House Subcommittee Approves Bill on Antitrust Exemption

A House subcommittee on Wednesday took the first step toward repealing baseball's antitrust exemption, approving a bill that would remove the exemption as it applies to labor issues.

Wednesday's approval by the Subcommittee on Economic and Commercial Law sends the bill to the full Judiciary Committee for a vote today.

It is uncertain whether the bill, sponsored by Mike Synar (D-Okla.), can get through Congress before it adjourns Oct. 7. Also, the players union, which has said it would end its strike if the exemption is repealed, might not honor that vow considering that two provisions favoring the union were removed from the bill.

A provision that would have prevented a salary cap from going into effect until all lawsuits stemming from the cap's unilateral implementation were resolved was removed at the request of management lawyers. So was a provision that would have left it up to the courts to determine whether the union would have to decertify before challenging implementation in court.

Union chief Donald Fehr said the amended bill was still a step in the right direction, but he wouldn't say whether it was good enough for the union to end the strike, if enacted.

"I think this evidences a growing recognition on behalf of the Congress that there are significant abnormalities here that need to be corrected or you're going to continue to have strikes and lockouts all the time," Fehr said.

Meanwhile, the House Subcommittee on Education and Labor will conduct a hearing today on a bill by Pat Williams (D-Mont.) that would impose binding arbitration if players and owners don't reach a bargaining agreement by Feb. 1.

Also, Sen. Howard Metzenbaum (D-Ohio) said he remained hopeful of amending an appropriations bill for the District of Columbia to include an exemption repeal similar to Synar's.

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