And while organized labor and its allies under the gold dome may be upset with the governor coming out against a bill that aimed to make it easier for firefighters to unionize, we think Coloradans on the whole should be pleased with the Democrat for standing up for local decision-making in government labor contracts.
Senate Bill 25, sponsored by Sen. Lois Tochtrop, D-Thornton, is an overreaching piece of legislation that aims to build the ranks of the firefighters union at the expense of local control.
It has passed the Senate, and is awaiting action in the House.
A version of the bill vetoed by Gov. Bill Ritter in 2009 only covered departments of 50 or more employees. This time around, it would have applied to any department that employed two or more people which is essentially every non-volunteer organization in Colorado.
In a letter to the House speaker and Senate president, Hickenlooper didn't expressly say he would veto the bill, but he left little doubt about his intention: "(W)e do not believe it is a matter of state interest to require mandatory bargaining between a locality and its firefighters," he wrote.
The governor urged lawmakers "to consider alternatives that respect both the political rights of firefighters and the ability of local governments to make locally accordant decisions regarding collective bargaining."
Senate Bill 25 attempts to do an end-run around those communities that have chosen not to extend collective bargaining to their firefighters or to potentially sweeten things in communities where agreements already exist.
Nothing in Colorado law prohibits firefighters from collectively bargaining, but it is a decision that is rightly left up to local governments and to voters.
Hickenlooper's letter suggests legislation might be needed to allow firefighters to "exercise their legitimate political rights." Understanding where those rights are being denied, and why, is a topic for another day.
Today, we're simply pleased to see Hickenlooper stand up to stop a bad bill before it becomes law.
The Denver Post, Feb. 20