Employer gag bill from 2009 buried in 2010 operating budget

Chandler seeks informal guidance from Attorney General on language


Today Rep. Bruce Chandler sent a letter to State Attorney General Rob McKenna asking for informal guidance on a proviso in the proposed 2010 supplemental operating budget. The language, found in the House approved Senate Bill 6444 states:

“No employer, provider or entity receiving state funds to provide long-term care services or services to the developmentally disabled may use these funds to assist, promote, or deter union organization.” (page 73, lines 9-12)

Chandler is concerned the language is “eerily similar” to the employer gag bill which was cut short last year by the governor and Democratic leaders due to ethical concerns.

“This provision failed to pass the Legislature last year, and slipping it into the budget shows an attempt to change policy without approval of the representatives sent by the people,” said Chandler, R-Granger. “This would have a chilling effect on the freedom of speech. To withhold funding due to a policy that has not been fully vetted or approved by the Legislature is closing the door on open government.”

Chandler noted similar proposals have failed in other states and been found unconstitutional.

The attorney general's office responded to Chandler that the proviso would likely “be preempted by federal labor law” and that the language has a “striking similarity between the proposed legislative language and the language in California statue invalidated in Brown vs. United States Chamber of Commerce.”

Chandler said the attorney general's office assessment is consistent with a formal opinion last year that House Bill 1528 and its companion Senate Bill 5446, would be likely be found unconstitutional if challenged in court.

“I am one of the biggest proponents of transparency in government, and this is a reversal of decades of work to make Washington's government a more open, honest process,” Chandler said. “If the majority wants to have another discussion about the employer gag rule, let's have it. Hiding this in the 300-page budget bill only causes the people to question whether their government really wants them to know what happens in these halls in Olympia.”

Contact: Sarah Lamb, public information officer, (360) 786-7720


Washington State House Republican Communications