September 24, 2012

Searchable: Government Lobbying Contracts

Most citizens have at least a cursory familiarity with the role of lobbying in the political process. Lobbying refers to actions that individuals, groups, and special interests undertake for the purpose of influencing public officials. Typically, lobbying occurs on behalf of private parties. However, a far more concerning form of lobbying — and one with which far fewer citizens are familiar — is lobbying that occurs on behalf of public institutions, which taxpayer dollars fund.

Taxpayer-funded lobbying — often referred to as intergovernmental lobbying — is the process of one governmental entity lobbying another. The entities that engage in this brand of lobbying include school districts, universities, police departments, fire protection districts, cities, counties, and various other agencies at every level of government that — in turn — lobby each other, state governments, and the federal government. In essence, taxpayer-funded lobbying implies that government — quite literally — lobbies itself.

According to Americans for Prosperity, this form of lobbying consumes up to $1 trillion of the tax revenue collected in this country each year. In consideration of tight budgets across the state of Missouri, expenditures such as these warrant particular scrutiny and a careful evaluation of the effects and legitimacy of intergovernmental lobbying.

There are many other concerns with taxpayer-funded lobbying. The largest is simply the unseemliness of its role in the constant expansion of the role of government at every level in all of our lives.

The Show-Me Institute’s Missouri government lobbying project is dedicated to bringing some sunlight into the practice. We have attempted to collect every current lobbying contract between a government institution and a private lobbying firm in Missouri. That effort is ongoing. It is our hope that interested Missourians will use this information to more effectively monitor their own local governments. Staying vigilant in regards to the activities of your government is difficult. We hope this tool makes it a little easier.

REPORT: “Taxpayer-Funded Lobbying: Government Lobbying Government,” by David Stokes and Abhi Sivasailam
RELATED COMMENTARY: “Missouri’s Taxpayers Lobbying To Pay More Taxes?” by Mary Kate Hopkins

If the embed does render properly in your browser, you can also search these documents here.

September 10, 2012

Searchable: Teacher Collective Bargaining Agreements in Missouri’s Public Schools

In 2011, the Missouri Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of American Federation of Teachers v. Ledbetter. The case is pending a decision as of July 12, 2012. At issue is whether a public school district has a legal “duty” to collectively bargain in “good faith” with a teachers’ union. Before addressing the specifics, some historical context is needed.

In 1947, the Missouri Supreme Court, in City of Springfield v. Clouse, held that the city of Springfield, Mo., could not collectively bargain employment contracts with public employee unions. The reason was twofold. First, the Missouri Constitution’s clause guaranteeing the right to collectively bargain did not apply to public employees. Second, public entities such as cities act on behalf of the general public and therefore, only elected legislators, as the people’s representatives, may set the terms of employment for public employees. Non-elected public officers lacked the requisite authority to collectively bargain with labor unions.

Fast forward to 2007. In Independence-NEA v. Independence School District, the Missouri Supreme Court partially overruled Clouse and held that the Missouri Constitution’s collective bargaining clause extended to public school teachers. The court rested its opinion in large part on the modern trend recognizing a legislature’s power to delegate its decision-making authority to administrative agencies. Because a legislature “may” delegate its power to negotiate and agree to the terms of public employment, the constitution’s collective bargaining guarantee was held to extend to all public employees, including teachers.

If due respect is to be paid to the legislature, then the following question naturally arises: Did the Missouri General Assembly in fact delegate this authority to public school districts? And how can one reconcile the majority’s broad recognition of the power to delegate with its stern rejection of the legislature’s discretionary choice to exclude public school teachers from its grant of collective bargaining rights?

Specifically, the Missouri General Assembly enacted the Public Sector Labor Law in 1965. The Act empowers certain public employees to join labor organizations for the purpose of negotiating terms of employment. But the legislature expressly excluded school teachers from its provisions. By exercising its power to delegate, the legislature “selectively” delegated its powers by withholding statutory collective bargaining rights from teachers. One may ask whether the power to delegate implies the power to withhold.

For now, the law regarding a school district’s legal obligation to collectively bargain is in flux. The trial court in Ledbetter held that school districts had no duty to bargain. The court in Independence clearly supported the constitutional right for teachers to collectively bargain, but further held that school districts are under no obligation to agree to contractual terms that the teachers’ bargaining agent proposes. If the Supreme Court in Ledbetter adds a good faith requirement, school districts will suffer a diminished right, a right recognized in Independence, to reject union proposals.

In light of the current state of flux, and the importance of this issue for Missouri taxpayers and schools, the Show-Me Institute has begun gathering and reporting collective bargaining agreements and related agreements between school districts and certified staff governing the terms of employment for teachers.

We sent letters to the largest 100 districts in Missouri requesting all such agreements. Agreements include formal collective bargaining agreements and other agreements such as closure documents. The common denominator, however, is the written expression of the terms of employment between a district and its certified teaching staff.

The responses we received are searchable below. Moreover by simply double-clicking on a document the entire document is viewable. We welcome your feedback.

July 17, 2012

What Is Show-Me Sunshine?

Welcome! Show-Me Sunshine, a collaborative project of the Show-Me Institute, is a government document library which the Institute has amassed over the years not only for our own research, but also for the public’s benefit. Made possible by our donors, the documents herein offer readers a sneak peek into how our government works, how it oftentimes does not work, and, sometimes, how our government can work better. Every document tells a story, and while we have certainly told many of them, we have not told all of them.

This is your government. These are your documents. Please peruse them, search them, and scrutinize them. As former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once said, “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.” We hope Show-Me Sunshine assists those purposes.

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