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Fox says binding arbitration bill likely dead for this year

July 22, 2011

Union officials like Robert Walsh of the National Education Association Rhode Island have said they want the House to resurrect the binding arbitration bill passed by the Senate last month. But House Speaker Gordon Fox says supporters of the measure shouldn’t get their hopes up, at least in the short term. Fox commented during a taping this morning of WPRI/WNAC-TV’s Newsmakers and spoke again during a subsequent interview:

I really don’t see it [binding arbitration] being taken up this fall. We’ve dedicated this session — really trying to keep the commitment — this is going to be about pensions. That’s a complex, volatile issue in and of itself , and I think that may take up all the oxygen in the room, and I want to keep it really focused on the pensions. I think it needs that due consideration.

Binding arbitration, as I’ve said in the past, we do need some conclusion to contract disputes and bring them to a quicker conclusion when they do occur, for the good of the taxpayer, the parents, and the school children. However, I don’t think we’re going to have enough time to look at anything complicated like that in the eyes of doing pensions as well in October.

Fox says a late-session outpouring of public opposition had “a major role” in shaping his stance on binding arbitration.

In terms of just the sheer number of e-mails, phone calls — all against. I believe there were 2200 e-mails to my office, in a flash, all against binding arbitration. I think you have to listen to that. I think that if there’s one thing we’re trying to change we want to show the public we are responsible as to how we make policy on their behalf in representational democracy, but also how we spend their tax dollars.

And when you hear people committed to reaching out in numbers like that — and anyone that’s in that building knows that those are huge numbers. And then you add to that every big city mayor, every town administrator, school committees, town councils, all passing resolutions, sending in letters, saying, ‘Please, do not do this,’ we owe it to them not to do it, not to rush into it, study it and hear from them in a real transparent, committee-like process to figure out, is this really a problem with the contract disputes, and how do we best resolve it, short of it having any solution that they just won’t accept.

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