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Friday, November 25, 2011

Worst kept secret, the Florida legislature hates teacher's unions

From the Orlando Sentinel

by Scott Maxwell

Union-bashing and -busting has reached an unprecedented intensity in Tallahassee this year. That’s not new. Still, when I first heard about House Bill 1023, it seemed so blatantly unfair and illogical on its face that I presumed the teachers (who were worried about it) had misunderstood it. They had not.

HB 1023,was drafted by State Rep. Scott Plakon (and co-sponsored by Matt Gaetz), allegedly to crack down on union leaders who falsely claim to represent more workers than they actually do.

The bill would require all labor unions to “re-certify” themselves and prove they have widespread worker support before they can do much of anything.

Now, for sake of argument, let’s assume Plakon’s premise is correct and his bill is direly needed. Let’s skip over the intricacies of what this would require and assume Plakon has unearthed a rampant scandal (union leaders pretending to speak for workers they don’t actually represent) and the perfect way to address it.

Why, then, did Plakon choose to exempt a select few unions — specifically “law enforcement” and “firefighters”?

Why on earth (again, assuming this is actually a problem, mind you) would Plakon think it is OK for cop union bosses and firefighter union bosses to misrepresent their brethren and sistren on the front lines?

Why shouldn’t they have to prove they actually speak for the majority of their peers as well?

Because, Plakon, responded: “What they do is different.”

His response , of course, was a nonsensical non sequitur. What they do for a living should have nothing to do with Plakon’s belief that all union bosses should have to prove they actually represent a majority of their peers. (In fact, if Plakon had a special affinity for law enforcement, he should want to be EXTRA sure that their evil union bosses weren’t misrepresenting them, too.)

I told Plakon as much; that his logic seemed inconsistent – more like a naked attempt to hassle the unions he didn’t like while carving out special exemptions for the public-safety unions — the ones that more often support Republicans and which most all politicians like to be seen supporting.

Then Plakon did something I wasn’t really expecting: He agreed with me …

Kind of, anyway.

While Plakon didn’t agree with all the motives I mentioned, he admitted that the bill wasn’t fair. He said House advisers had told him as much, mentioning it might even be unconstitutional to try to selectively crack down on some unions and not others. (That was the part I’d determined in about 15 seconds after I first heard of the bill … no House advisers needed.)

By the end of the conversation Friday afternoon, Plakon said he would likely withdraw it — even though he was positive the bill was dead anyway.

“I drafted the bill in a hurry,” he said. “And I realized very quickly there were a couple of issues with it. Really, I just wanted to get the conversation started.”

Frankly, I’m not sure I buy that. And even if I did, I am getting damn tired of legislators in this state drafting blatantly unfair or unconstitutional bills (Jason Brodeur’s throw-docs-in-jail bill is another example) and then claiming: Hey, no big deal. It was just a first draft.

Listen gentlemen: We are not talking about notes you scratched down on the back of a cocktail napkin. These aren’t text messages to your buddy, e-mails to your wife or Post-it notes on your fridge. We are talking about draft legislation for the Florida House of Representatives. And if you can’t take that seriously enough to do basic research to determine if your proposal is fair and Constitutional, then you should stop filing legislation – period.

I give Plakon credit for acknowledging his bill was flawed and abandoning his quest to pass it. Some pols wouldn’t even do that. But a much better idea would be to file fair, legal and well-researched proposals in the first place.

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