In a case being followed statewide, lawyers in a Ventura courtroom Friday debated the legality of a new law that allows police and fire agencies to ask for binding arbitration to settle contract disputes.
Ventura County government lawyers say the law, signed by Gov. Gray Davis last year, violates the state Constitution by shifting budgeting authority from elected leaders to private parties who cannot be held accountable.
But a lawyer for a county union representing 750 sheriff's deputies argued that the law is constitutional and promotes public stability by giving police and fire unions a way, short of strikes, to settle labor disputes.
Superior Court Judge Henry J. Walsh is expected to issue a ruling in the next week or two.