Sunday, June 26, 2011

Time for Collective Bargaining Reform

Many politicos in Connecticut are convinced Governor Malloy owes his Election Day victory to the unions. The mobilization of ground troops in the closing weeks of the campaign was monumental, even breathtaking. Residents in the big cities answered their doorbell on Election Day to respond to a union member's offer for a ride to the polls. Credit where credit is due – the unions outmaneuvered Tom Foley.

Governor Malloy clearly paid back the unions with his budget proposal. Leave a hole in the budget to fill with union givebacks and $180 million in cost savings from an “employee suggestion box.” Rattle the saber to appease the taxpayers by threatening layoffs if the unions don’t pass concessions then negotiate a sweet deal guaranteeing no layoffs. Private sector unions have never had management on their side like Malloy was for the state employee unions in 2011.

Suddenly Malloy was the poster boy for Democrats – negotiating union deals, raising taxes and RAISING spending. People started whispering Dan wants to be president!

Fast-forward to last week. The Malloy dirigible crashed to the ground. The helium leaked out and the hot air could not keep the ship of state afloat.

Now the state budget is a shambles. The Governor says 5,500 state employees will get pink slips. Connecticut economists suggest the multiplier effect of Malloy’s layoffs could mean a double-dip recession and as many as 16,000 newly unemployed.

The time is now to pull in the reins on the state employee unions in Connecticut. They elected our governor, were handed an early Christmas present and demanded more. Now, 15% of their membership will be kicked out of their jobs because last-in-first-out rules protect the majority.

SEBAC is a disaster for Connecticut. The organization is not effectively protecting their membership. Their rules are unworkable as we see by the failure of the concession agreement when nearly 60% of union membership voted to approve them.

Chris Powell of the Journal-Inquirer stated in his editorial, “With its extravagant laws for collective bargaining for public employees, Connecticut has put itself under minority rule in the extreme. First the sovereign people have to get the permission of their employees just to operate a government. And then that government's operations are largely determined by a minority of those employees.”

The time is now to reform collective bargaining for public employees in Connecticut. The taxpayers of Connecticut cannot sustain the current system.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

CT Dems Manhandle Gov't Watchdogs

Today I raised questions about a Malloy administration proposal that consolidates nine state watchdog agencies under one umbrella.

The bill, debated in the Senate today for over six hours, consolidates the Office of State Ethics, State Elections Enforcement Commission, Freedom of Information Commission, Judicial Review Council, Judicial Selection Commission, Board of Firearms Permit Examiners, Office of the Child Advocate, Office of the Victim Advocate, and the State Contracting Standards Board.

This proposal undermines the watchdogs' independence.

The independence of these watchdog agencies has worked well for many years. Politics does not come into play in the operation of the agencies. Their decisions are independent ones. This bill violates that independence and it will call into question whether the watchdogs' decisions are based on politics or not. These watchdog agencies have restored the public's confidence and faith in government.

Taxpayers should be confident in these agencies. Once in a while, you get a bad apple politician who breaks the public trust. These agencies - because they are separate and independent from politics - restore that trust. This is about the integrity of what we do in government. The bill represents a good attempt to make government more efficient, but I have concluded that the big three watchdog agencies - Office of State Ethics, State Elections Enforcement Commission, Freedom of Information Commission - must be separate.

The current firewall between the agencies would also be torn down by Governor Malloy’s proposal. The potential conflict of legal matters could find one state watchdog agency suing the other. I'm concerned that the legal staffs of these agencies, for instance, should not be sharing legal responsibilities across agency boundaries. I don't think those firewalls were considered in the crafting of this bill.

I also have grave concerns over how confidentiality would be protected under the new agency consolidations.

There are many unanswered questions. For example, how will conflicts between these agencies be resolved? What are the rules? Who is in charge? Who will we be sure that hearings are fair? The bottom line is this: there are certain parts of state government which need crystal clear definitions - Ethics, Elections and Freedom of Information must remain beyond reproach. This law would take us in the wrong direction.