Piccola, Gordner and Earll to File “Friend of the Court Brief” in Support of AFSCME Lawsuit Against Furloughs

HARRISBURG – Senators Jeffrey Piccola (R-15), John Gordner (R-27) and Jane Earll (R-49) announced their intention today to file an amicus curiae brief in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in support of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees’ (AFSCME) appeal regarding furloughs of Commonwealth employees.

AFSCME filed the lawsuit initially in June of 2008 to determine finally whether or not the Governor has any basis in law to mandate the furlough of state workers in the event of a budget impasse.  AFSCME contends that the Governor is not required by any federal or state law to furlough workers if a new budget is not enacted by July 1, and in fact may continue to pay the wages and salaries of all employees during the impasse.

“What we have here is governance by extortion,” Piccola said.  “For the past six years, the Governor has used furloughs as a tool for leverage during budget negotiations to strong-arm the General Assembly into agreeing with unrelated legislative proposals.  The Senate State Government Committee, which I chair, held a public hearing on this very issue.  It was revealed conclusively that the Governor’s decision to furlough employees is not based on any law.”

“Senator Piccola and I strongly support AFSCME’s position in this matter,” Senate Labor & Industry Committee Chairman Gordner said.  “That was why we felt compelled to file the amicus brief.  The Governor, regardless of which political party that holds the office, should not be able to use state workers as pawns during budget or other legislative discussions.”

Piccola is the prime-sponsor of AFSCME-supported Senate Bill 1122, which prohibits the furlough of state employees by designating all state workers as “essential” employees.  The bill passed the Senate unanimously on February 8, 2008, only to be stopped dead in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives on June 16, 2008.

“Furloughs are entirely at his discretion,” Piccola continued. “The Governor cannot claim that he was forced into furloughing 25,000 state workers, most of whom reside in my district, based on law.  To continue to do so is irresponsible, unethical, and laughs in the face of the workers of this Commonwealth.”

“We look forward to the ruling of the Supreme Court,” Gordner concluded.

Josh Funk (Senator Gordner)
Kirsten Kenyon (Senator Piccola)
Jason Brehouse (Senator Earll)