Friday, June 16, 2017

Including the phrase "notwithstanding any other provision of law" in a bill is typically viewed as a legislature's intent to preempt all potentially conflicting statutes


Including the phrase "notwithstanding any other provision of law" in a bill is typically viewed as a legislature's intent to preempt all potentially conflicting statutes
Lawrence Teachers' Assn., NYSUT, AFT, NEA, AFL-CIO v New York State Pub. Relations Bd., 2017 NY Slip Op 04944, Appellate Division, Third Department

The Lawrence Union Free School District [District)] implemented a universal prekindergarten program pursuant to Education Law §3602-e. Initially program tasks were performed by employees working in a collective bargaining unit exclusively represented by the Lawrence Teachers' Association's [Association] but in 2012 the District unilaterally contracted with an outside eligible agency to staff and operate the program. The Association filed an improper practice charge with the Public Employment Relations Board [PERB] contending that the District had violated Civil Service Law §§204[2] and 209-a[1][d] of the Public Employees' Fair Employment Act, commonly referred to as the "Taylor Law," by outsourcing the work without first negotiating the matter in good faith with the Association.

A PERB Administrative Law Judge [ALJ] concluded that the provisions of Education Law §3602-e vitiated the District's duty to negotiate in good faith and dismissed the charge. PERB affirmed the ALJ's ruling and the Association initiated a CPLR Article 78 proceeding challenging PERB's decision. Supreme Court annulled PERB's determination and remitted for further proceedings, holding that nothing in Education Law §3602-e "defeat[ed] the District's bargaining obligations . . . under the Taylor Law." The District appealed.

Although the outsourcing of work performed exclusively by represented employees is a mandatory subject of bargaining under the Taylor Law, rendering a failure to bargain an improper employer practice under Civil Service Law §209-a(1)(d), PERB had concluded that the outsourcing in this instance was not a mandatory subject of bargaining in view of the provisions set out in Education Law §3602-e(5)(d). That provision authorizes a school district "to enter any contractual or other arrangements necessary to implement" a prekindergarten program plan "[n]otwithstanding any other provision of law."*

The Appellate Division said that its review of the statutory landscape "nevertheless leads us to agree with PERB's interpretation." The court explained that the main goal in statutory construction is to discern the will of the Legislature and, in this instance, the statute provides for a universal prekindergarten program "designed to effectively serve eligible children directly through the school district or through collaborative efforts between the school district and an eligible agency or agencies." Thus, said the court, a school district is free to avoid collaborative efforts in crafting a prekindergarten program plan as regardless of the precise plan devised, a school district is empowered to "enter any contractual or other arrangements necessary to implement" it "[n]otwithstanding any other provision of law."

Significantly, the Appellate Division noted that §3602(5)(d) grants a school district the power to make necessary arrangements "[n]otwithstanding any other provision of law," which, said the court, is the "verbal formulation frequently employed for legislative directives intended to preempt any other potentially conflicting statute, wherever found in the [s]tate's laws."

The court held that the addition of that language "signals the intent of the Legislature to override any statutory conflicts to the exercise of the school district's contracting power, including the Taylor Law bar to outsourcing work absent bargaining beforehand."

The Appellate Division opined that "[t]here is no absolute bar to collective bargaining over" the outsourcing of prekindergarten work to an outside agency and an agreement reached after collective bargaining on the subject is enforceable. However, the court observed that the clear language of Education Law §3602-e compels the conclusion that negotiation is not required to begin with and thus PERB was correct when it determined that the absence of negotiation in this instance did not constitute an improper practice under the Taylor Law.

In contrast, the Appellate Division noted that PERB's decision with respect to the Association's allegations concerning an improper practice within the meaning of the Taylor Law does not preclude Association from demanding "impact negotiations" concerning the program in the future.

* The Appellate Division's decision noted that "[a]s PERB itself recognizes, the interplay between the Taylor Law and Education Law §3602-e presents a question of pure 'statutory construction [that] is a function for the courts[, and PERB] is accorded no special deference in [its] interpretation of statutes'."

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