

Yet to date, the Malloy administration hasn’t even taken that necessary step….

And now Malloy is proposing a Constitutional Amendment to protect future transportation revenue?

The political maneuver is nothing short of laughable.

What follows is just A PARTIAL LIST of the budget transfers Malloy and his administration has used over the past four years to make the state budget appear balanced;

  • Transferred $2.2 million from the Boating Fund to the General Fund, eliminated the boating account and required all future revenue from watercraft registration and numbering fees to be deposited in the General Fund.
  • Transferred $600,000 from the Transportation Strategy Board in the Department of Transportation to the General Fund.
  • Transferred $7.5 million from the Regional Performance Incentive Account to the General Fund
  • Transferred $1.2 million from the Banking Fund to the General Fund
  • Transferred $450,000 from Workers Compensation Administration Fund to the General Fund
  • Transferred $2.3 million from Consumer Counsel and Public Utility Fund to the General Fund
  • Transferred $500,000 from Insurance Fund to the General Fund
  • Transferred $4. 7 million from the School Bus Safety Belt Account to the General Fund
  • Transferred all revenue from fines, civil penalties, or restitution for violating banking law from the Banking Fund to the General Fund
  • Transferred multiple PROBATE COURT ADMINISTRATION FUND “surpluses” to various non-probate programs and the remaining to the General Fund
  • Transferred $3. 6 million from the Public, Education, Government Programming and Education Technology Investment Account to the General Fund
  • Transferred $2 million from the Biomedical Research Trust Fund to the General Fund
  • Transferred $2 million from the Community Investment Account to the General Fund
  • Transferred $2 million from various accounts within the Office of Policy and Management to the Litigation/Settlement account
  • Eliminated the Municipal Revenue Sharing Account Malloy created in his 2011 tax package to aid cities and towns, “saving” the General Fund nearly $100 million a year
  • Transferred $35 million from the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority (CRRA) to the General Fund
  • Transferred and additional 6.9 million from the Public Education and Governmental Programming Account to the General Fund
  • Transferred an additional $11 million from the Banking Fund to the General Fund
  • Transferred $5 million from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) to the General Fund
  • Transferred $30.4 million from the Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority (CEFIA) to the General Fund
  • Transferred $10 million from the Municipal Video Competitiveness Account to the General Fund
  • Transferred $10 million annually (for 10 years) from the Tobacco Settlement Fund to the “smart start” preschool program so the $100 million would not need to come out of the General Fund
  • Transferred $10 million from the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) to the General Fund
  • Eliminated $20 million statutory transfer from the Tobacco Settlement Fund to the Stem Cell Research Fund, thereby keeping the money available for the General Fund
  • Transferred and additional $1 million from the Probate Fund to the General Fund
  • Transferred an additional $4 million from the Tobacco Settlement Fund to the General Fund
  • Transferred $15 million from the Connecticut Student Loan Foundation to pay for one-time expenses of the Connecticut State Universities and Community Colleges

And that doesn’t even cover some of the other “fund transfers” that Malloy made.

And when it comes to actually supporting transportation, Malloy’s first term in office was marked by failing grades.

At a campaign stop last fall, Malloy told a special forum on transportation,

“This stuff is a passion to me,” and he added, “This administration is committed to build out the infrastructure of this state.”

But as a special CT Mirror investigative series in September 2014 pointed out, Malloy’s record on transportation is anything but impressive.

[For the details read Keith Phaneuf’s pieces in the CT Mirror – BUDGET CHOICES, FISCAL MANEUVERS UNDERMINE TRANSPORTATION FUNDING  IMPROVING TRANSPORTATION IN CONNECTICUT: A DECADE OF SLOW GOING, A ROUGH ROAD AHEAD FOR TRANSPORTATION IMPROVEMENTS.]

While Malloy said he had made transportation a priority and would do even more in a second term, the CT Mirror revealed;

  • Nearly $3.5 billion in financing for transportation projects has been approved — but the funds actually haven’t been borrowed and spent.
  • And as a result of the Malloy administration’s decision not to refill many important positions, the State Department of Transportation has almost 150 fewer engineers and employees than when Malloy took office, making it impossible to get a large number of projects underway.

And while Malloy may not have raided the Transportation Fund as much as former Governor Rell had done, he still siphoned off money that was supposed to be earmarked for improving Connecticut’s transportation system.

The actual level of state spending on transportation in FY14 was $91 million less had been approved by the legislature and this year’s budget diverted another $20 million.

The Transportation Fund is supposed to get most of its dollars from Connecticut’s 25-cent-per-gallon retail tax and the state’s wholesale fuel tax.  However, despite four tax increases in the wholesale fuel tax which increased Connecticut’s revenues by 40 percent since 2005, Governors Rell and Malloy have used nearly $1.4 billion on non-transportation programs.

And now Governor Malloy is saying that Connecticut should adopt a Constitutional Amendment so that taxpayers can be sure that revenue for transportation programs are actually spent on transportation programs????

Yeah, this could very well be Governor Dannel Malloy’s greatest “Wait, What?” moment (to date.)

Is it Malloy’s greatest “Wait, What?” Moment?

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As Governor Malloy and his administration prepare to roll-out his new “Transportation Initiative,” the Governor’s press office issued a press release Friday (January 9, 2015) to proclaim that the Governor will soon be proposing legislation to amend the Connecticut State Constitution in order to, “ensure revenues earmarked for transportation cannot be diverted for other purposes.”

Although the process to change Connecticut’s State Constitution takes two years or more, Malloy said, in his prepared statement, “We must make sure every penny we raise for transportation goes toward our vision to transform Connecticut – now and in the future,”

This incredible “Wait, What?” statement comes from the same individual who has consistently worked to balance Connecticut’s State Budget by raiding various funds and transferring money from dedicated accounts to the State’s General Fund.

But Governor Malloy now says that he is committed to ensuring that the money collected for a particular purpose will actually be spent on that purpose…

For starters, one might ask, on behalf of Connecticut’s state employees, why Governor Malloy still hasn’t created the “Health Care Trust-Fund Lock Box” that he promised to do as part of the 2011 SEBAC state employee concession agreement.

The SEBAC concession agreement provided that all state employees give up 3% of their pay to help fund future state employee retirement health care premiums.  At this point, the program is generating about $120 million dollars a year, but the money isn’t even being put aside in a special “Lock Box” fund and invested for long term growth, as Malloy promised.

The State employees have fulfilled their end of the bargain, and although the State doesn’t start matching those contributions until 2017, the SEBAC agreement required that the funds collected are to be deposited into a special “Trust Fund.”

Yet to date, the Malloy administration hasn’t even taken that necessary step….

And now Malloy is proposing a Constitutional Amendment to protect future transportation revenue?

The political maneuver is nothing short of laughable.

What follows is just A PARTIAL LIST of the budget transfers Malloy and his administration has used over the past four years to make the state budget appear balanced;

  • Transferred $2.2 million from the Boating Fund to the General Fund, eliminated the boating account and required all future revenue from watercraft registration and numbering fees to be deposited in the General Fund.
  • Transferred $600,000 from the Transportation Strategy Board in the Department of Transportation to the General Fund.
  • Transferred $7.5 million from the Regional Performance Incentive Account to the General Fund
  • Transferred $1.2 million from the Banking Fund to the General Fund
  • Transferred $450,000 from Workers Compensation Administration Fund to the General Fund
  • Transferred $2.3 million from Consumer Counsel and Public Utility Fund to the General Fund
  • Transferred $500,000 from Insurance Fund to the General Fund
  • Transferred $4. 7 million from the School Bus Safety Belt Account to the General Fund
  • Transferred all revenue from fines, civil penalties, or restitution for violating banking law from the Banking Fund to the General Fund
  • Transferred multiple PROBATE COURT ADMINISTRATION FUND “surpluses” to various non-probate programs and the remaining to the General Fund
  • Transferred $3. 6 million from the Public, Education, Government Programming and Education Technology Investment Account to the General Fund
  • Transferred $2 million from the Biomedical Research Trust Fund to the General Fund
  • Transferred $2 million from the Community Investment Account to the General Fund
  • Transferred $2 million from various accounts within the Office of Policy and Management to the Litigation/Settlement account
  • Eliminated the Municipal Revenue Sharing Account Malloy created in his 2011 tax package to aid cities and towns, “saving” the General Fund nearly $100 million a year
  • Transferred $35 million from the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority (CRRA) to the General Fund
  • Transferred and additional 6.9 million from the Public Education and Governmental Programming Account to the General Fund
  • Transferred an additional $11 million from the Banking Fund to the General Fund
  • Transferred $5 million from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) to the General Fund
  • Transferred $30.4 million from the Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority (CEFIA) to the General Fund
  • Transferred $10 million from the Municipal Video Competitiveness Account to the General Fund
  • Transferred $10 million annually (for 10 years) from the Tobacco Settlement Fund to the “smart start” preschool program so the $100 million would not need to come out of the General Fund
  • Transferred $10 million from the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) to the General Fund
  • Eliminated $20 million statutory transfer from the Tobacco Settlement Fund to the Stem Cell Research Fund, thereby keeping the money available for the General Fund
  • Transferred and additional $1 million from the Probate Fund to the General Fund
  • Transferred an additional $4 million from the Tobacco Settlement Fund to the General Fund
  • Transferred $15 million from the Connecticut Student Loan Foundation to pay for one-time expenses of the Connecticut State Universities and Community Colleges

And that doesn’t even cover some of the other “fund transfers” that Malloy made.

And when it comes to actually supporting transportation, Malloy’s first term in office was marked by failing grades.

At a campaign stop last fall, Malloy told a special forum on transportation,

“This stuff is a passion to me,” and he added, “This administration is committed to build out the infrastructure of this state.”

But as a special CT Mirror investigative series in September 2014 pointed out, Malloy’s record on transportation is anything but impressive.

[For the details read Keith Phaneuf’s pieces in the CT Mirror – BUDGET CHOICES, FISCAL MANEUVERS UNDERMINE TRANSPORTATION FUNDING  IMPROVING TRANSPORTATION IN CONNECTICUT: A DECADE OF SLOW GOING, A ROUGH ROAD AHEAD FOR TRANSPORTATION IMPROVEMENTS.]

While Malloy said he had made transportation a priority and would do even more in a second term, the CT Mirror revealed;

  • Nearly $3.5 billion in financing for transportation projects has been approved — but the funds actually haven’t been borrowed and spent.
  • And as a result of the Malloy administration’s decision not to refill many important positions, the State Department of Transportation has almost 150 fewer engineers and employees then when Malloy took office, making it impossible to get a large number of projects underway.

And while Malloy may not have raided the Transportation Fund has much as former Governor Rell had done, he still siphoned off money that was supposed to be earmarked for improving Connecticut’s transportation system.

The actual level of state spending on transportation in FY14 was $91 million less had been approved by the legislature and this year’s budget diverted another $20 million.

The Transportation Fund is supposed to get most of its dollars from Connecticut’s $25 cent per gallon retail tax and the state’s wholesale fuel tax.  However, despite four tax increases in the wholesale fuel tax which increased Connecticut’s revenues by 40 percent since 2005, Governors Rell and Malloy have used nearly $1.4 billion on non-transportation programs.

And now Governor Malloy is saying that Connecticut should adopt a Constitutional Amendment so that taxpayers can be sure that revenue for transportation programs are actually spent on transportation programs????

Yeah, this could very well be Governor Dannel Malloy’s greatest “Wait, What?” moment (to date.)

Hashtag – #ConnecticutisnotWisconsin 

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To the  unions, public employees, and the voters of Connecticut – Let’s take a moment to set the record straight…

While preventing me from even speaking to the union members responsible for endorsing candidates, the leadership of the Connecticut AFL-CIO and AFT-CT were among those claiming that voters must choose Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy or Connecticut would become another Wisconsin – a reference to the damage Wisconsin Tea-Party governor, Scott Walker, and the Republican, right-wing controlled Wisconsin Legislature have done to public employees and their right to collectively bargain in that state.

In order to drive their point home, the Connecticut union leaders brought in Stephanie Bloomingdale, the secretary-treasurer of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO, to give a speech at the AFL-CIO political endorsing convention.  Bloomingdale reported, “They came for us in Wisconsin and they are coming for you in Connecticut. We were the first target. Now it is your turn to stop it…

Lee Saunders, the national president of AFSCME, was also given the microphone at the event and explained that “Connecticut’s governor’s race nationally and how the labor movement can’t afford Connecticut becoming another Wisconsin.”

 But Connecticut will not be another Wisconsin. (Regardless of what happens in November)

While one can be rightfully suspicious of Republican Tom Foley, Connecticut has and will continue to have a Democratic legislature.  Wisconsin’s governor got away with undermining collective bargaining BECAUSE he has a right-wing Republican legislature to support is anti-union, anti-public employee, anti-teacher, anti-public education initiatives.

Thanks to the way districts were drawn in the last three rounds of re-districting, Connecticut will have a Democratic legislature for decades to come.

But the #dontletCTbecomeWisconsin argument fails on a second group.

At last week’s AFL-CIO Convention, Governor Malloy took the stage and in an attempt to revise history by saying,

“I stand with labor, I always have. I always will.”

Not one union representative during this heavily scripted event challenged Malloy or even asked him to explain why he is the only Democratic governor in the nation to propose doing away with tenure and repealing the collective bargaining rights for teachers in turnaround school.

And no one confronted Malloy in order to force him to explain to state and local public employees how he intends to govern and meet our state’s obligations, including public employee salaries, healthcare and pensions when he has promised that he will not propose or accept any tax increase during his second term as governor.

Faced with a $1.3 billion projected state budget deficit next year, Malloy has promised no taxes, no cuts to vital services and no concessions from state employees.

But even putting aside salary issues, the state of Connecticut will be required to allocate more than $120 million next year just to maintain minimum funding for pension obligations and health benefits.

Furthermore, the last state employee concession agreement cut salaries by 3%, so that those dollars could be shifted to the state retirees’ healthcare fund.  As state employees know, the state of Connecticut is supposed to start matching that $125 million a year in July 2017.  But Malloy’s no tax pledge makes is virtually impossible for the state to fulfill that financial obligation. This means that state employees will learn that they took a pay cut to help fund retiree health benefits but the state walked away from its side of the bargain.

The #dontletCTbecomeWisconsin argument is simply a way to scare union members into voting for a governor who has failed to match his actions to his rhetoric.

Perhaps even more telling, the “Don’t let us become Wisconsin” is the campaign strategy that some union leaders are utilizing in other parts of the nation.

In Illinois, for example, the argument is the same.  Don’t let Illinois become Wisconsin.

And so who are voters being told to vote for?  An incumbent Democratic governor who has pushed anti-labor bills and his running mate, Paul Vallas, one of the nation’s leading champions in the effort to destroy public school teachers, their unions and the public education system.

Voters, including union members, deserve the right to vote for a candidate who will look out for their interests, not just the option of choosing one failed politician over the other.

Just take a look at this political cartoon developed by fellow education blogger, Fred Klonsky who is one of the most important pro-union, pro-teacher, pro-public education voices in Illinois.

 

The cartoon savoring the facts of the career of Paul Vallas first appeared on Fred Klonsky’s blog on June 12, 2014. The URL for the blog is http://preaprez.wordpress.com/2014/06/12/ten-minute-drawing-vote-for-quinnvallas-or-we-will-be-like-wisconsin/#comment-63640

Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto

Jepsen, Malloy and playing politics with the law…

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Call it naïve, but some would claim that while politics is political, America’s legal system is supposed to be above or separate from the day-to-day world of politics.

But as we Americans we are learning, our legal system is, in fact, extremely political and appears to becoming more political by the day.

At the federal level, politics surrounded cases like the Bush-Gore election or Obamacare.  Both are prime examples of how politics can influence or even trump legal proceedings.

The sad case of the politicization of the legal system is becoming even clearer here in Connecticut.

In the case of CCEJF v. Rell, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that the Connecticut Constitution requires that the state properly fund a public education system that provides every child with an adequate education and determined that Connecticut’s present education funding formula is unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court ordered that the CCEJF case be returned to the Superior Court so that the lower court could determine the meaning of adequacy and identify actions the state must take to properly fund its public schools.

Although Governor Malloy and Attorney General Jepson endorsed the CCEJF case as candidates and committed to resolving the CCEJF case and improving the school funding formula, the first thing Jepsen and Malloy did was file a motion asking the Court to remove the concept of early childhood education from the court’s definition of education.

But of course, we all know that early childhood education is one of the most vital elements in the effort to improve education achievement.

As if that wasn’t outrageous and insulting enough, more recently Jepsen and Malloy moved to have the entire CCEJF case dismissed by the courts and moved to have the CCEJF coalition removed as the case’s plaintiff.

This past week the Superior Court dismissed Jepson and Malloy’s attempt to end the case and ordered the full trail to begin on July 1, 2014.

Another example of the Malloy administration’s politics before policy approach was visible in how they handled the case of Lopez v. Vallas.  In that case Jepsen and Malloy used public funds to come to the defense of Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, when Pryor decided that while the law required that Paul Vallas could only stay on as the head of Bridgeport’s school system if he completed a school leadership program at a Connecticut institution of higher education, Pryor would allow Vallas to stay if he only took a three-credit independent study class instead.

And now we have yet another example of playing politics with a case.

The situation developed yesterday in conjunction with the case of SEBAC V. Rell.

Back in 2001, in a fit of rage and political maneuvering, Governor John Rowland laid off 2,800 unionized state employees.

A three-judge panel unanimously ruled that Rowland and Marc Ryan, his secretary of the Office of Policy and Management, had violated the law because the layoffs were only targeted toward union members.  Rowland’s action was so egregious that the court actually ruled that Rowland and Ryan should be held personally liable for the impact of their action.

As he court explained at the time, the “Defendants [Rowland and Ryan] have not shown why the state’s fiscal health required firing only union members, rather than implementing membership-neutral layoffs.”

The court went on to say that the firings “were ordered as a means of trying to compel the plaintiff unions to agree to the concessions demanded…As plaintiffs have shown that defendants fired employees based on their union membership without narrowly tailoring the terminations to a vital government interest, plaintiffs were entitled to summary judgment on their First Amendment targeting claims.”

In essence, the court ruled that Rowland’s decision to fire only union members was illegal because it was nothing more than an effort to silence and punish the union and its members,

Since the decision in the SEBAC v. Rowland was handed down when Malloy was governor, the Malloy administration had the choice of working to settle the case or appeal to the United States Supreme Court.  The chance of the Supreme Court taking the case was extremely unlikely.

The appropriate solution was simple and straight-forward.  Sit down and negotiate a settlement.

But the politics superseded the policy and Attorney General Jepsen, with Malloy’s support, announced that they were going to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

Then yesterday, Jepsen, once again with Malloy’s approval, said he is withdrawing his petition asking the United States Supreme Court to review the case and would sit down with the unions to settle the case.

As reported by CT Newsjunkie, when asked why he was withdrawing the petition for review, Jepsen said “This is the time of maximum leverage…If the petition for review was denied three or four months from now, the state would be sitting across the negotiating table from an “emboldened adversary who’s holding most of the cards.”

An “emboldened adversary who’s holding most of the cards?”

Governor Rowland broke the law by firing 2,800 state employees.  Rowland, not the state employees was the adversary.

Malloy and Jepsen could have sat down and negotiated a settlement at any time.

Instead they decided to play politics with the case, initially saying they’d appeal to the Supreme Court and now backing off that stance.

And now they say they want to settle to prevent the state employees and their unions from becoming an “emboldened advisory who’s holding most of the cards.”

Once again, elected officials seem committed to placing the value of the politics above doing the right thing for the state.

Jepsen and Malloy should never have allowed this case to drag on.

Like the CCJEF v. Rell public school funding law suit, Connecticut’s elected officials should make doing the right thing their top priority and leave the politics for another time.

Enough is enough.  Instead of scapegoating Connecticut’s public schools students or state employees, Jepsen and Malloy should roll up their sleeves, stop playing politics and settle the CCJEF case and settle the Rowland case.

You can read more about the SEBAC v. Rowland case at:

CT Newsjunkie:  State Withdraws Request For Review of Labor Case Dating Back to Rowland Administration

CT Mirror: Risking second guessing, Jepsen opens negotiations in union case against Rowland

Courant:  Jepsen Won’t Appeal Union Victory In Layoff Case

 

Malloy Gets Standing Ovation From State Union Leaders: Rank + file wonder if someone spiked the punch

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Late today the Hartford Courant posted a blog item entitled, “Malloy Gets Standing Ovation From State Union Leaders.”

The Courant wrote, “Gov. Dannel Malloy rarely receives any plaudits from Republicans or skeptics of his policies on the state budget and other issues…But he still receives a warm response from the state’s unions – as shown by a standing ovation he received this week at the state Capitol.”

If you opened your window moments later you would have heard half of all rank and file state employees and retirees musing over whether the Hartford Courant was preparing their April 1st edition early while the other half were wondering whether someone had spiked the holiday punch being served at the event.

Adding insult to injury, the Courant categorized the blog as being related to 2014 ELECTION.

Makes one assume that the reporter was also partaking of the punch…

Early Retirement Agreement Update:

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State employees who are eligible may elect to retire in lieu of layoff under the terms of the new Stipulated Agreement between the Malloy Administration and SEBAC:

State employee employed as of December 1, 2012 and you are a member of the Connecticut State Employees Retirement System (SERS).  Offer applies to non-represented employees, including managers, as well as to members of all bargaining units.  

Prior to August 31, 2011 you were under the age of 55 AND had twenty-five or more years of service. 

SERS members must irrevocably elect to retire in lieu of layoff AND sign a stipulated agreement by May 1, 2013.

Retirement date: Eligible Tier I members must retire no later than July 1, 2013.  Tier 2 members must retire no later than September 1, 2014.

Benefit to Tier I members (must retire no later than July 1, 2013): The eligible member may elect between the following two options:

a. Have their benefit reduced by 4.5% for each year they are under 55 as of their date of retirement (no later than July 1, 2013) and be entitled to the COLA provisions of individuals who retired after October 1, 2011; OR

b. Have their benefit reduced by 6.0% for each year they are under 55 as of their date of retirement (no later than July 1, 2013) and be entitled to the COLA provisions of individuals who retired before October 1, 2011.

Benefit to Tier II members who elect to retire no later than July 1, 2013:  The eligible member may elect between the following two options:

Have their benefit reduced by 4.5% for each year they are under 60 as of their date of retirement (no later than July 1, 2013) and be entitled to the COLA provisions of individuals who retired after October 1, 2011; OR

Have their benefit reduced by 6.0% for each year they are under 60 as of their date of retirement (no later than July 1, 2013) and be entitled to the COLA provisions of individuals who retired before October 1, 2011.

Benefit to Tier II members who elect to retire after July 1, 2013 and no later than September 1, 2014: The benefit will be reduced like any other early retirement benefit (6% for each year before eligibility for normal retirement), however, individuals who elect to retire in lieu of layoff will be entitled to the COLA provisions in effect for individuals who retired prior to October 1, 2011.

State/SEBAC retirement settlement finally reached…

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Last September I inaccurately reported – ALERT/UPDATE: Arbitrator rules against Malloy Administration on significant retirement issue.   Last November I wrote a post entitled, Is another Connecticut State Employee Early Retirement Incentive coming?.

The rumors and hypothesis all revolved around two factors.  What was deemed to be a potentially illegal move by the Malloy Administration to grant certain hand-selected individuals special early retirement benefits almost two years ago and the broader recognition that the Malloy Administration desperately wants to reduce the state workforce — thereby moving costs from the General Fund over to the Pension Fund.

Well, while details are still sketchy, an agreement was finally reached between late last week between the Malloy Administration and SEBAC on the early retirement grievance and details will be sent out to impacted state employees within the next 24 hours.

Those who qualify under the new agreement, the parameters of who qualifies I do not know, will be given the option to “retire early” as long as they sign the necessary paperwork by May 1 and retire by July 1.

Those receiving the emails are asked to provide additional details or additional details will be posted as they become available.

Latest Poll Reveals Governor Malloy’s Public Approval Rating: Incredibly Low

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A new public opinion survey, conducted by Public Policy Polling, a survey research firm from North Carolina, reported today that their recent survey of Connecticut voters revealed that “Dan Malloy continues to be one of the most unpopular Governors in the country in our polling. Only 33% of voters approve of him to 51% who disapprove…”  For the details of the survey see: http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/main/2012/08/connecticut-miscellany.html

The survey found that “Malloy only barely gets over 50% approval even with Democrats, at 52/33. Independents disapprove of him by a more than 2:1 margin, 25/53, and with Republicans he’s at 15/73.”

The survey report concludes that “Malloy would trail a hypothetical GOP opponent for reelection right now by a 46/39 margin.”

But as the press release recognizes, by political standards, there is still “plenty of time” for Malloy to rebuild his support.

That said, the results clearly indicate that his policies and approach to governing have not only alienated the vast majority of Republicans and Unaffiliated voters, but his level of support among Democrats remains at record lows.

As far as the total electorate is concerned, the weak economy, Malloy’s 2011 record tax increase, the state’s on-going budget deficits and the sense that he spends an inordinate amount of time cutting ribbons, attending ground breaking ceremonies and generally acting more like a candidate than a governor are probably some of the biggest factors reducing his level of voter support.

In addition, many voters probably question his frequent out of state trips and non-essential expenditure of state funds.  An ironic example was that the headline beside the news about today’s poll read “Malloy To China: ‘To Put Connecticut On The Map’”.

While people who monitor and run political campaigns would suggest that the overall numbers are very troubling, the real news is Malloy’s the lack of support among Democrats and women.

In a state like Connecticut, where unaffiliated voters make up an increasingly larger proportion of voters, a Democratic candidate must start with the vast majority of Democratic voters and a significant majority of women voters, and then a sufficient number of unaffiliated voters to win.

By comparison, this latest public opinion survey reports that only 52% of Democrats approve of the Governor’s job performance and only 34% of women voters approve of Malloy’s performance.

Unfortunately, the poll does not provide enough information to identify why Malloy’s job performance rating is so low.

However, having studied Connecticut voting patterns over the past four decades, the most likely reason is that Governor Dannel Malloy’s policies and priorities have proven to be very different then the policies and priorities that he had promised when he was candidate Dan Malloy.

The Governor’s systematic attack to undermine and vilify Connecticut’s state employees and teachers are just two examples of where Malloy said one thing during the campaign and then did something completely different when he became governor.

For example, during the campaign Malloy often spoke about the importance of public employees but then last year, he spent much of his time decrying excessive state salaries, pensions and the “work ethic” of state employees.  During the 2011 Legislative Session, Malloy would regularly claim that many state employees received pensions of over $100,000, when the fact, the average state employee pension is less than a third of that amount.

Then this year, Malloy shifted his assault to one that repeatedly attacked Connecticut’s public school teachers.  At one point Malloy claimed that all school teachers had to do was show up at school for 4 years and they’d get tenure, when, teachers and parents know that most teachers work extremely hard, earning every dollar of their salary.

Later during the “education reform” debate, Malloy said that he didn’t mind if Connecticut’s education system focused on “teaching to the test,” as long as the standardized test scores went up.  It was a position that teachers and parents found extremely ignorant and insulting.

Beyond the damage this type of rhetoric has had on his support from state employees, teachers and their families, is the reality that most Democrats believe in the role of public servants and the need for a more active, effective government.

Finally, in addition, Malloy’s decision to oppose any tax increase on those making over $1 million dollars while proposing major tax increases on middle income working families, has left many Democrats disillusioned.

Despite all of the above, it is important to reiterate that considering the next gubernatorial election is more than two years away, the Governor and his team still have time to repair some of their relationships with key Democratic voting segments.

Background Note:  For those who regularly monitor political polling, it is important to recognize that Public Policy Polling uses a somewhat controversial automated telephone interview process.  Voters are called and asked to complete an automated survey.  For example, the recording will read a question and then ask, if you agree with that statement push 1, if you disagree with that statement push 2.  Over the years that have been widespread concern that automated calling is not as accurate as surveys conducted by actually phone operators.  That said, the accuracy of this type of polling has been fairly accurate and many campaigns, organizations and media outlets use an automated polling process on a regular basis.

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