In This Section
April 23, 2021
By Kevin Bommer, CML executive director, and Meghan Dollar, CML legislative advocacy manager
The Colorado General Assembly will take up sweeping legislation soon that seeks to mandate collective bargaining rights on local governments, higher education, and other public employers. Preliminary discussions with proponents and sponsors confirm the intent to confer rights on all employees and set for all employers every aspect of collective bargaining in state statute.
The League has consistently and firmly held that employment decisions should be made by local citizens and their elected representatives and has opposed legislation in the past that either mandated or prohibited collective bargaining. Fifteen municipalities have chosen collective bargaining and crafted the aspects of it appropriate to local conditions. A one-size-fits-all approach threatens existing agreements and would force them on those that do not have collective bargaining – even in municipalities whose voters have voted against it.
While the proponents disagree, the legislation may be unconstitutional as applied to home rule municipalities. Personnel practices and policies are specifically reserved to home rule municipalities in the state constitution. However, there is no such protection for statutory municipalities and other local governments. In 2009, Gov. Bill Ritter vetoed a nearly identical bill that would have applied only to firefighters. Ritter cited a need to respect home rule and local control and noted a pathway to collective bargaining already exists at the local level.
Finally, discussions with proponents reveal the intent for this legislation to supersede
SB13-025, which purported to establish most of these same provisions for firefighters but only after voter-approval requirements that then-Gov. John Hickenlooper insisted on to ensure local control. The process was fraught with problems, including numerous conflicts with existing initiatives and referenda requirements, and it has never been utilized at the municipal level. Instead, firefighters have gone directly to elected officials or voters, which is the pathway the existed before and since SB25 and exists for municipalities and other local governments.
CML will advocate keeping local control local and home rule at home. Once the legislation is introduced and comes up for consideration, CML will have extensive coverage of it in the CML Statehouse Report and CML Action Alerts, if necessary. You may sign up to receive the Statehouse Report at www.cml.org. For questions on this legislation, contact Kevin Bommer, executive director, at firstname.lastname@example.org or Meghan Dollar, legislative advocacy manager, at email@example.com.