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A good-government reform in Colorado sent to die in committee

Posted by Kelly Maher on January 21st, 2011
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Colorado state Sen. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield, has proposed legislation to overturn the executive order signed in 2007 by former Gov. Bill Ritter that gave state employees union muscle in negotiations.

The Denver Post editorialized that Gov. John Hickenlooper “with a flick of his wrist” can, and should, overturn Ritter’s order. But, as we noted during the gubernatorial campaign in October, “Wary of ‘outraged’ unions, Hickenlooper sweet-talks labor.

And Hickenlooper’s appointment of Ellen Golombek (formerly with the SEIU and the AFL-CIO) to head the state Department of Labor and Employment further shows that the self-styled “pro-business” governor is very eager to keep the peace with labor unions.

That leaves it to good-government reformers like Mitchell to make the case…

“We simply can’t afford to have a policy that encourages, and invites state employees to become a separate interest group and to lobby for more generous benefits against reform,” said Mitchell. “There are a lot of reasons that it was a bad idea in the first place. Colorado’s public employees are better paid than employees in surrounding states. They have tremendous job security, constitutional tenure and civil service protections. And they should implement the public policy that the political process establishes. They shouldn’t be a separate interest group lobbying against reform. Which is what unions do, is lobby against efficiency and reform.”

The chances of passage? Slim.

“Democrats still control the state Senate and President Brandon Schaffer sent my bill to the State Affairs Committee, which is a tough committee for any enlightened or efficient policy to survive,” said Mitchell. “So getting past the ‘Killer’s row’ of the State Affairs Committee in the Senate is the big hurdle.”

Unfortunately, this can often be the case. Politically savvy State Senate Leadership knows that if they can kill a bill that could have some great press and popular support before it even has the chance to get to the floor, then those people standing up for fiscally conservative interests won’t have a chance to either lobby or have a vote on the record from more moderate Democrats. Lesson: if you kill it early, you don’t have to go on the record. But all Coloradans end up paying the price.

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    ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kelly Maher
    Kelly, a co-founder of WhoSaidYouSaid, brings more than 10 years of campaign and policy work experience. In addition to her skills in grassroots activism and organization, Kelly has a knack for distilling complex issues into accessible messages that resonate with voters. Her policy specialties include health care, education, employment and tort reform. Follow Kelly on Twitter at @okmaher.

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