Officials conduct final briefing
During the last scheduled legislative briefing with the people of Washington County Saturday morning, four area elected officials heard questions and comments from a roomful of constituents regarding many hot topics in state Legislature that impacts the state.
In a carryover from February’s legislative briefing, many of the people attending the briefing wanted more information on the passage of the state’s collective bargaining law. While Representative David Heaton and Senators Rich Taylor and Kevin Kinney spoke briefly about the passage, the audience seemed most interested in the response of Representative Jarad Klein, who was the sole lawmaker present to vote in favor of the controversial law. One question asked the legislators how many constituents they had heard from during discussion of the bill and how they felt on the issue.
“I wasn’t keeping a tally, but I got more than one email, from both sides,” Klein said. “I got lots of phone calls. Some people started off opposed to it, but when you walk through the changes being made, because we were listening, they got more comfortable with it.”
Klein, who was on the committee that worked on the legislation, said he believed passing the bill was a “way to give the people the changes they desired.” He said there were people on both sides of the issue. Klein also said there were several things in the bill he had voted for in other matters previously.
“Is the bill perfect?” he asked. “I don’t believe it is, but it was a step, in my opinion, to balancing some of the playing fields — especially when you talk about the schools.”
He said the previous law had not been changed for 40 years and now that it has, the Legislature can work further to making the law better.
Despite Democratic opposition, the state House and Senate approved sweeping changes to the law that governs union negotiations for public employees. Among the changes from the new law are that only wages are negotiated, workers being required to re-certify unions for each negotiation, and union dues being barred from automatic deductions.
Heaton said he had only received one email from one school superintendent — he didn’t say who it was but commented that it was not from an area district — who was in favor of collective bargaining and all the other emails he received were against it.
Taylor also said he had only received one out of 3,000 calls and emails supported the changes. Taylor also said a Facebook article on the issue he posted had received 10,000 hits in one day on the issue. Kinney said he had received 3,000 total contacts against the issue.
Constituent Joe Frakes expressed concern about accurate representation when so many people had contacted legislators asking the law not be changed and Klein voted to change the law.
“A good number of people who emailed me have been opposed to darn near everything I have supported over the years,” Klein said. “I was re-elected after having done some of these things. We listen, but just because you don’t get your way doesn’t mean we aren’t listening. Elections have consequences; that is the reality of this.”
Frakes commented that he hoped everyone in the room heard Klein say that.