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Doug Finke

STATEHOUSE INSIDER: AFSCME contract suit may not be heard until next year

An impasse, or not an impasse? The courts will ultimately decide

An impasse, or not an impasse? The courts will ultimately decide

It’s been so long now that some of you might have forgotten that the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees still doesn’t have a new contract with the state to replace the one that expired in June 2015.

The dispute was expected to have an appellate court hearing by now.

It hasn’t, and it won’t for a while yet.

If you remember way back to spring, the courts blocked the administration from imposing its contract terms on AFSCME until there was a decision on whether an impasse did indeed exist between the union and the state on a new contract.

The state says there is an impasse, which would mean it can impose its contract terms. AFSCME says there isn’t one.

The state wanted the Illinois Supreme Court to immediately take up the case last spring, but it refused. The high court said it had to go to the appeals court first.

Oral arguments in the case were originally scheduled for August. However, over the summer the appeals court granted extensions so that both sides could file additional paperwork and replies to paperwork. Given the latest schedule for filing stuff, AFSCME doesn’t think oral arguments will happen until early next year.

That’s just the arguments part of this. Then the court will still have to render its opinion. And it’s pretty much a given that whichever side loses in the appellate court will take it to the state Supreme Court. That process will presumably take several more months.

That means a pretty explosive case could be coming to a head right during campaign season. Or it might drag out so long there could even be a different governor by the time it is resolved.

Beth Purvis’

‘integral role’

Education secretary Beth Purvis last week added her name to the lengthy list of public officials who are taking leave of state government.

When she was named by Gov. Bruce Rauner in 2015, some were concerned about where Illinois might be headed in terms of education policy. Purvis’ background was in charter schools, and some thought this might signal a renewed emphasis on charters as opposed to traditional public schools.

For what it’s worth, Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, a pivotal force behind the school funding reform effort, said he learned early on about Purvis’ interest in the whole issue of public education.

Manar was already well into his effort to change the school funding formula when Purvis was appointed education czar. Early on in her tenure, Manar said, Purvis gave him a call.

“She said to me she wanted to better understand the struggles of rural school districts,” Manar said last week. “I give her credit for that. I found it refreshing.”

Remember that one of the issues in the funding reform debate was that many downstate districts, especially smaller ones in rural areas, were struggling because the state aid formula was fundamentally flawed.

Anyway, Manar suggested a visit to the elementary school in Bunker Hill.

“She showed up the next day, drove down from Chicago,” Manar said. “I think she told me she left at four in the morning so that she could get to Bunker Hill when school opened. She spent the entire day at the elementary school talking to teachers, talking to the administration. That showed me right away that she meant business and that policy was going to be her strength.”

Manar said Purvis played “an integral role” in finally getting funding reform done.

Good governor?

For those who were wondering, after 5 1/2 years in a federal prison, Rod Blagojevich told Chicago magazine in an interview that he still thinks he was a good governor.

Guess you have to keep the keep the dream alive under the circumstances.

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