House panel wants collective bargaining banned at S.D. public universities

Capitol News Bureau
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PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — More than 1,300 faculty members at South Dakota’s six public universities would lose collective bargaining under a proposal that’s now one step from final approval by state lawmakers.

The House State Affairs Committee voted 10-2 Monday for SB 147. Republican Governor Kristi Noem sent an aide to testify and make clear her support.

The full House could consider it as early as Tuesday afternoon. The Senate has already approved it. House members passed a different bill Thursday that was broader.

The state Board of Regents could save an estimated $280,000 if collective bargaining is eliminated, according to Representative Hugh Bartels, a Watertown Republican. But opponents said the universities would have other new costs.

Five faculty senates oppose the legislation, according to South Dakota Education Association lobbyist Jeremiah Murphy. He said the sixth hasn’t taken a position yet. The SDEA opposes the bill.

Representative Jon Hansen, a Dell Rapids Republican, is lead sponsor in the House. He said it doesn’t affect K-12 school districts.

“Higher education itself is changing, as with the workforce needs in our state, and so it’s imperative that our institutions can be as flexible and adaptive as possible to that change,” Hansen told the committee.

Collective bargaining isn’t used at the four public technical institutes, the University of South Dakota law school and medical school, or the private universities across South Dakota.

The regents are appointed by the governor and oversee the universities. The SDEA, which represents classroom teachers at the K-12 level, tends to support Democratic candidates in South Dakota. The Legislature has super-majorities of Republicans in the two chambers.

What emerged Monday was the regents intend to more widely hire professors of practice, who have experience working in their fields but don’t have sufficient academic credentials. The Council on Higher Education, an affiliate of SDEA, doesn’t want to allow as many as regents want.

“So there’s a point in the contract and they’re stuck. And that I think is what this kind of boils down to,” Murphy, the SDEA lobbyist, told the committee. “They want you, the Legislature, to fix an element in the contract negotiation. Can you imagine if the faculty came up here with a bill and said, We need a statute, so we can win on this point in a negotiation?”

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