Friday, May 14, 2010

Bishop Calls Democratic Negotiators "Terrorists"

After much arm-twisting, the school employee retirement bill passed in the dead of night. By all indications, this was the Senate Republican plan, after House legislation on the issue was rejected out-of-hand (For complete details on the package - and it gets confusing for the layperson - see the Gongwer/MiTech stories here and here. Lots of moving parts).

Senate Democrats withheld immediate effect, Sen. Mike Prusi saying that the "bill attempts to balance the budget on the backs of teachers who have already given up concessions". In the end, the Democrats looked to leverage their votes into the very small compromise of holding hearings on issues important to them. Not votes on legislation, mind you, or anything that would actually require the Senate Republicans to show some cooperation or bipartisanship when it comes to governing this state, but simple hearings.

Remember, this all comes after the Senate Republicans apparently got their way on this legislation. And when I said that Mike Bishop shows "utter disrespect for his colleagues in the legislature", he steps right up again to prove my point. How in the world are you supposed to have "bipartisanship" when you are dealing with a leader who only looks at the world through the lenses of his Glenn Beck-colored glasses ?

Negotiations took longer than expected as last-minute issues emerged, such as how to prevent too many teachers from retiring from areas where teachers are at a premium -- including special education and science.

Frustration peaked early this morning when after the bill passed, Senate Democrats held out on a separate vote to give the bill immediate effect.

A super majority, or 26 votes, was needed. Without immediate effect, school districts would not have been able to take advantage of any retirement cost savings when setting their budgets for the next school year by July 1 because the employees have to retire by this summer.

But State Sen. Deb Cherry, D-Burton, cast the final vote needed to give the bill immediate effect -- only after Senate Republicans agreed to hold hearings on issues of importance to Senate Democrats.

"I can't believe we just sat there for that long," said Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester. "That was negotiating with terrorists on something that was $3.1 billion in savings for the state of Michigan.

You will do everything that serves the agenda of Mike Bishop, or you're a "terrorist".

Where do you begin to deal with a mentality like that.

The MEA is convinced that the legislation won't get as many takers as they think, saying that "this isn't enough of a financial incentive to push the trigger on retiring". We will see. With the majority of districts around the state being forced to cut teaching positions this year, between the local incentives and/or this package, something has to give, period. The best this does is make retirement voluntary for some; if not, there are going to be cuts anyway. The saddest part of all is that we are going to lose some very experienced and dedicated people from the ranks here and there - and losing good teachers is always a tragedy.

And we still haven't filled the K-12 hole - we've just made the deficit smaller. In other words, this isn't over yet.