Binding arbitration measure misses deadline, still alive for 2012

This week, Senate Bill 826, a bill to reform binding arbitration provisions, was not heard in the House before the deadline to hear Senate bills.

The bill could be considered in the House in the 2012 session.  Principal author of the measure, Senator David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, made the following remarks in a press release sent to news organizations, including CapitolBeatOK: 

“I want to thank Representative Scott Martin for his incredible leadership, and Speaker Kris Steele, for supporting Representative Martin and this important bill every step of the way. 

“I also want to thank Senate Pro Tem Brian Bingman for his strong and unyielding support, the Senate co-authors who stood with us, and the Senators who passed SB 826 through the Senate.

“This issue is not going away.  Binding arbitration takes the power to spend tax dollars away from taxpayers.  The taxpayers won’t rest, and neither should the Legislature, until real change is made. 

“Just this week, the Massachusetts legislature rejected a union scheme to impose binding arbitration there.  When Oklahoma is giving more power to unions than Massachusetts does, I think we all have to look in the mirror and ask ourselves how long we want Oklahoma to continue prioritizing union interests above taxpayers. 

“In the recent past, victories like ‘Right to Work’ illustrated that Oklahoma had its priorities straight.  As we all witnessed this year, other states are catching up and surpassing us.   The taxpayers of Oklahoma will not stand for this, and so I predict the debate will only continue.

“I want to thank the coalition that has formed around this issue.  Representative Martin and I intend to keep that coalition together until real change is made.  This coalition includes the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, Americans for Prosperity, the Oklahoma Academy, the 9-12 Project, RIED, the Oklahoma State Chamber, the Oklahoma Municipal League, the Oklahoma Republican Party, and Labor Commissioner Mark Costello.

“I look forward to continuing to stand with the taxpayers to reform or repeal the onerous process of binding arbitration.”

In March, Senator Holt decried a television commercial attacking his bill. That TV “spot” used images of the 1995 Murrah Building Bombing, triggering Holt’s comments calling the ad “horrific and tasteless.” 

In a statement sent to CapitolBeatOK and other news organizations, Holt said the AFL-CIO and IAFF labor unions should cease using the commercial. 

“One of the most important lessons from the Murrah Bombing was the need to moderate our political rhetoric,” said Holt, a Trustee for the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum.  “The idea that these unions would use images of the Bombing to attack a proposed reform of a union negotiating process is beyond the pale.” 

Released just weeks before the 16th anniversary of the Oklahoma City Bombing, the commercial shows images of the April 19, 1995 attack. It asked viewers to call their legislator and ask for their opposition to Senate Bill 826.

The press release announcing the commercial said that the ad was part of pro-union efforts also being staged by the AFL-CIO and the IAFF (International Association of Fire Fighters) in Wisconsin and Ohio.

S.B. 826 passed the Senate on March 10 but never cleared the House. Procedurally, however, it remains an active bill for the 2012 legislative session.

Holt noted in March, during the TV ad controversy, that the Fraternal Order of Police and the AFL-CIO / IAFF negotiated the legislation with members of the Senate. The Fraternal Order of Police, Holt noted, is not opposed to SB 826. 

“The AFL-CIO and the IAFF should be ashamed of this horrific and tasteless commercial. I sincerely ask that this commercial be removed from the airwaves immediately, out of respect to the people of Oklahoma,” Holt said.  “The victims and heroes of April 19th are not political pawns to be exploited whenever the Legislature seeks to reform a union negotiating process.”

This week, Senator Holt told allies the FOP had agreed to compromise language to advance the bill, but that the AFL-CIO, firefighters and other unions had remained opposed.
NOTE: Editor Patrick B. McGuigan contributed to this report.