- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 26, 2015

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - Lawmakers on Tuesday reviewed a public employee collective bargaining bill that was originally dubbed “union Armageddon” and still has critics from the labor movement in spite of significant amendments.

The Assembly Ways and Means Committee held a hearing Tuesday on the bill, AB 182, which is sponsored by Republican Assemblyman Randy Kirner. Proponents who said local government unions are too powerful and burdensome to taxpayers said the bill will restore balance to the bargaining process, but unions remain staunchly opposed.

“I’ve taken so much from this,” Kirner said. “I don’t understand why there’s so much resistance.”

The bill would prohibit certain administrators and supervisory employees from collective bargaining and prevent raises from kicking in automatically once a contract expires. It also prohibits local governments from giving paid leave to employees for carrying out union duties, and it would allow public employees to leave a union whenever they’d like, not just during a certain window of time.

Those provisions are supported by conservative groups including the Nevada Policy Research Institute, which ran a billboard campaign over the summer urging teachers to leave the Clark County Education Association during a two-week eligibility period and save $770 a year. Proponents say prohibiting such windows gives employees freedom, and it simply reinforces that Nevada is a right-to-work state where union membership is optional.

Opponents said they could foresee people being opportunistic about union membership - joining only when they were in a legal bind and needed assistance from a union, then cutting off their dues.

Critics also pointed out that other bills overhauling collective bargaining are working through the Legislature. Business groups and unions alike backed SB 241, a bill sponsored by Republican Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson that eliminates the highest-paid school administrators from collective bargaining, prevents raises from taking effect after a contract expires and seeks to reduce the use of paid leave for union work.

SB 241 passed both the Senate and Assembly.

“Quite simply, this bill is not needed,” said Marlene Lockard of the Service Employees International Union. “There is other legislation that has moved through the Legislature … that makes reasonable reforms. AB 182 is punitive and expensive.”

The committee didn’t take a vote Tuesday on the bill, which has moved around to different committees for weeks but has yet to come up for a vote of the full Assembly or the Senate.

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