- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 25, 2015

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - The latest round of conflict between Nevada Republicans and unions came to a head on Wednesday during a bill hearing that would dramatically change collective-bargaining rules for public employee unions.

Assemblyman Randy Kirner is leading a group of Republican Assembly members in sponsoring AB182, which was heard by the Assembly Commerce and Labor Committee.

Union members from across the state filled a committee room in Carson City and also a room at a government building in Las Vegas, where the hearing was shown live on a video feed.

Las Vegas Mayor Carol Goodman, who attended in Las Vegas, said she was open to discussing collective bargaining but didn’t agree with the bill.

“From my experience as mayor, I support collective bargaining,” she said to applause.

Kirner said the bill’s impact had been blown out of proportion and asked for discussion to focus on policy, not scare tactics.

“This is not a ‘Union Armageddon’ as advertised,” he said during the hearing. “Intimidation is not the best method for a give and take discussion.”

The wide-ranging measure would prevent local government employers from giving their employees paid time off for union tasks. It would bar supervisors and administrators from unionizing, and would expand local governments’ ability to implement layoffs.

The bill would also prevent raises for employees if a union contract expires and a new one isn’t in place. It would require public notice of offers made by unions and governments throughout the bargaining process. It also ends the practice of using a neutral arbitrator to resolve contract talks if the two sides reach an impasse.

The SEIU union has dubbed the measure the “Union Armageddon Bill” and encouraged members to turn out in force to oppose it. The Nevada AFL-CIO began running television ads this week asking voters to call Gov. Brian Sandoval and oppose the bill.

Nevada State Education Authority director Ruben Murillo submitted an amendment to the bill asking for school employees to be exempt.

Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani, who testified from Las Vegas, said the bill ignored history behind the creation of collective bargaining and that the bill was a partisan answer to a non-existent problem.

“It’s an attack on the unions, it’s an attack on middle class, and it’s the death by thousand cuts to collective bargaining,” she said during the hearing.

Kirner said the bill was intended to level the playing field between local governments and public employee unions. “Over the years, I think the balance has shifted in favor of the unions, and all I’m trying to do is restore balance,” he said.

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