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April 17, 2014

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Gibbons proposes plan to open union negotiations

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Gov. Jim Gibbons

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Gov. Jim Gibbons launched an initiative petition today that would require local governments to negotiate with unions in public.

The proposal, which conservatives have pushed for as public employee salaries have come under the spotlight, would go to the Legislature in 2011 if Gibbons and the Open Public Employee Negotiations Government Initiative collect 97,000 signatures by Nov. 9. If the Legislature doesn't pass the law, it would go in front of voters in 2012.

Gibbons said current local government budget shortfalls and the prospect of layoffs because some unions have refused to make concessions made the issue timely.

"Negotiations should be open to the public," Gibbons said. "This is about adding sunshine to the negotiation process."

Gibbons said he has been pushing for this since January -- he had actually proposed to eliminate collective bargaining entirely -- but said legislators refused to introduce a bill during February's special session, which Gibbons called to close the state's budget gap.

Gibbons' initiative would have no effect on the state's budget woes or state employees. The Legislature has never granted collective bargaining rights to state workers, despite extending them to state, county and school board employees.

Bruce Snyder, attorney for the Las Vegas City Employees Association, said "From what you told me, it sounds like Gov. Gibbons is taking a stab in the dark for his re-election."

Snyder said he doesn't believe either management or the unions would want negotiations open to the public. That would either lead to grandstanding and pandering to the audience or a stifled negotiation "where neither side would say anything."

"You're not going to have true and honest negotiations back and forth," Snyder said.

Gibbons began a news conference by noting that this will be his third initiative. The first time was in the 1990s, when voters approved a constitutional amendment to require that tax increases pass by a two-thirds majority of the Legislature. His second was to require that the Legislature fund education before the other parts of the state budget. Both of those initiatives were approved by voters, and, it's believed, helped Gibbons' political career.

This issue would not be on the ballot with Gibbons.

Gibbons faces an uphill primary fight against former federal judge Brian Sandoval, trailing both in the polls and with campaign cash. He has scored points with conservative voters by fighting health care and proposing dramatic education reforms.

Gibbons said no state resources would be used, even though his state office put out a press release announcing the initiative and he was flanked by his senior administration staff during the press conference in the state Capitol Building.

The steering committee will be led by Gibbons and include former state Sen. Mark Amodei, former Sen. Bob Beers and Republican Party Executive Director Cory Adair. Gibbons said Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman "said it sounds like a great idea." Gibbons said he would discuss it with the city manager.

A city spokesman said that Goodman will review the initiative.

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