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Important Legislative Updates & Other News from Columbus
Big Higher Ed Changes Proposed in MBR Bill
On February 22, Department of Higher Education Director John Carey unveiled changes and new initiatives to Ohio's higher education system that will be addressed in a mid-biennium review (MBR) bill. The highlights can be found in this document.
The stated aim of these proposals is to drive down college costs. They believe the way to do this is by giving students college credit for remediation courses, pushing three years of community college, allowing community colleges to award up to 10 bachelor's degrees, and partnering with Western Governors University to award competency-based credit.
We can appreciate that there is a desire to find ways to make earning a degree more affordable for Ohio students. As faculty, we hate to see our students going into debt for achieving an education. Unfortunately, though, these proposals continue the "band-aid" approach that we've seen under the Kasich administration. They fail to address the chronic under-funding of higher education, as well as the misplaced spending priorities at our institutions.
Additionally, there is failure to recognize the unintended consequences of these proposals. Universities could be severely impacted by community colleges offering degrees and students taking three years, instead of two, at the community college level. Moreover, we should be highly skeptical of Western Governors University, a "university" without any faculty, awarding dubious competency-based credit.
Ohio decision-makers must be cautious that in trying to make higher education less expensive, they are not cheapening it.
Unemployment Overhaul Heavily Criticized
House Bill 394, a proposed massive overhaul of Ohio's unemployment compensation system, was introduced late last year. Republican leaders had aimed to pass the bill by the end of January, but have not advanced the bill even out of the House after facing heavy criticism from labor organizations, newspapers, and even Senate Republicans.
The bill is supposed to address the solvency issues of the Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund, but does so by proposing to dramatically cut laid-off workers' benefits. The bill does not address the real source of the money shortfall, which is that for far too long, employers have been paying too little into the system.
Under the bill as it currently stands, disbursements to beneficiaries would no longer be based on the number of dependents one has. The bill also would deny benefits to employees who were laid off due to violating any term of an employee handbook. Moreover, it would deny disbursements to workers who are locked out due to a labor dispute.
There is nothing good about this bill.
The Ohio AFL-CIO has set-up an Action Network page through which you can send a message to your State Representative expressing concerns with this legislation. You also can get patched through to your representative's office by calling (844) 213-8172.
HB 48 - Guns on Campus - Update
On January 27, House Bill 48 received its first hearing in the Ohio Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee. The first hearing always is sponsor testimony only, so HB 48 sponsor Rep. Maag gave his pitch for what has been called the "guns everywhere" bill.
Of particular concern to AAUP are the provisions of the bill that would allow boards of trustees to establish their own "campus carry" policies, while absolving them of liability that might result from an incident involving a conceal/carry permit holder on their campus. In addition, even if campuses are kept gun-free, permit holders that carry on campus would face a minor misdemeanor instead of a felony - the current degree of offense under Ohio law.
Conference leaders have been meeting one-on-one with members of the committee to discuss our concerns with this legislation. We are hearing that the bill likely will move forward either after the March primary or the November elections. When it does start to receive additional hearings, we expect it to move quickly.
Even though we believe there is a good chance that the campus provisions will remain in the bill, we are cautiously optimistic that Republicans may be open to amending the bill to address the liability and degree of offense issues.
Regardless, it still is critical that your State Senator hears from you about this bill. They will take silence as acceptance.
When contacting legislators, we recommend that you use your personal e-mail address. Your institution may have a policy about using your .edu account in expressing views to government officials.
In case you missed it, OCAAUP President John McNay wrote an op-ed
that appeared in the Cincinnati Enquirer about why our organization opposes HB 48.
Scalia's Death Impacts SCOTUS Union Case
The sudden death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has shaken up an already interesting political landscape this year. But of most importance to the AAUP is how this affects the Friedrichs case that threatens to impose "right-to-work" on public sector unions; that is, ban unions from collecting fair share fees from non-members for the services that the union provides to them.
If you haven't already, we encourage you to read "The Future of Friedrichs in the Supreme Court" by AAUP General Counsel Risa Lieberwitz for an analysis on this situation.
It needs to be noted that West Virginia, a state that has long been known as an organized labor stronghold, just recently became the 26th state to enact "right-to-work." We know that these attacks on working people will continue.
As we have reported previously, there is currently a "right-to-work" bill for the private sector pending in the Ohio General Assembly (HB 377). We have conjectured that the only reason Republicans hadn't introduced the same bill for the public sector is because they thought that the Friedrichs case would take care of it for them. Consequently, we should not be surprised to see a public sector "right-to-work" bill introduced in the wake of uncertainty at the Supreme Court. As always, we will keep you informed on any developments.
Look for OCAAUP Elections on National Ballot
This year, OCAAUP Board elections are being held in conjunction with National AAUP elections. Ballots will be mailed to each member between March 3 and 7. Elections will close on April 15, and results will be posted around April 21.
The OCAAUP positions and candidates on the ballot are:
President: John McNay (University of Cincinnati)
Secretary: John Blackburn (Ohio State University)
At-Large Member - Private Institution: Anita Waters (Denison University)
At-Large Member - Private Institution or Public Institution <100 members: Mitchell Eismont (Central State University)