Tomorrow at the State House there is an easily overlooked hearing that deserves some attention.
One of the committees that meets all year long is a joint committee called the Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules. It meets to review proposed regulations from state agencies, and is the last step before a regulation becomes final and goes into effect, and the job of this committee is to evaluate whether proposed regulations comply with the intent of legislature in passing the law on which the regulation is based. Usually it's attended by someone from the agency and a handful of advocates either supporting or opposing the regulation, but, as I say, most of what they do doesn't get much public notice.
One of the rules up for review tomorrow is a proposal to include newspaper carriers in the protection of the unemployment compensation system. You probably realize that newspapers generally aren't delivered by the iconic paperboy anymore, that eager youth pedaling his bike up and down the lanes, tossing each day's paper on the doorsteps of his neighbors. No, newspapers are now mostly delivered by adults driving motor routes, getting up at ungodly hours, driving for miles in their broken-down cars for meager pay. (As you might guess, this is not exactly a plum job.)
There are a couple of things of interest about this regulation. First, it's based on a change to the unemployment statute that was adopted way back in 2006. Why, you might ask, are they just getting around to making regulations now? Well, back when this particular change was passed, a change that exempted door to door sales people from unemployment coverage, the Douglas administration informally decided that they would consider that newspaper delivery people would be included in this exemption, regardless of the fact that their job is delivering newspapers, not door to door sales.
The current administration, headed by Governor Shumlin and Labor Departent Commissioner Annie Noonan, has reviewed this policy (it was never publicly adopted as a regulation) and decided that newspaper carriers aren't in the door to door sales business but the newspaper delivery business, so it's only fair to cover these people in the unemployment system. It's about time.
The second very interesting aspect to this hearing is the lineup of supporters and opponents of the legislation.
As you might expect, most of the witnesses against the rule are newspaper publishers. After all, they make their money by having people deliver newspapers, and if those employees are covered by unemployment the newspapers will have to pay the unemployment tax and might wind up being dinged for some unemployment benefits.
Testifying in favor of the regulation are Michael Sirotkin representing organized labor and Warren Kitzmiller, who was chair of the House Commerce Committee when the law was passed.
Who's the wild card here? Someone identified as “Vincent Illuzzi, Resident, Derby”. You know, the lifelong Republican who has been praised for his good relations with and support for the working man, the little guy against the bosses.
Vince is testifying against this rule, against the little guy, and in favor of what the bosses want. He must be doing it on his own time, because his paying job right now is lobbying for the VSEA.
We know that Illuzzi has had good relations with organized labor, and over the years he has run for office with the endorsement, if not the active support, of some of Vermont's biggest unions. Still, in these pages we have seriously questioned VSEA's judgment in hiring someone whose pro-worker bona fides may not be all they seem. (See our November 29, 2012 diary “Is VSEA Crazy?“)
Maybe he'll surprise us, although I know he didn't support the regulation in its progress through the Department of Labor. You have to wonder, though, what one of the lobbyists for one of our biggest unions is doing siding with the bosses and against the workers.