Arbitration law enacted after Owens refuses to sign

March 30, 2003|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

The binding arbitration legislation passed March 17 by the Anne Arundel County Council became law Friday when County Executive Janet S. Owens declined to sign it.

The legislation turns over the final say in prolonged contract disputes with public safety workers to a third-party arbiter. The unions, which are not allowed to strike, long had sought such a measure.

In Anne Arundel, a bill passed by the County Council becomes law if the county executive refuses to sign it within 10 days of when it is passed and sent to the county executive.

In the November election, voters passed two charter amendments requiring the creation of binding arbitration for Anne Arundel public safety workers - one dealing with law enforcement officers, the other with firefighters.

In passing the legislation as drafted, the council agreed to bind itself to any contract decision reached by an arbitrator. It could, however, pass emergency legislation - which requires five votes - to unbind itself.

Owens wrote Friday, "I do not believe that the voters ever anticipated that the Council would ultimately adopt legislation that surrenders the checks and balances that are essential to protecting this county."

Owens had opposed allowing a binding arbitration charter amendment to ever reach the ballot. She said it incorrectly turned over power to an unelected arbiter.

"This County will now have to face those predictable consequences," she wrote.

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