… Gives authority to third-party arbitrator on salary, labor and employment relations …
By Steve Schuster
When many people in Maryland hear about “Question A” they often think it has something to do with the addition of slot machines in Anne Arundel County.
For Baltimore County however, “Question A” was about a very different issue.
Question A on the Nov. 2 ballot in Baltimore County asked voters to decide if salary increases and labor and employment relations issues should be determined by the county executive, or by an independent third party arbitrator.
Just four days before the election, Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith issued a press release urging voters to reject Question A, claiming that passage “will diminish the authority of the elected County Executive to submit a fiscally responsible budget by authorizing a third party arbitrator to determine employee salary increases and other employment issues each year. The County Executive is directly accountable to the people of Baltimore County and voters in the next election for the budgetary decisions made. The arbitrator is not.”
The Baltimore County Federation of Public Employees, a strong supporter of Question A, was not swayed by Smith’s argument. In the weeks leading up to the election, union president John Ripley pressed for Question A’s passage, claiming that it’s an important tool in negotiating fair contracts.
In a statement on the union’s website, Ripley said, “Binding arbitration is a recognized method of dealing with unsolvable disagreements between contract negotiators … Many of the difficulties we have with county negotiators could be avoided if we used this process.”
Question A passed with 168,801 votes, 69 percent of the popular vote.
How will the diminished authority of the Baltimore County Executive impact county government?
Only time will tell.