2012 Transparency Legislation

January 22nd, 2012 by Amy Categories: Colorado, PERA Colorado, higher education, other states, stimulus No Responses
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Transparency is still an issue at the state capitol. Early in this 2012 legislative session, three bills could provide taxpayers with additional transparency in government.

HB12-1009 Federal Funds Transparency Act

House Sponsors: Cheri Gerou (R-HD 25)

Senate Sponsors: Kent Lambert (R-SD 9 )

This bill seeks additional information than is currently provided on how each department and agency of the executive branch spends federal tax dollars. Most importantly, the agency or department must provide “plans for operating the state agency if there is a reduction” in federal funding of five percent or more.

This is a common sense bill that forces state agencies that rely heavily upon the federal government such as the Governor’s Energy Office (GEO), Education Department, and Department of Health Care Policy and Financing to address possible future austerity measures. For the GEO, which received and spent hundreds of millions of federal taxpayer dollars with little accountability, the time for planning for life after stimulus money is now.

Prediction: This bill will pass the House. It should pass the Senate but won’t. The excuse will be that it is too much to ask of overworked state employees.

HB12-1118 School Collective Bargaining Open to Public

House Sponsors: Kathleen Conti (R-HD 38)

Senate Sponsors: None

This bill declares that collective bargaining negotiations between boards of education or school administration personnel and union representatives are part of the people’s business and thus must be open to the public.

In addition, the terms of the written collective bargaining agreement must be made available for public inspection.

This issue erupted last spring as my colleague Ben DeGrow explained in his April 2011 opinion editorial:

The collective bargaining agreement that gives the Jefferson County Education Association (JCEA) exclusive representation more than 5,000 district teachers plainly sets transparency as the default setting: “Negotiations shall be conducted in open sessions, unless both parties agree to the contrary.”

Nevertheless, the language is hollow. In recent years, while negotiations were supposed to be open, finding any information of times and locations on district outlets has been next to impossible.

This year it has become even worse. On April 11 at a joint appearance, JCEA president Kerrie Dallman and Jeffco superintendent Cynthia Stevenson publicly concurred that all negotiations had been closed.

Conti is not out of line for requiring this kind of transparency. “Six other states have enacted laws ensuring public access to negotiations between government agencies and employee unions,” writes DeGrow. While…”Colorado leaves it up to local discretion. Only one of 42 school districts that practice union bargaining, Poudre R-1 in Fort Collins, thoroughly ensures citizens’ right to observe negotiations. Poudre officials have observed “no negative effects” from the practice.”

Prediction: This bill passes through the House but union lobby in the Senate lead by Evie Hudak will make sure it dies in committee.

SB12-084 PERA Transparency

Senate Sponsor: Kent Lambert (R-SD 9)

House Sponsor: Spencer Swalm (R-HD 37)

This bill requires transparency for Public Employees’ Retirement Association (PERA) members and retirees “who have ever been elected officials or cabinet-level appointees of elected officials.” Data elements to include:

  • Person’s name
  • Each position held
  • Amount of any annual salary paid for each position
  • Amount of employer and employee contributions paid on such salary
  • Age of retirement
  • Highest average salary
  • Amount of benefits paid

When State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, a statutory member of the PERA board, has to sue to get information regarding benefits paid and plan solvency, taxpayers realize they are past due for PERA transparency.

Prediction: The state employees union and PERA lobby will kill this bill in the Senate. Too bad.

Check the Transparency blog for updates. We’ll track the legislation so you don’t have to.

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