Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Assembly Repeals New Labor Law. Mayor Vetoes Their Vote

Anchorage Assembly Meeting - click to enlarge
The Assembly voted 7-4 to repeal Assembly Ordinance 37 which squeaked by last year after Assembly Chair Ernie Hall cut off public participation.  The ordinance pretty much gutted collective bargaining in Anchorage and Ernie Hall nearly got voted out of office by a write in candidate who came within several hundred votes after joining the campaign two weeks before the election.   Some have argued this was similar to the anti-union ordinances that have been pushed by the Koch brothers in places like Wisconsin.  It was a hugely divisive ordinance. 

Tonight, after a lot of testimony, the Assembly voted 7-4 to repeal the old ordinance.  This was possible because Tim Steele was elected over appointed Assembly person Cheryl Frasca and because Adam Trombley and Bill Starr, who both voted for the original legislation, tonight said there were flaws in the bill and they were willing to work with others to make a better ordinance.   Trombley and Starr voted with Dick Traini, Elvi Gray-Jackson, Paul Honeman (who was there by teleconference), Patrick Flynn, and Tim Steele. 

You can see all the Assembly profiles here
Mayor Sullivan (r)

However, as soon as the bill passed, the Mayor immediately vetoed it and had his veto already written, printed, and ready to hand out. 

The no votes sounded pretty adamant about their votes and to override the Mayor's veto requires eight votes.

Here's the veto.  I saved it as very big file so you can read it easily if you click on it.

For me the big question is why did Starr and Trombley change their votes?  Both were strongly supported by the mayor and have voted with him on most if not all critical votes.    Both said they were willing to meet with those who so strongly opposed 37 and work out a better ordinance.

Yet I can't help think that after watching how Ernie Hall almost got beaten in the last election - by a write-in candidate no less - that they are looking out for the next election in April 2014 when their terms expire.  They can say to the unions that they voted to repeal the ordinance.  And if they did their homework and counted the votes, they knew that the ordinance would stay in place with the mayor's veto.  Starr comes from Eagle River which tends to vote pretty conservatively, so perhaps that isn't his motive.  On the other hand, I don't know how many union voters live in Eagle River and Municipal elections don't have that much of a turnout usually.  Trombley represents East Anchorage which is a lot more volatile and former state legislator Pete Petersen has already said he was going to run against Trombley.

I generally stay away from Assembly meetings.  The ones I've gone to have sucked a lot of blogger time out of me.  If I went regularly I'd have no time for anything else.  We went to the discussion on democracy and the role of government upstairs, and after we stuck our heads in to see how things were going.   So I'm not completely clear on the timeline of this.  But a petition to repeal Ordinance 37 got enough signatures.   In a video interview I did with Assembly member Dick Traini during a break in the meeting [see below], he said the Assembly plans to put the repeal measure on the April municipal ballot.  He also says the mayor plans to veto that, but he's sure the Assembly will win in court.  The elections are handled by the Municipal Clerk who works for the Assembly, not the Mayor.

But if the ballot included repeal of 37, then a lot of union folks are sure to vote.  Municipal elections - especially when there is no mayoral race - have turnouts under 20%.

So Assembly members Trombley and Starr had some incentive to repeal the measure already.  That would keep it off the ballot and not as many union members would vote.  And this way they can say they already voted to repeal it.

Interesting dynamics.

[UPDATE Jan 18, 2014:  Judge sided with the Mayor on his ability to veto the vote.]

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