Sen. Stan Adelstein, R-Rapid City, has reversed course on a bill he supported to prohibit collective bargaining for public employees.
The senator said Saturday he will no longer sponsor the bill, HB1261, and will actively oppose it. He had the change of heart after returning to Rapid City this weekend.
"I realize that it was a bill that was worded awkwardly and it would not work in the best interest of all," said Adelstein, on Saturday night. "I realized that the bill would just not operate well for our town and for the state. I made a mistake."
In collective bargaining, an employer negotiates contracts with a group of employees rather than a single employee. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker drew national attention last year when he backed a bill to take away collective bargaining from public employees, sparking protests and a walkout by Democratic lawmakers, and subsequent recall efforts against both parties' lawmakers and Walker.
Rapid City Mayor Sam Kooiker said he applauds Adelstein for dropping support for the bill.
"There are more important issues facing our state and city and this isn't necessary legislation," Kooiker said.
During a legislative crackerbarrel in Sioux Falls on Saturday, protestors voiced their disapproval of the bill, booing Rep. Brian Liss, R-Sioux Falls, as he tried to defend the measure, according to the Sioux Falls Argus Leader.
In a statement released earlier Saturday, Adelstein said, if passed, the bill would oppose his "values of supporting fair compensation, and recognition of our state's capable public employees."
Adelstein said Saturday night that he flipped his position after having good discussions with friends and supporters including Rapid City teachers and a member of the Rapid City Police Department. The conversations made him realize South Dakota's situation is different than the collective bargaining issues in Wisconsin.
"I realized that it wasn't the same thing," Adelstein said.
Sen. Bruce Rampelberg, R-Rapid City, said Saturday he initially signed on to the bill because he was willing to have the discussion, not because he supports an end to collective bargaining.
"My thought is it is always good government to debate these things, and that was my intent," Rampelberg said. "I still think it is a good idea to debate all these issues and see what decisions we come up with."
Should the bill die and not make it to discussion, he would not be upset.
"Either way is fine with me," he said. "I don't have a real heartburn with collective bargaining."
Matt Miller, American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Council 59 union executive director, said until the bill is officially killed his organization is ready to defend collective bargaining. He was surprised to hear about Adelstein's change of heart.
"We think anyone who studies the issue in depth understands collective bargaining is a fundamental part of American life," Miller said. "We hope other legislatures look at it in as much depth as Mr. Adelstein does."
Journal staff writer Holly Meyer contributed to this report.