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An act that gives certain school administrators the right to collective bargaining in employment issues is not unconstitutional, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled, reversing a decision of the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court. “We find no constitutional impediments in the law,” Justice Stephen Zappala wrote for the court in The Pennsylvania School Boards Association v. Commonwealth Association of School Administrators. Former Justice John P. Flaherty did not participate in the decision. In part, � 371 of Act 105 allows school administrators the right to “bargain collectively with their public employers regarding the terms and conditions of their employment, including compensation, hours working conditions and other benefits.” It also provides for binding arbitration for resolution of disagreements in the collective bargaining process. The Philadelphia School District, superintendent David Hornbeck and the Pennsylvania School Boards Association challenged Act 105, arguing that the provision violated three state constitutional allowances. The school district argued that Act 105 violated the non-delegation provision of Article III, � 31, of the Pennsylvania Constitution because the act improperly delegated legislative power to an arbitration board. Section 31 reads: “The General Assembly shall not delegate to any special commission, private corporation or association, any power to make, supervise or intervene with any municipal improvement, money, property or effects, whether held in trust or otherwise, or to levy taxes or perform any municipal function whatever.” The common pleas court agreed with the school district’s argument, holding that the act provides for both mandatory arbitration and binding arbitration without limitation, and that the act was thus legislative in character in violation of Article III. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court disagreed. “Simply put, the power the legislature delegated in Act 105 is administrative power possessed by the school district, as opposed to legislative power reserved by the General Assembly,” Zappala wrote. “The Association persuasively argues that … Act 105 specifically states that the arbitrator’s determination is ‘a mandate to the superintendent of schools … with respect to matters which can be remedied by administrative action.’” The high court then determined that the common pleas court’s conclusion was erroneous because it held that no provision in Act 105 distinguishes arbitration decisions requiring legislative action from other types of decisions. “As Act 105 can be interpreted in a manner that delegates purely administrative decision-making, it does not clearly, palpably and plainly violate the Article III, Section 31 prohibition against the delegation of legislative power, and shall be upheld in this regard,” the Pennsylvania Supreme Court determined. The court next addressed the school district’s assertion that Act 105 offends Article III, � 4, of the constitution. The section requires that each bill that goes before the House and Senate must be considered on three different days and that no bill can become law unless a final vote is taken by yeas and nays, the names of the voters and their vote is recorded, and a majority votes in favor of the bill. The court first turned to the legislative intervenor’s argument that the political question doctrine prevents the court from reviewing the school district’s challenge. The doctrine states that the judiciary cannot review certain issues that could overlap with the duties of the legislative branch. The court held that the issue before it was still within its scope of review. “We hold that the political question doctrine does not prevent us from reviewing the school district’s challenge to Act 105 as violative of Article III, Section 4,” the court said. “The school district is not attempting to challenge the exercise of a power that the constitution commits exclusively to the legislature.” The legislative intervenor also sought to employ the enrolled bill doctrine that prevents the judicial review of a bill that might have been passed under irregular legislative procedure. However, the court determined that the doctrine could not be appropriately applied to the case at bar. “Historically, our court has refrained from inquiring into alleged procedural irregularities in the passage of legislation and has presumed that a statute has been legally enacted,” Zappala wrote. After addressing the issues raised by the legislative intervenor, the court then turned to the school district’s claim that amendments to Act 105 were not considered on three separate days as Article III, �4, requires, but the court found that this requirement was met, as the bill that became Act 105 appeared before the Senate on Feb. 6, 1996; Feb. 12., 1996; and June 27, 1996. In its third claim, the school district argued that Act 105 also violates Article III, � 14, of the state constitution. Section 14 mandates that the General Assembly provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education. The legislative intervenor contended that the school district’s challenge was non-justiciable under the political question doctrine, and the court agreed, citing its 1999 decision in Marerro v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. In Marerro, the city of Philadelphia contended that the General Assembly violated the Pennsylvania Constitution because the city did not provide enough funding for the Philadelphia School District, in violation of � 14. The Commonwealth Court sustained the commonwealth’s preliminary objections, ruling that the claim was non-justiciable for reasons including: There was a lack of judicially manageable standards for resolving whether the General Assembly had in fact provided sufficient funding to operate the school system. It would be impossible to resolve the claim without making a legislative policy determination. Resolution of the issue had been solely committed to the discretion of the General Assembly under � 14. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld the Commonwealth Court’s decision in Marerro and said that the same reasoning could be applied to the case at bar. “Such policy conclusions are outside the realm of judicial decision-making, and cannot be upheld,” Zappala wrote. “Consistent with our holding in Marerro, we find that the School District’s claim under Article III, Section 14, presents a non-justiciable political question. … Accordingly, having rejected all claims of constitutional infirmity, we reverse the order of the trial court.”

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