March 23, 2011

A Chance to Mend the Teachers' Health Insurance Board

Carroll Andrew Morse

A bill will come before the Rhode Island Senate Health and Human Services Committee today, S0483, that would if passed alter the mandate of the "Uniform Public School Employees' Health Care Benefits Program Committee" (aka the "Teachers' Health Insurance Board"). This board was created by the legislature two sessions ago over a veto by Governor Donald Carcieri and is comprised of representatives of private organizations -- no gubernatorial appointments or Senate confirmation involved -- who have been granted the power to create binding rules on local school committees for selecting teachers' health-insurance plans.

In case you are wondering which organizations participate in this board and whom they have selected as their representatives, the current membership is available on the Secretary of State's website in the minutes of the January meeting

Ned Draper, RIASBO, Business Managers
Ron Tarro, RIASBO, Business Managers
Larry Purtill, NEA, National Education Association
Bob Walsh, NEA, National Education Association
Bob O’Brien, RISSA, Superintendents
Mike Clarkin, RISSA, Superintendents
Ben Scungio, RIASC, School Committees’ Association
Cathy Kaiser, RIASC, School Committees’ Association
Frank Flynn, RIFT, RI Federation of Teachers
Jim Parisi, RIFT, RI Federation of Teachers
Ken DeLorenzo, Council 94
Donald Ianniazzi, LIUNA
It really puts a new spin the understanding of what union leaders mean when they advocate for "collective bargaining", when you can pretty clearly see through an example like this one that the goal is "collective bargaining, in the cases where we can't get outright legal authority to require the public to provide what we tell them to".

Three Democratic Senators, Hanna Gallo (D-Cranston), Frank DeVall (D-East Providence), and Louis DiPalma (D-Little Compton/Newport/Middletown/Tiverton) (not Senators thought of as members of the Michael Pinga caucus, by the way, which means the bill has support from more than the usual RI Senate stalwarts) have submitted a bill that would make the role of this board purely advisory, freeing school committees to exercise their independent judgment on behalf of their constituents, and protecting basic governing principles of separation-of-powers and that decisions involving expenditures of public money should made be by publicly-elected representatives.

We could have an interesting debate about what the proper term is for describing the form of government where leaders of a limited set of restricted-membership organizations get to make decisions that require public monies to be spent on their own restricted-membership organizations -- but it is not democracy, in any understanding of the term.

Let's pass S0483, and make this debate into a truly academic one.


National Education Association Assistant Exeuctive Director and Government Relations Specialist Patrick Crowley informs via the comments section that there is a consensus amongst his and other unions in favor of the legislation changing the Uniform Public School Employees' Health Care Benefits Program Committee to an advisory status only.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

For the record, NEARI and the other unions support this legislation. We were happy to stand with the Tea Party representatives this afternoon at the State House in support of these changes.

Posted by: Pat Crowley at March 23, 2011 9:29 PM

I will run an update.

So what changed your mind on this? I wouldn't presume that it was AR's arguments on the subject, no matter how impeccable; could it have been Ed Achorn's column from a few weeks back?

Posted by: Andrew at March 23, 2011 10:18 PM

Actually, they are valid points. We raised the very same issues at the last meeting of the board.

and, for the record, my title is now Government Relations Director.

Posted by: Pat Crowley at March 23, 2011 10:47 PM

You'll always be able to get a head start on issues like this, by reading Anchor Rising.

Regarding the title issue, I can send an email to NEA-RI headqurters telling them they've got it wrong on their website, if you'd like.

Posted by: Andrew at March 23, 2011 11:49 PM

Also, Patrick Crowley replaced me on the Board last Fall when I left for surgery.

John Marion deserves the credit for bringing the underlying issue to my attention last summer. I agreed with his assessment regarding separation of powers.

Posted by: Bob Walsh at March 24, 2011 6:29 AM

Hey Andrew, NEARI's internet guru John Leidecker has been a little too busy with other NEARI internet biz recently. I'm sure Johnny will be happy to update Ducky's website info once they take the cuffs off. lol

Posted by: Tim at March 24, 2011 7:20 AM
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