Tuesday was a day for bills to come back to life—zombie bills you might call them. In Virginia, the Senate passed a revised version of its pre-abortion sonogram measure, which had looked dead only a few days before. And in Arizona, senators passed one of the measures aimed at killing public employee unions weeks after the measures appeared to have stalled out. Quite a day for the undead.
Arizona started the legislative session with four anti-union bills, including one that would outlaw collective bargaining. Unlike Wisconsin, which also targeted public employee unions, these measures did not exempt firefighters or police officers. Two weeks ago, the senate passed a measure requiring yearly authorizations in order for unions (and other outside groups) to automatically make deductions from paychecks of public workers. The bill makes it harder for unions to collect money. However the other three bills didn't go anywhere. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer was hardly advocating for the measures and as time went on, it looked like they simply didn't have the votes.
This week, the Senate approved the second bill from the package, which prohibits local and state governments from paying employees for union work. Known as "release time," the practice is common when it comes to issues like handling grievances. Before the bill came up, however, the author agreed to carve out an exemption for police officers. (The police still can't be paid for union recruitment)
The exemption left a bitter taste in some mouths. AFL-CIO state director Rebekah Friend told TPM she wasn't happy with the agreement. “I think they’re serving their membership," she said. "I don’t know that those actions save the greater good.” For weeks, the unions have been planning a major day of protest for March 1—good timing if they're hoping to convince the state House to reject either measure.
Arizona is already a right to work state with almost no union clout in the private sector, but it looks like public employee unions will at least maintain their right to collective bargaining. That measure has yet to come up and the head of the Arizona Police Association has said the measure is dead.
But you know how bills like to come back from the grave.