It looks like the so-called "Public Employees Bill of Rights" is on the way to clearing its first legislative hurdle after the Assembly Committee on Public Employees, Retirement and Social Security listened to brief arguments for and against the measure and then voted 3-1 in favor of the measure.
Because it needs one more "aye" from the six-member panel to pass, the bill was placed "on call" until the two absent members could vote.
Democratic Assemblymembers Warren Furutani, Michael Allen and Fiona Ma supported the bill. Republican Allan Mansoor opposed. Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont and Assemblywoman Diane Harkey, R-Dana Point, were not present.
Assembly Bill 1655, written by Democratic Assemblyman Roger Dickinson of Sacramento, which would give rank-and-file state workers explicit preference over outside contractors for state work, shorten the period employers would have to discipline employees and guarantee protections against increased workloads brought on by furloughs or layoffs.
The measure has several other employee protections extended to other state employees, Dickinson said this morning, and that much of the bill is already standard practice or contained in labor contracts.
"But those can change," Dickinson said, whereas his bill would take "basic items and codify them."
Several labor groups voiced support, including representatives from SEIU Local 1000, AFSC ME and associations representing state attorneys, physicians, dentists and state university workers.
All suggested that the bill would save the state money and provide much-needed protections to employees.
Jennifer Barrera of the California Chamber of Commerce said the Dickinson bill would "disadvantage the private sector" in competing for state work and the measure has ambiguous language regarding employee workloads and quotas that could trigger litigation or drive up the state's employee costs to avoid lawsuits.
"We disagree this would be a cost-saving measure," Barrera said.
PHOTO: Assemblyman Roger Dickinson / Sacramento Bee file 2010, Randall Benton