Legislator to sponsor measure to invalidate collective bargaining 'The governor was wrong,' Colburn contends

December 28, 1996|By Debbie M. Price | Debbie M. Price,SUN STAFF

An Eastern Shore Republican is sponsoring a measure to invalidate Gov. Parris N. Glendening's executive order granting collective bargaining to state workers, but legislative leaders say the General Assembly will likely leave the issue to the courts this session.

The legislation prefiled by State Sen. Richard F. Colburn specifically would prohibit the governor from authorizing state employees to participate in collective bargaining by executive order or any other means. Colburn said that the bill is drafted to be retroactive to the governor's executive order, which was signed on May 24.

"The governor was wrong with a capital W to issue the collective bargaining executive order in May," said Colburn. "He was wrong legally, he was wrong politically but more important. It was clearly fiscally irresponsible and it shouted a clear message that Maryland wants to be a pro-union, anti-business state."

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said that he expects bills on collective bargaining to be held in abeyance until the court rules on a lawsuit filed by three business groups seeking to overturn Glendening's order.

The suit claims that only the General Assembly has authority to approve collective bargaining.

"It's a matter that has been around the General Assembly at least 50 years, and waiting another year to have the matter decided is not going to make or break the state of Maryland," said Miller.

Glendening issued his executive order -- which gives 40,000 state workers the right to join unions and negotiate nonbinding contracts, but not the right to strike -- after a collective bargaining bill the governor introduced died in legislative committee.

Del. Robert H. Kittleman, a Republican who represents Howard and Montgomery counties, said he plans to introduce similar legislation in the House, without waiting for a court ruling. "The legislature doesn't like it, and the legislature ought to do something about it," said Kittleman.

Kittleman and Colburn echo the arguments of the business groups -- the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Washington Board of Trade and the Greater Baltimore Committee -- that contend that under collective bargaining, the costs of salaries and benefits for state workers will rise, creating a subsequent demand for higher state taxes. Such tandem increases, the groups contend, will hamper economic development and will deter companies from moving to Maryland.

State workers have argued they need collective bargaining rights to combat furloughs, pay freezes and layoffs.

House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., A Democrat from Cumberland, seconded Miller's position. But he reiterated his opposition to the governor's executive order, arguing that the action "clearly flies in the face of our constitutional system of the separation of powers and the checks and balances that are built into the three branches of government."

Judi Scioli, a spokeswoman for the governor, called Colburn's legislation "inconsistent with the constitutional office of the governor." And she noted that Glendening had obtained a supportive opinion from state Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. before taking action.

Pub Date: 12/28/96

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