With two anti-union bills stuck in the House, supporters are hoping to rescue the legislation by amending another measure to carry the controversial provisions.
The amended measure, HB2103, now contains provisions from the two stuck Senate bills, including a prohibition on automatic salary deductions for union dues unless public employees expressly authorize them each year and a prohibition on compensating public employees for time spent doing union activities, a practice known as “release time.”
And just like the version that sailed out of the Senate earlier, the bill carves out an exemption for police unions, which means law enforcers can still be paid while representing their colleagues in disciplinary hearings but they can’t be compensated for recruiting activities and participating in union-organized conventions.
Critics view the measure as an attack on public employees, arguing that some lawmakers don’t like public unions’ political messages, particularly during campaigns.
Arlene Muniz, vice president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) local 449, didn’t hide her displeasure at HB2103’s new provisions.
“I do think it’s time you respect these employees. These employees have never hurt the budget in any means or manner through the agencies they serve,” she said.
Backers of the anti-union bills – which also include another proposal to eliminate public unions’ ability to collective bargain – have said their ultimate aim is to help governments bring down costs, arguing that a conflict exists when public unions help officials get elected and then negotiate with them over salaries and benefits.
Sen. Rick Murphy, a Peoria Republican who is championing the anti-union bills, said many of his constituents and taxpayers who fund union members’ salaries asked him to run the bills.
“With all due respect, to paint unions as having no detrimental effect to the taxpayers simply I think (is) incorrect,” he said.
Muniz described the amended proposal as “disgusting” and added “this is mean.”
The bill sailed through by a 4-to-2 vote during a hearing by the Senate Government Reform Committee today.
The measure still needs to get the full Senate’s approval. But that shouldn’t be a challenge for backers since senators already passed the original anti-union Senate bills.
But it remains to be seen whether the House will act on the proposal.
Murphy, however, indicated he’s prepared for a long fight.
“If the House wants to kill the union bills, they’re going to have to kill them over and over and over again,” Murphy told the ~Arizona Capitol Times.~
The original anti-union Senate bills – SB1484 and SB1486 – were both assigned to the House Employment and Regulatory Affairs after senators approved them, but the House committee wrapped up its work for this session without hearing them.
This was the last week for committees, except for the two chambers’ appropriations panels, to hear bills.