Gordon Explains CO Ballot Shakeup

State Senator Ken Gordon provides important news about this year’s ballot. I disagree with some of his analysis, but I’ll save those comments for another time.

I got my (now outdated) Blue Book in the mail a day or two ago; it’s also online.There are now 14, not 18, ballot measures. Following is Gordon’s message:

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When something dramatic happens in Colorado politics, I like to send out a “Flash Update” so that people on my email list can be the first on their block to know.

I just walked over to the Capitol from the press conference where Governor Ritter and members of the labor and business community announced an agreement that affects seven of the ballot measure on this fall’s ballot. This qualifies as dramatic.

The genesis of the problem was a decision by a businessman to put Amendment 47 on the ballot. Amendment 47, called by its proponents “Right to Work,” makes it impossible for employees to vote for a union shop. This makes it very hard for unions to organize because every employee of a business gets the benefit of the unions’ collective bargaining whether or not they support the union. There is no incentive for an employee to pay union dues. “Right to Work” has been proposed numerous times in the legislature and has never passed. Employees earn less money in “Right to Work” states and have fewer benefits. The unions call it the “Right to Work for Less.”

In response, unions put Amendments 53, 55, 56 and 57 on the ballot. These measures created criminal responsibility for business executives, required an explanation for the termination of an employee, required businesses to give health care to all workers and created additional remedies for injured workers. Business felt that if these measures passed new businesses would avoid Colorado, and businesses already here would leave.

Negotiations around removing all of the measures have been going on for months. Most of the business community felt that the labor-business climate in Colorado was fine, and that they didn’t need “Right to Work,” so they tried to persuade its backers to remove it. They were unsuccessful.

The agreement announced today was that labor would withdraw Amendments 53, 55, 56, and 57, and the mainstream business community will help labor oppose “Right to Work,” which is Amendment 47 and two other Amendments (49 and 54) which are problematic for labor. The Labor-Business combined message is “Oppose Amendments 47, 49 and 54.”

Governor Ritter helped broker this deal, and it seems that both the labor and mainstream business community acted like responsible adults. The proponents of Amendment 47 were excessively ideological and rigid, not acting in the best interests of Colorado.

This whole topic raises questions about the use of ballot measures and the relative ease for monied interests to get matters on the ballot. It is an argument for Ref O which makes it somewhat harder to get Constitutional Amendments on the ballot, but this is a topic for more discussion at a later date. I wanted to get this out quickly, so I will end now.

As always, don’t hesitate to write back with comments or questions, and feel free to forward or republish this email in any format.

Sincerely,

Ken Gordon
Majority Leader
Colorado Senate