Members of the Tennessee Education Association in red tee-shirts watched warily Monday night, as their right to negotiate with school boards survived one more vote. The state House of Representatives delayed considering a kinder, gentler bill regarding collective bargaining. Instead, House members found another way to fight over the teachers’ union.
The lively debate began when Republican Representative Joey Hensley pushed his bill to kick TEA representatives off the state retirement board.
“This would allow all teachers that are vested in the retirement system that opportunity. Not just the select ones in the teachers’ union.”
Hensley’s bill brought criticism from House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh. He called it a forerunner to the even more controversial collective bargaining bill, which will come up later this week.
“We know that we’ll be talking about that for some period of time on Thursday. And some have called that an attack on teachers. This bill was probably the first bill that started that, frankly.”
The retirement board bill passed the House 58 to 40, with most Democrats voting against it.
The bill removing TEA representatives from the retirement board now goes to the governor for his signature.
The bill changing TEA representation on the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System board is HB 565 Hensley/SB 102 Gresham.
Currently three teacher representatives serve on the TCRS board, appointed by the TEA, and one retired teacher representative serves, appointed by a TEA-connected organization for retired teachers.
Under the new bill, the speaker of the Senate would appoint two teachers, and the speaker of the House would appoint one active teacher and the retired teacher.
The board is made up of 20 members, including six state officials who serve because of their positions (the commissioner of finance and administration, for instance) and also members appointed by the Tennessee County Services Association, the Tennessee Municipal League, and either a police officer or firefighter appointed by the governor from lists submitted by professional organizations.
House Democratic Caucus Chair Mike Turner of Nashville cites those other organizations, who continue to control appoints to the TCRS board, as he argues against the bill.
“But we didn’t decide to do anything with the fire or police officers. We didn’t decide to do anything with TML. …You know, there’s a lot of cities that don’t belong to the Tennessee Municipal League in this state, too. So there might be some of them that might want the same opportunity that you’re givin’ …these teachers…..It seems like to me you’ve singled these teachers out. That’s that reason we say this is an attack on teachers. This appears to be punitive against teachers.”
The bill had earlier passed the Senate, 20-13, on a strict party line vote, all Republicans for, all Democrats against.
The more-high-profile collective bargaining bill is HB 130 Maggart/SB 113 Johnson.
Having put the kinder, gentler House amendment on the bill – and thus ensuring that the two chambers are looking at different versions – Representative Debra Maggart immediately put off voting on the bill to Thursday.
It has already passed in the Senate, leaving the focus on the House. If the two chambers pass different versions, the final bill would be threshed out in a conference committee.
Democratic members had earlier asked Maggart to put off a vote on the bill because so many Democrats had intended to be in Memphis on Monday to attend President Barack Obama’s address to a Memphis high school.