By David Steel, NFA Executive Director
The 2015 legislative session has come to a close. There were several victories for faculty, including a restoration of base pay via the elimination of furloughs. NFA would like to thank the many members who gave their time and effort in the session.
Here are the results on the legislative priority issues adopted by the NFA State Board January 2015 (no order):
* End furloughs
Furloughs, which amount to a 2.3% salary deduction, are set to end July 1, 2015.
* Ensure adequate NSHE funding, particularly the merit pool
NFA sought a merit pool amounting to a 2.5% increase each year of the biennium. No money was initially included in the proposed budget for faculty raises. NFA along with faculty senates and NSHE fought to change this. The final result was that, although merit was not funded, faculty will receive a 1% across the board raise in July 2015 and a further 2% in July 2016.
The legislature also found money for bridge funding for WNC and GBC, the UNLV law school, the UNLV medical school, the UNLV hotel college building, as well as new need-based scholarships. Further, the State increased the retirement contribution by 1.25%, which although meaning a decrease in immediate compensation as faculty mandatory contribution will increase by the same amount, ultimately increases overall compensation.
While the overall result of the session was a substantial increase to the higher education budget, NFA continues to believe that full funding of merit is an important objective that will boost Nevada's regional competitiveness in hiring as well as faculty morale. Faculty have seen slashed and stagnant wages for years since the Great Recession. The increases granted in this session, while a welcome change, will not return NSHE faculty salaries to their former ranking vis a vis those of faculty in other states. Accordingly, NFA President-elect Jim Strange presented a statement authorized by the NFA State Board to the NSHE Regents on June 11th, calling for merit to be funded either by NSHE or at the institution level.
* No outsourcing distance education
No plans to outsource distance education were proposed in the session.
* Preserve or enhance PEBP benefits
PEBP rates will increase starting July 1, 2015, with the amount depending on coverage level, from $2.74 per month for employee only PPO CDHP coverage to $27.80 per month for a family coverage HMO plan. The wellness program, which previously allowed the possibility a $50 per month benefit, was also eliminated.
* Preserve payroll deduction and arbitration rights for public employees
The proposed bill AB 182 would have eliminated both payroll deduction and arbitration rights for public employees. NFA along with many other organizations representing state employees opposed the bill. In the end, AB 182 was defeated. The more moderate collective bargaining reform bill, SB 241, which passed, will not impact these core features.
* No campus carry
Early in the session, AB 2, which would have allowed guns in vehicles on campus, and AB 148, which would have allowed guns on campus, appeared to have significant momentum. AB 2 was amended into AB 148, which passed the Assembly. NFA testified against both bills, and was the only party to introduce statistical evidence into the record. The evidence showed that campuses in states with campus carry were not made safer by the introduction of guns to campus.
AB 148 died in the Senate, and AB 487, which reprized AB 148, met a similar fate.
Reactions from NFA leaders:
“The composition of the legislature made this session an uphill struggle for faculty. There was a threat that the Governor's proposed budget would be gutted by a mutiny in his party, and prospects for enhancements to the Governor's budget seemed dim, particularly in the realm of faculty salaries. Campus carry appeared a fait accompli. Yet in the end there was some money given for faculty above the Governor's initial budget, and campus carry was defeated. As an organization we did what we could and I think we can be proud of the result, given the circumstances.”
- NFA Executive Director David Steel
“This 2015 legislative session turned out fairly well in the end for NSHE faculty, even though it was something of a white knuckle ride though most of it. We are disappointed in the lack of merit funding for NSHE professionals. Next session the NFA will focus on improving its lobbying presence and continue fighting for a proactive agenda on behalf of NSHE faculty.”
- Incoming NFA President Jim Strange
“I commend the legislature and especially the Governor for funding higher education, ending the furloughs, and a token Cost of living raise. Yet with so many of the faculty still paid at 2009 wages, with weak health insurance, and inadequate retirement plans, I can't help thinking we are only placing cookies before a chimney in the hope that Santa will bring us a New Nevada rather than truly funding a system where well-compensated professionals develop our state's workforce into one that can support a balanced economy.”
- Incoming NFA Vice President Rob Manis
“The most famous (or infamous) bill was AB 148, the pet project of Michelle Fiore, assemblywoman from southern Nevada. NFA testified against the bill, held rallies at UNR and UNLV, prodded the new UNLV President into issuing a strong statement against the bill, lobbied legislators, and worked with students, the university administration and the Chancellor's office to stop the bill.”
- NFA-UNLV Chapter President John Farley