Don’t overturn local 
rules for firefighters

It’s no surprise that Democrats who now control both houses of the Colorado Legislature are carrying water for some of their labor-union supporters. That’s the nature of the political beast.

But one bill, which attempts to revive a 2009 measure that was vetoed by then-Gov. Bill Ritter — himself a Democrat — deserves to be stomped out again.

Senate Bill 25 would supersede local control of an important issue — whether firefighters may form unions and engage in collective bargaining — and, if so, how.

SB 25 is sponsored by Sen. Lois Tochtrop, a Thornton Democrat.

We hope SB 25 never makes it to Gov. John Hickenlooper’s desk, as the 2009 version did with Gov. Ritter. The bill should be killed in the Legislature. But if that doesn’t happen, we hope Hickenlooper will show the same courage Ritter did in defying his party members in the Legislature and will veto the measure.

When Ritter rejected the 2009 bill, he said, “There is already a process for firefighters to obtain collective bargaining rights” through local votes, according to the Colorado Municipal League.

Grand Junction held just such a vote in 2000 on a measure that would have allowed both police officers and firefighters to engage in collective bargaining with the city. That measure was overwhelmingly defeated by Grand Junction voters.

If SB 25 were to become law, it would trump that vote and overturn the will of the voters here. Because of that, there are serious questions about whether the legislation is constitutional.

Grand Junction and a number of other municipalities like it that have rejected collective bargaining for their employees are home-rule cities. As such, they have broad latitude under the state Constitution to establish their own policies. Legislation that supposedly supersedes that authority would be constitutionally suspect and would be guaranteed to end up in a protracted court battle.

Even in cities that have already granted collective-bargaining rights to their firefighters, such as Denver, SB 25 would cause problems. It would allow existing agreements to be nullified, to be replaced with new agreements under the language of SB 25.

In that instance as well, the will of local citizens and their elected representatives would be supplanted by the decisions of state lawmakers.

This bill, like its 2009 predecessor, is a case of the Legislature attempting to needlessly meddle in the affairs of local governments and their citizens simply to repay a political constitutency.

It is wrong, and we join many other entities, including the Colorado Municipal League, in urging that it be killed.


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