Man is a political animal, said Aristotle, and Alexander the Great's tutor should know - especially considering Aristotle's career in academic politics. So while the United Faculty of Florida is officially a creature of laws - bargaining and enforcing the contract - it is also necessarily a creature of politics. (Especially since laws are themselves creations of politicians.) In this issue, we take a look at some more overt politics.
Every spring, the USF Chapter of the United Faculty of Florida elects its officers and representatives for the term from April to April. Only dues-paying UFF members may participate in chapter elections by running or voting. This year, the four officers ran unopposed, and they were elected for the term: President Art Shapiro, Vice President Steve Lang, Secretary Greg McColm, and Treasurer Sonia Wohlmuth.
USF was also allocated 21 UFF Senate seats, one for each 25 members. The president serves ex officio, and we had eighteen nominated candidates: Henry Alegria, Adrienne Berarducci, Karin Braunsberger, Pablo Brescia, Sheila Goethe, Leon Hardy, Steve Lang, Richard Manning, Greg McColm, Kathleen de la Pena McCook, Adriana Novoa, Vic Peppard, Steve Permuth, Scott Perry, Patricia Pettijohn, Frank Pyrtle III, Robert Welker, and Sonia Wohlmuth. All of them are thus senators. In addition, we had a number of write-in candidates, and the remaining seats will be determined at tomorrow's chapter meeting where ties will be broken by lot; the remaining eligible and willing write-in candidates will serve as alternates.
USF was allocated seven FEA Delegate seats, using a more complex formula. We had four nominated candidates: Greg McColm, Steve Permuth, Art Shapiro, and Milton Wendland. All of them are thus delegates. In addition, we had a number of write-in candidates, and Steve Lang and Scott Perry were elected. the remaining seats will be determined at tomorrow's chapter meeting where ties will be broken by lot; the remaining eligible and willing write-in candidates will serve as alternates.
A more complete report of the results will be posted on our website once the Chapter has finalized the election. We thank all those who participated, those who ran and those who voted and those who were willing and able to serve when receiving write-in votes. But most of all, we thank the Election Committee, and especially its chair, Sara Dykins Callahan.
Editorial Comment. USF is a sprawling system and has a history of faculty and professional isolation and hence non-participation that affects governance, community engagement, and yes, UFF. Worse, we are in hard times: only seven years ago, organizations from the UFF to the Council of 100 were excited about a new I-4 Initiative that would help move Florida to the forefront in education and, consequently, in economic development. Since then, Tallahassee has developed a crabbed attitude towards the future, and education and scholarship - among other fundamentally forward-looking enterprises - have been playing defense. But retreat will only make things worse, for things will not get better unless people of good will work to make it better. So we strongly encourage everyone to get involved in the organizations that support our university and our community.
The economy seems okay - so okay that there are rumors that the Federal Reserve will hike interest rates sometime soon. Eurozone unemployment is down, but income inequality here is growing and the Congressional Budget Office is once again warning about the debt. Predictably, politicians and economists are all over the map over where we are going and what we should do about it. The budget may soon take over Washington; it already has taken over Tallahassee.
The governor would like to spend money recruiting businesses and tourists to come to Florida. The Florida Senate President would like to spend money on education and water. Both rely on rising property values to increase tax revenues, and meanwhile the House wants to cut taxes. So they are about two billion dollars apart (out of a budget of eighty billion or so). Making matters worse is Medicaid, which all three would like to cut, or foist onto the hospitals, or something.
The budget battle is affecting everything else, which makes outcomes of other bills harder to predict. Here are some bills we are watching:
UFF and Florida Education Association staff have been educating legislators about the benefits and consequences of these and other bills during this session.
- Representative Scott Plakon's House Bill 11 on Labor Organizations would revoke certification of any public employees union (except police and fire) whose dues-paying membership is less than half of the collection of employees it represents (UFF represents about a third of the employees in the UFF USF Bargaining Unit, so that means us). The bill just passed the House 75-41. It now goes to the Senate as Senator Dennis Baxley's Senate Bill 1292 on Labor Organizations.
- There appear to be four House bills and eight Senate bills on guns winding through the legislature. Only one has moved anywhere in the last month, and Senator Greg Steube's Senate Bill 646 was "postponed" in committee last week.
- Senator Jason Brodeur's House Bill 7007 on the State Group Insurance Program to fiddle with our health insurance passed the House 77-37. There is a "similar" bill moving through the Senate.
- Representative Ramon Alexander and Senator Jeff Clemens have introduced a pair of bills to have the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability analyze performance funding models before they are inflicted on us. But there has been no movement on House Bill 1125 or Senate Bill 1456 so far.
If you have any strong feelings about this or other legislation, you can always let your legislator know. For some advice about how to do this, see the Biweekly article on Talking to Politicians.