A lot has happened in the month since I last posted here about the open negotiations controversy in Jeffco Public Schools. I was glad to see Mike Rosen bring attention to the issue on his show and in his May 12 Denver Post column, in which he concluded:
A number of other states have laws mandating that negotiations between government-employee unions and government agencies be open to the public. In Colorado, that decision is currently left to local government. Colorado law is generally friendly to public openness and disclosure regarding government meetings and documents. Since a majority of funding for public-school districts in Colorado comes not from local property taxes but from the state’s coffers, the state legislature clearly has standing to join other states in passing a uniform law opening these kinds of negotiations to the light of public scrutiny.
As I reported in my 2010 Independence Institute issue backgrounder “Colorado Education and Open Negotiations,” six states currently have laws on the books guaranteeing this brand of taxpayer-friendly government transparency. In Colorado you have to go back to 2005 for Senate Bill 175 and to 2004 for House Bill 1242, the legislature’s last serious (and in the case of 1242, nearly successful) attempts to shine light on negotiations between governments and unions. With momentum growing locally around this issue, might Colorado lawmakers try this approach again?
If so, they might not make Colorado the 7th state with open teachers union negotiations. This week brings word from the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Trey Kovacs that the Pelican State might beat Colorado to the punch. Kovacs observes the benefits and limitations of Louisiana’s legislative proposal:
Public Employee Bargaining Transparency Act does not solve problems of corruption or spendthrift attitudes in government; however, it does allow the citizens of states to be conscious of officials who have put the states and citizens into troubling fiscal positions. Transparency in negotiations allows the citizens to give input to make the contracts responsible, and is in the best interest of the taxpayer. Citizens with the ability to observe these negotiations would be more likely to unseat officials who are not concerned with using taxpayer money to serve the interests of the taxpayers.
Here is a copy of the Louisiana legislation. The Act is inclusive of all government workers, not just school district employees. Either approach is an improvement over the status quo in our backyard. Are any Colorado lawmakers paying attention?