February 9, 2007
Honorable Colorado House of Representatives
66th General Assembly
First Regular Session
Denver, CO 80203
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am returning to the House of Representatives House Bill 07-1072, “Concerning the Elimination of the Requirements for a Vote Ratifying an All-Union Agreement.” I vetoed this bill as of 2 p.m. today and this letter sets forth my reasons for doing so.
As governor, I take seriously my obligation to represent as best I can all of the people who reside in the great state of Colorado. It is my solemn duty to approach the challenges facing us today with a broad view, to take into account different perspectives, and place the highest priority on what’s best for the people as a whole.
I committed in my first State of the State speech just a few weeks ago, and I promised the people of Colorado over the last two years, that I would work tirelessly to bridge traditional divides, to bring together groups that often find themselves at odds: Republicans and Democrats, business and labor, developers and environmentalists. I vowed to listen to a wide range of views, to unite and to build consensus around a public policy agenda that speaks to the common good.
I am proud of the coalition that honored me with election to this office: rural and urban, mountain and valley, agricultural and industrial, wealthy and poor, Republican, Democrat and unaffiliated. It was a coalition of small businesses, big businesses and working families.
My sympathies lie with Colorado’s working families. My father was a heavy-equipment operator and a member of Operating Engineers Locals 3 and 9. I worked my way through college and law school as a pipe layer and a member of Laborers Local 720. I understand the struggles of Colorado’s working families. I have lived those struggles myself.
During the campaign, two labor organizations asked me in written questionnaires if I would support an amendment to the Colorado Labor Peace Act that eliminates the second organizing election ratifying an all-union agreement. I indicated that I would, believing that requiring a second super-majority election seems, on its face, undemocratic. It also injects government into what should be a private negotiating process between employer and employee.
I recognize how deeply disappointed my friends in organized labor will be with this decision. I know that members of my own party in the legislature stood firm in the face of outrageous, unprecedented and shameful partisan rhetoric done only for political sport.
But I strongly believe that the way we do the people’s business is as important as what we do. And I am obligated to judge legislation by its consequences, intended and unintended.
Over the last several days, I have listened intently to people I respect who worried deeply about the impact this change would have on our ability to attract new business to Colorado, to create new economic opportunity for all. I am persuaded by their argument that changing long-time Colorado law relating to business and labor negotiations in this manner, in the atmosphere with which it was debated, is not now in the best interests of our state.
From the beginning, this was a bitter, divisive and partisan battle. Opposite sides dug in, refusing to consider reasonable compromises. It demonstrated precisely why so many people have grown so cynical about American politics. The bill’s proponents made no effort to open a dialogue with the opponents. At times, the opponents were neither respectful nor civil. It was over-heated politics at its worst.
How we govern is important to me as governor and to the people of Colorado. The spirit of cooperation and collaboration embodied in the passage of FasTracks, Referendum C and other initiatives offers a perfect example of how we as a state can join forces, forge coalitions and move Colorado forward together.
Creating the New Energy Economy, reforming health care, funding education, and building a 21st century transportation system requires that kind of spirit and commitment.
The rhetoric surrounding House Bill 07-1072 damages that spirit, threatening our goals and sinking us into cynical politics.
For these reasons, I have decided to veto House Bill 07-1072.
As we move ahead, my table will always have seats for labor and for business. I am confident they will join me, work with me, and with each other, to move Colorado forward. This is the heart of the Colorado Promise, of how we govern well, and of how we give cynics reason to hope once again.
Bill Ritter, Jr.