Senate sends arbitration bill to Rauner

By Mark Fitton
Illinois News Network

SPRINGFIELD – Senate Democrats on Thursday again sent Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner a bill that could shift contract talks between the state and its biggest employee unions to binding arbitration.

And that legislation – the interest-arbitration or “no strike, no lockout” bill – likely faces a veto, much like an earlier version.

House Bill 580 cleared the Senate on a vote of 38-17. It would let a panel of arbitrators decide between the state’s and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees’ final contract offers.

Democrats say the measure is designed to protect state employees from being pushed into a strike and to keep state government open and providing services.

The GOP says it’s a move to strip Rauner of his authority to negotiate on behalf of the citizens who elected him and would mean a taxpayer-funded gift to big unions of $3 billion over the next few years, all while the state is broke.

Democrats don’t see it that way.

“This bill does not enforce any outcome,” said Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park. “It does not cost a dime more. It creates a process for breaking an impasse and achieving a contract without a strike or a lockout and the associated interruption of state government services.”

Sen. Matt Murphy, R-Palatine, said Democrats were acting on behalf of AFSCME and trying to knock Rauner aside because he’s a more formidable bargainer than his two Democratic predecessors “who gave away the taxpayers’ store to secure their own elections.”

“Gov. Rauner is actually trying to get a better deal for taxpayers than they’ve ever gotten before in these negotiations, and your allies desperately want to take (out) the people’s negotiator, who they put in that room,” Murphy said.

Rauner has already vetoed nearly identical legislation in Senate Bill 1229 and appears ready to do the same to this bill.

Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly called House Bill 580 “unprecedented and unaffordable.”

“Once again the Democrats in the Legislature pandered to special interests and prioritized them over taxpayers,” Kelly said in an email. “The governor thanks those Senate Republicans who took the pro-taxpayer position today.”

Two Republican senators, Neil Anderson of Rock Island and Sam McCann of Plainview, broke party ranks to join Democrats in support of the bill.

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