February 2, 2012

Legislation to Beat Cities and Towns Senseless with Their Own Amputated Legs

Justin Katz

Fresh on the heels of Governor Chafee's declaration of the Year of the Cities and Towns, Reps. Scott Guthrie (D, Coventry), Roberto DaSilva (D, East Prov., Pawtucket), and John Savage (R, East Prov.) have introduced legislation (H7317) that may win the sure-to-be-tough contest for union-loving lunacy:

28-7-7.1. Representation of towns and cities - maximum legal fees. — Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary contained in any general or public law, rule or regulation, legal fees pertaining to a labor contract entered into by a city or town, shall not exceed two tenths of one percent (0.2%) of the value of the contract.

Says Guthrie in the associated press release:

"My legislation is not intended to interfere with contract negotiations, or muddle the legal process associated with them... My legislation is intended to be a form of property tax relief, by setting a specific monetary cap on legal fees so they do not grow and grow like top seed."

One needn't be but so cynical to think that his legislation just might be intended to add a restraint on the employer in negotiations. They have to fight with the knowledge that a buzzer will eventually go off requiring them to lower their gloves and take whatever beating is coming their way.

Then again, given the lack of a "what then" in the legislation, a municipality surely would gain some immunity to accusations of unfair negotiation tactics if it unilaterally imposes contract terms the day that the law says its paid advocate has to go home.

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There must be something missing here, besides any intelligence from the sponsors!

I'm sure these fine folks believe in "good faith bargaining?" Maybe they should practice "Good Faith Legislating!"

.2% of the value of the contract? Define "value of the contract." Is it the total cost of all wages to be paid and benefits provided under that contract for its entire term? If so, then a teacher contract could have a three year value of anywhere from $10 million to $600 million! That would limit the legal fees to only $20,000 for really small towns up to $1.2 million for the large city teacher contracts. Hmmm.

What happens if the money runs out in the middle of a legal;ly required mediation or binding arbitration? Does the city/town lose be default?

These jerks bring stupid to a whole new level.

Posted by: John at February 2, 2012 7:46 AM

But let me guess, the union can spend millions in suing the town, right?

How about we cap the towns at 0.2% and we cap the union at 0.1%? Fair, right?

Posted by: Patrick at February 2, 2012 9:05 AM

This is insanity. It's like trying to prevent car accidents by limiting medical costs.

Posted by: Dan at February 2, 2012 9:28 AM

Guthrie is a retired firefighter. Since when do public employee unions care about property tax relief? Justin is correct. Nothing more than neutering the collective bargaining process.

Posted by: Don Botts at February 2, 2012 9:54 AM

Same guy that has introduced/co-sponsored perpetual contracts and binding arbitration for years; along with Rep. Savage. Now Rep Carnavale is their "prime" sponsor. At each and every committee hearing they point to East Prov. and legal costs. Why? Because E.P. represents a landmark decision against labor's tactics.

So, where does the revenue come from for Labor's legal counsel? They coyly suggest that their costs are diminished compared with school committee costs. Bottom line, taxpayers foot the bill for both. Just reduce the scope of bargaining.

Posted by: Lee at February 2, 2012 10:00 AM

"so they do not grow and grow like top seed."
I am sure he meant "grow like topsy", perhaps that is the reporter's error. He should be warned that the phrase is drawn from Uncle Tom's Cabin and is now considered racist, similar to "touching the tar baby".

Posted by: Warrington Faust at February 2, 2012 10:08 AM

I wonder if he said "grow like Topsy" and the reporter decided to "clean him up".

Posted by: Warrington Faust at February 2, 2012 10:12 AM

Congratulations Guthrie-
After a year of reviewing your work you have beaten out Ajiello, Diaz, Carnavele, Pichardo, Perry and Handy for the David Segal Scummiest Legislator of the Session trophy.

Posted by: Tommy Cranston at February 2, 2012 3:02 PM
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