Collective Bargaining Bill Dies In Committee

CARSON CITY — Senate Operations Committee Chairman David Parks has put the brakes on a collective bargaining bill that the sponsor said could save $2.3 billion for the state.

Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, who sponsored Senate Bill 343, said it would save local governments as much as $2.3 billion by amending the state’s collective bargaining law and ratcheting wages down to national averages.

Parks called a hearing on the bill earlier this week, but he said today that the testimony was so negative that he did not believe the bill would have the votes to pass.

“It came down to the overwhelming testimony we received in opposition,” Parks said. “My determination was that there wasn’t strong enough support for it to get a vote.”

The Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce and the City of Reno testified in support of the bill. Firefighters and police unions, joined by the AFL-CIO, testified against it.

The bill would eliminate a third-party, binding arbitration process in management and labor contract disputes and instead impose the local government’s contract offer for up to one year.

The Legislature faces a Friday deadline to vote bills out of committee. In a more symbolic move, Parks may have brought the bill for a vote only to vote it down. By not bringing it up, he let it die quietly.

“It troubles me that the discussion of real reform is not proceeding,” said Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville, who co-sponsored the bill.

He serves on the Legislative Operations committee that heard the bill. He would have voted for the bill as would have Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas. The three Democrats on the committee would have been likely ‘no’ votes.

Public sector unions have traditionally been a strong ally to Democratic candidates, making a bill like Roberson’s potentially unpalatable to his colleagues across the aisle.

The hearing earlier this week had raised the ire of both the sponsor and the opposition.

Lobbyists for public sector unions called the bill “insulting,” and at the end of the hearing Cegavske asked people to apologize to each other for “derogatory comments.”

Roberson at one point during the testimony of the opposition interjected that supporters of the bill were given short shrift.

The Legislative Operations committee did hear another bill, Senate Bill 98, that would also make changes to collective bargaining by requiring mediation prior to arbitration and freeing a third-party arbitrator from having to choose one of the final offers presented. This bill, however, sparked little contention and both public sector unions and local governments endorsed it.

Roberson’s bill, however, appears dead with the caveat that it could be resurrected as an amendment onto a similar bill such as SB 98.

SB 98 was voted out of the Legislative Operations committee today.