Senate overrides Rauner’s veto of arbitration bill

By Mark Fitton
Illinois News Network

SPRINGFIELD — The state Senate on Wednesday overrode Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of the interest arbitration or “no strike-no lockout” bill — much to the governor’s displeasure.

The Republican governor’s veto of Senate Bill 1229 was overridden on a vote of 38-15, with one Republican — Sen. Sam McCann of Carlinville — joining Democrats in support of override. The bill now goes to the House.

After the early evening vote in the Senate, the governor issued a short statement:

“Every Senator who voted to overturn our veto chose special interests over the taxpayers,” the governor said. “They made it abundantly clear that they’d rather raise taxes than stand up to the politically powerful. It is now up to House members to take the responsible, pro-taxpayer position and uphold our veto.”

Debate in the Senate was brief, but clear in terms of differing beliefs over why the measure is either necessary or dreadful.

The measure would enable mandatory arbitration should either the state or its unionized employees declare a bargaining impasse in their continuing contract talks.

Once the binding arbitration hearing begins, a strike or lockout would be prohibited. In the end, an arbitrator would pick from either the state’s or the union’s final offers on economic-interest items such as pay and benefits, said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park.

Harmon presented the bill as a protection of state services and protection for unionized state employees deservedly worried over being forced into a strike and fired from their jobs by a union-busting governor.

State employees aren’t worried about a lockout, but the unilateral imposition of new terms, he  said.

Those employees are worried Rauner “will force a strike with no alternative and fire every state employee just like Ronald Reagan did with the air-traffic controllers,” Harmon said.

Sen. Matt Murphy, R-Palatine, argued the forced-strike theory was false, pointing to the governor’s successfully reaching a deal with 350 Chicago-area Teamsters and twice agreeing to extend talks with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

He also said the bill was aimed at removing Rauner from the bargaining process and was essentially an expensive gift to to AFSCME, which represents some 35,000 state employees.

Democrats, Murphy contended, were trying to knock from negotiations the “one person in this whole negotiation that the taxpayers actually had a say in putting in the room.”

The end game, he argued was a $2 billion raise for unionized state employees.

And, Murphy said, an override would only impede a bipartisan solution to the state’s budget stalemate.

“You’re going to push final resolution further away rather than bringing it closer, and for what — to get an ‘attaboy’ from AFSCME? Come on, guys, don’t do this,” he said.

Harmon said Murphy’s comments were a “remarkable work of interpretive history” and loaded with both inaccuracies and hyperbole.

Harmon argued a vote for override would be one for “reasonableness, moderation, compromise” and “right for the people we represent, the people of the state of Illinois.”

Senate Bill 1229 passed the House with 67 votes, and there’s been speculation that proponents will have difficulty reaching the 71 votes necessary for an override.

However, House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, has said he believes the votes are there.

The state’s contracts with union-represented employees expired July 1, but the Rauner administration and AFSCME have twice agreed to “tolling agreements” that now extend to Sept. 30, the date both sides will stay at the bargaining table without threatening strike or lockout.

The governor has vowed not to lock out employees and says his administration has and will continue to negotiate in good faith.

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