Thursday, February 25, 2010

Day Two Report from Carson City: important vote expected today on NSHE budget

NFA member - lobbyist Jim Richardson reports from Carson City.

Of particular importance is the news that today the state Assembly will take a show-of-hands vote on whether to reduce the cuts to Higher Education budget (as they did yesterday for K12). This morning would be a good day to remind your state assembly representative that we have already sustained nearly 20% cuts in total operating budget (nearly 30% in state funding) and that our students have already sustained fee increases of greater than 40%.

Day Two Report:

Very busy day yesterday, with lots happening, including a major event for NSHE. Dan Klaich made a strong presentation to the Senate committee-of-the-whole that lasted nearly two hours. ....

Many questions were asked about the implementation of the furlough program, about tenure and its protections, about faculty workload, about criteria being used to decide which programs to cut in the face of budget cuts, level of tuition and plans to possibly increase tuition, student involvement in planning, plans to deal with possible redundancies and reorganization within the System. ...some strong support was received on behalf of the work of professors from some Senators, especially Bob Coffin, Steven Horsford, and Randolph Townsend. ...

Both houses of the Legislature started taking straw votes on items on the governor’s list of proposed cuts ....An important straw vote is anticipated this morning in the Assembly on possibly lowering the proposed cut to NSHE institutions. Very important vote!

One major serious of events that occurred yesterday is worth a comment. The governor has issued a proclamation attempting to force a shut-down of the special session by midnight Sunday night, and he has also attacked legislators including especially Senator Raggio. This has, in my estimation, solidified the Legislature somewhat, and may make it easier for both parties and both houses to reach agreement on what must be done. It is getting more clear that the package they approve will be vetoed by the governor, and then need to be over-ridden by the Legislature. So, this could get even more interesting!

A much larger than usual meeting of the Benefits Coalition [in which NFA participates with other public service advocacy groups] took place at noon yesterday. Over 30 representatives showed up for the meeting, with much discussion about the efforts to cut PEBP reserves, to find ways to get money from PERS to help with the budget crisis, attempts to change the collective bargaining law for local governments, implementation of the furlough program, and various initiative petitions that are being promoted. Efforts to cut PEBP reserves are being challenged by some key legislators, so there is some hope that this will not happen, and many are working on that issue. It was generally agreed that getting money from PERS was a non-starter given the constitutional protections that PERS funds have. The governor issued a new proclamation yesterday that was seen as a broad attack on collective bargaining, especially for K-12 teachers, but legislative leaders do not seem interested in taking up that complicated issue. ...

Watch for more NFA legislative updates and updates on developments at the System and campus level here. NFA members will receive regular email updates as well.

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