The Rocky Mountain News reports about another citizens’ initiative that may be on its way for Colorado voters to decide this November:
Backers of a proposal to bar no-bid government contractors from contributing to political candidates submitted more than 125,000 signatures to the state Wednesday….
Colorado state government granted more than $386 million in contracts without taking competitive bids over the past year, said Tom Lucero, campaign chairman of Clean Government Colorado.
This practice drives up the price of services, and current law that lets these contractors pad the campaign accounts of officials who may award the contracts creates tremendous cynicism among voters, said Lucero, a University of Colorado regent.
Like Amendment 49, this is a great idea to promote clean government. But the fact that it also targets the interests of government employee unions also makes it the target for some well-financed opposition.
The News story gives an interpretation that would explain the source of this opposition:
The proposed constitutional amendment would ban those contractors or any organization with exclusive collecting bargaining rights – namely, labor unions – from giving political contributions for two years after expiration of the contract.
I’ve read the text of the amendment, and I’m not exactly sure that it would have that practical effect. Could there be an open bidding process that allows labor unions to honor the spirit of the proposal so they wouldn’t automatically forfeit the right to political contributions?
Then again, the News also doesn’t point out that labor unions – like corporations – already are forbidden from making direct political contributions to state campaigns under the terms of Amendment 27. Of course, unions create political and small donor committees that can make the contributions for them. It’s not clear whether this new proposal would have a limitation on union political or small donor committees or not.
There are still a few unanswered questions about Initiative 59 – (including, will it become known as Amendment 50?) – but that doesn’t preclude support for getting rid of corruption in no-bid contracting as a way to save taxpayers money. After all, Colorado definitely is in need of clean government reform to close the loopholes on Amendments 27 and 41.