Arnold Schwarzenegger seems to have mastered the technique
of using the initiative as a cattle prod to get the
Legislature moving, as evidenced by his workers’ compensation
Good thing, too, because there are other issues on which recalcitrant lawmakers
are refusing to follow the governor’s battle cry of “action,
A crystal clear example was provided last week when an Assembly committee
killed Schwarzenegger’s proposal to make sure state labor contracts
really expire when they reach their expiration dates.
Seems logical, no? It’s not exactly a radical notion to propose that
an expired contract should not remain in effect.
But the Democrat-controlled Assembly Public Employees, Retirement and Social
Security Committee voted 5-1 against the legislation, thus protecting the
current law which lets employment contracts go on and on and on.
Under the existing law, when an employment contract (a “memorandum
of understanding”) expires, it remains in effect until it is superceded
by another agreement. And members of the unions covered by the expired MOUs
continue paying union dues as if the agreements never expired.
This nonsensical law is part of the Ralph C. Dills Act, named for the late
state senator who was one of the most liberal, pro-union lawmakers the state
has ever seen. The law is supported, not surprisingly, by all of the state
Schwarzenegger isn’t a supporter, because he is trying to dig the state
out of the multibillion-dollar hole created by the Legislature and former
Gov. Gray Davis. And this excavation is being hampered by lingering deals
that Davis made with the unions.
Assemblyman Ray Haynes, the Republican who carried Schwarzenegger’s
bill, notes the stupidity of the current situation:
“Due to the sweetheart deals with unions made by the ousted Davis, the
unions now have no incentive to negotiate new contracts with the new government
because they won’t get the same terms they were able to purchase from Davis,
and taxpayers are stuck with the bill.”
Haynes says, “The Democrats have basically voted to say that even though
Californians recalled Governor Davis and his pay-for-play attitude, they
cannot get a refund on those deals.”
The California School Employees Association, arguing against Haynes’ AB
2575, said the bill would “allow management to unilaterally alter any
contract provision upon the expiration of a contract …”
And the problem is? The “management” — people elected by
taxpayers to oversee the state government — certainly should have the
right to make changes if changes are needed. And what better time than after
a contract expires?
Haynes, never at a loss for words, explains it best: “The people are
the ones who are footing the bill and it is disheartening that the Democrats
will not agree to the principal that when a contract expires — it expires.”
The defeat of such a common sense bill is just one more example of why voters
may need to take matters into their own hands in November. It may be too
late to put another initiative on the ballot, but there’s always time
to replace obstinate incumbents with legislators who share the governor’s
enthusiasm for improving the state’s economy.
The Davis recall showed that when voters get excited, anything is possible.
If Schwarzenegger hits the campaign trail to stir support for deserving candidates,
next year could be a time of action, action, action on the good ideas that
are dying in the current Legislature.
Kline is a Sacramento native who has been writing about seniors'
issues since 1991. He has served as Spectrum's editor for
the past five years a period that has seen the paper
receive awards from the California Newspapers Publishers'
Association and National Mature Media Awards program.