After what seems like a long, drawn-out process, the Vermont State Employees Association has devised a cushy gig for Vince Illuzzi. The former State Senator and unsuccessful candidate for Auditor had been under consideration for the post of VSEA chief lobbyist, but there was a little tiny problem: Illuzzi didn’t want to give up his part-time post as Essex County State’s Attorney.
What to do, what to do. We can’t hire Vince straight-up, because his courtroom schedule would interfere with regular attendance at the Statehouse. Hmmm…
That won’t look like featherbedding, will it? Cough.
The state employees union has expanded its lobbying team and has selected two former lawmakers as the point players. The expansion is part of a ramp-up of the union’s political agenda this legislative session.
Steve Howard, a former House representative, will be the Vermont State Employees Association’s legislative director, and… Illuzzi will work as a lobbying consultant for the VSEA.
Howard, last seen losing the Lite-Guv’s race to Phil Scott in 2010, takes over for the departed Conor Casey; Illuzzi’s position is brand-new. And artfully constructed to allow for the ebb and flow of his prosecutorial duties.
The arrangement is being touted as a tag-team approach to VSEA’s political work: VTDigger characterizes Howard as “one of the most liberal members of the house,” and Illuzzi as a politician “often portrayed as a maverick” who was seen (at least by VSEA, which twice gave Vince its “outstanding legislator” award) as a supporter of workers and unions.
May I just pause here and say that, after John McCain and Sarah Palin, I never want to hear the word “maverick” again?
Anyway, at first glance the idea of a bipartisan team makes sense. But then I wonder: the Democrats have overwhelming majorities in the House and Senate. Convincing Republicans to support union issues is a mug’s game anyway, and you don’t need their votes, so why even try?
Digger goes on to report Illuzzi’s “quid” that helped lead to the union’s “pro quo”:
Illuzzi was the legislative architect of the doomed “fair share” act last year, which was opposed by the Shumlin administration. he legislation, which will be re-introduced this session, would require public sector employees who benefit from collective bargaining but have opted out of union dues to pay an “agency” fee.
The bill would have removed a thorn in VSEA’s side. Back in 1998, Governor Dean signed a bill imposing the agency fee on newly-hired state workers. But non-union employees already on the payroll were allowed to continue opting out.
Well, apparently there’s a lot of tenure in state government because, according to VSEA, there are still 542 state employees covered by that grandfather clause — more than 10% of employees who benefit from the union’s collective bargaining. The union is understandably keen to collect those dues, and is obviously grateful to Illuzzi for pushing the issue.
It’d be nice if they win on “fair share” this year; they’ll need the money to pay for Vince’s sinecure.
The title of this post is an homage to the great BBC series “Yes Minister,” which is highly recommended to anyone who appreciates the comedic aspects of political horse-trading.