City of New York v. Patrolmen's Benev. Ass'n of City of New York, Inc.

Decision Date19 December 1996
Citation654 N.Y.S.2d 85,89 N.Y.2d 380,676 N.E.2d 847
Parties, 676 N.E.2d 847 CITY OF NEW YORK et al., Respondents, v. PATROLMEN'S BENEVOLENT ASSOCIATION OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK, INC., et al., Appellants, and New York State Public Employment Relations Board et al., as Necessary Party Respondents; Dennis C. Vacco, as Attorney-General of the State of New York, Intervenor-Appellant.
CourtNew York Court of Appeals Court of Appeals

LEVINE, Judge.

The issue presented by this appeal is whether chapter 13 of the Laws of 1996 is unconstitutional because it was not enacted in compliance with the home rule requirements of article IX, § 2 of the State Constitution. We conclude that because this "special law," which relates to the "property, affairs or government" of New York City, was not enacted to further a matter "of sufficient importance to the State generally" (Matter of Kelley v. McGee, 57 N.Y.2d 522, 538, 457 N.Y.S.2d 434, 443 N.E.2d 908), its enactment without a home rule message from New York City renders the chapter law unconstitutional and unenforceable.

Under Civil Service Law § 209, public employers and the collective bargaining representatives of public safety employees may invoke the assistance of the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) when they believe an impasse has been reached during collective bargaining negotiations and, if mediation fails to effect a settlement, a binding arbitration panel will resolve the dispute (Civil Service Law § 209[4] ). However, when the binding arbitration procedures were first added to section 209 in 1974, New York City's collective bargaining law already provided for binding arbitration supervised by the City's Board of Collective Bargaining (BCB), the City's "mini-PERB," when an impasse was reached between the City and any of its employees, including its police and firefighters (Administrative Code of City of N.Y. § 12-311 [enacted as § 1173-7.0 in 1967, amended 1972] ). In recognition of that existing impasse arbitration mechanism, when initially enacted PERB's binding arbitration procedures for public safety employees specifically exempted members of New York City's police and fire departments (L. 1974, ch. 725 [police]; L. 1974, ch. 724 [firefighters] ).

The City's earlier establishment of its own procedures for the resolution of bargaining impasses was pursuant to authority which has existed since the enactment of Civil Service Law § 212 in the original Taylor Law (L. 1967, ch. 392, § 2). That section permits a local government to opt out of certain provisions of the Taylor Law pertaining to PERB's jurisdiction, including the impasse procedures of section 209, by enacting through local law, procedures which are "substantially equivalent" to the corresponding procedures of the Taylor Law (Civil Service Law § 212[1] ).

While all other local governments must submit their local procedures to PERB for prior approval (id.), New York City's procedures are deemed effective "unless and until * * * found by a court of competent jurisdiction, in an action brought by [PERB] * * * not to be substantially equivalent" to the procedures of the Taylor Law (Civil Service Law § 212[2] ). Although the BCB's binding arbitration procedures differ in a number of respects from those of Civil Service Law § 209, 1 because PERB has never judicially challenged the variations of the New York City impasse procedures, it must be assumed that PERB has determined that the City's impasse procedures nonetheless remain substantially equivalent to those set forth in subdivision (4) of Civil Service Law § 209.

The collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the City and defendant Patrolmen's Benevolent Association (PBA), the bargaining representative for New York City police officers, expired on March 31, 1995, and the parties were unable to reach an agreement with respect to a successor CBA. In January 1996, under the then applicable procedures, the City requested that the BCB appoint an impasse arbitration panel (see, Administrative Code § 12-311). Also at that time, the bill which was to become chapter 13 and which purported to give PERB exclusive jurisdiction over negotiation impasses between the City and the New York City police, passed both houses of the State Legislature. In February 1996, the Governor vetoed the bill, but it was enacted into law by an override vote shortly thereafter.

Following passage of chapter 13, the PBA sought to transfer to PERB the City's impasse panel request pending before the BCB and have PERB declare an impasse in negotiations between the City and the PBA. The City objected and commenced this action seeking, inter alia, a declaration that chapter 13 of the Laws of 1996 is unconstitutional because it was passed without a home rule message in violation of New York Constitution, article IX, § 2. PERB and the BCB were joined as necessary parties and the actions of both boards with respect to the impasse requests before them were stayed pending the outcome of this litigation.

On cross motions for summary judgment, Supreme Court declared chapter 13 of the Laws of 1996 unconstitutional, and the Appellate Division affirmed (231 A.D.2d 422, 647 N.Y.S.2d 728 ). The appeal is before us as of right on constitutional grounds.

Article IX, § 2 of the State Constitution grants significant autonomy to local governments to act with respect to local matters. Correspondingly, it limits the authority of the State Legislature to intrude in local affairs, by giving it "the power to act in relation to the property, affairs or government of any local government only by general law, or by special law only * * * on request of two-thirds of the total membership of its legislative body or on request of its chief executive officer concurred in by a majority of such membership" (N.Y. Const., art. IX, § 2[b][2] [emphasis supplied] ). 2 Thus, a special law which relates to the property, affairs or government of New York City violates this constitutional provision unless enacted upon a home rule message from the City.

Chapter 13 of the Laws of 1996 is entitled "[a]n act to amend the civil service law in relation to providing jurisdiction to [PERB] to enter disputes which reach an impasse in the course of collective negotiations between the public employer and the New York city police." Section 1 states further:

"Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, the public employment relations board may invoke procedures to be followed in the event of disputes which reach an impasse in the course of collective negotiations between the public employer and the New York city police" (L. 1996, ch. 13, § 1).

Section 2 amends Civil Service Law § 209 to remove the exemption of the New York City police and fire department members from PERB's binding arbitration impasse procedures.

Although chapter 13 did not amend Civil Service Law § 212 in so many words, manifestly the act's expressly stated purpose--to provide PERB with jurisdiction over the impasse arbitration procedures previously vested in the City's BCB--can only be achieved if section 1 creates an exception for "negotiations between the public employer and the New York city police" with respect to the statutory authority of all other local governments, under Civil Service Law § 212, to completely opt out of PERB's jurisdiction over impasse procedures. That is, under section 1 of chapter 13, "notwithstanding" the existence of BCB jurisdiction over impasses between the City and its employees' bargaining representatives (because of the City's enactment by local law of its mini-PERB and local procedures), an impasse between the City and the PBA would be governed by Civil Service Law § 209 and PERB.

It would, thus, appear to be indisputable that chapter 13, an act "in relation to * * * collective negotiations between the [City] and the New York city police," is a special law because it applies only to New York City (see, N.Y. Const., art. IX, § 3[d][4] [defining "special law" as "(a) law which in terms and in effect applies to one or more, but not all * * * cities"]; City of New York v. State of New York, 76 N.Y.2d 479, 561 N.Y.S.2d 154, 562 N.E.2d 118; Matter of Town of Islip v. Cuomo, 64 N.Y.2d 50, 52, 484 N.Y.S.2d 528, 473 N.E.2d 756; cf., City of Amsterdam v. Helsby, 37 N.Y.2d 19, 27, 371 N.Y.S.2d 404, 332 N.E.2d 290 [amendment to Civil Service Law § 209 providing for binding arbitration when an impasse is reached between public employer and public safety employees is a general law because it applies to all public employers] ). By virtue of chapter 13, only New York City, among all units of local government throughout the State, is prohibited from providing for a local public employment relations board with jurisdiction over binding arbitration procedures when an impasse is reached in negotiations with its police force. 3

Moreover, the proposition that chapter 13 relates to the "property, affairs or government" of New York City cannot be seriously contested, as it regulates the bargaining process between the City and its police department members and thus relates to the terms and conditions of employment of this local public safety force (see, Matter of Osborn v. Cohen, 272 N.Y. 55, 4 N.E.2d 289 [personnel structure and hours...

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