Bill That Would Have Banned Transit Strikes (Like BART’s) Killed By Senate Committee

A bill that would have banned strikes by public transit employees, such as BART workers who walked off the job twice last year, has been killed by a state Senate committee.

The Senate Public Employees and Retirement Committee rejected the bill by Sen. Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, in a party line vote on Monday, with the three Democrats on the committee voting against it and the two Republicans on the panel voting for it.

Two Bay Area Democrats were among those who voted against the bill: Sen. Leland Yee of San Francisco and Sen. Jim Beall of San Jose.

Huff said he introduced the bill in the wake of the short strikes by BART workers in July and October, which caused traffic jams for Bay Area commuters.

Huff said in a statement, “Last year, Californians witnessed the Bay Area come to a screeching halt not once, but twice, as leaders of the BART employee union called strikes and BART trains went dark.”

He said, “Hundreds of thousands of Bay Area residents could not get to work, go to school, see the doctor, or visit with family and friends and it cost the region $73 million each day.”

Huff said, “As a legislature, we have failed to make public transit reliable. That’s a major failure. Californians deserve a government that works for everyone but they were let down.”

However, Beall said Huff’s bill “was not solution-oriented.”

Beall said, “It offered nothing to resolve the underlying bargaining issues that separate employees and management or to keep both sides at the table, such as binding arbitration.”

Yee couldn’t be reached for comment.

Huff’s spokesman, Bill Bird, said the bill’s fate may have been sealed when the Senate’s Rules Committee, which is controlled by Democrats who have a strong majority in the Senate, assigned it to the Public Employees and Retirement Committee instead of the Transportation Committee.

Huff believed his bill should have been heard by the Senate Transportation Committee because it involves a transportation issue, Bird said.

Huff knew his bill faced tough odds in the Senate but he introduced it because he thought “it was the right thing to do,” Bird said.

The committee’s vote means that Huff’s bill is “dead” but Huff or another senator could still re-introduce similar legislation before the late February deadline for introducing new bills, Bird said.

Jeff Shuttleworth, Bay City News

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