House Speaker mulls business-labor council after union vote, Ritter veto
DENVER – The fallout from a contentious pro-union bill, and Gov. Bill Ritter’s surprising veto, continues.Hoping to avoid a bitter, partisan fight that could divide the Legislature along business and labor issues, Democratic State House Speaker Andrew Romanoff says he will form a business-labor council to provide advice to the state Legislature this session on areas of health care, job training and economic development.Romanoff said the goal is to find common ground.After a bill to make it easier for unions to form so-called “closed shops” passed the Legislature, Ritter on Friday vetoed it, breaking from his party. The bill would have eliminated one of two worker elections required to form an all-union workplace, in which even workers who don’t belong to the union must pay union dues.In his veto message, the Democratic governor said he agreed with the spirit of the bill. But he said the political debate was “sinking us into cynical politics” and said backers pushed the measure through with no attempt at discussion or debate.The bill was divisive from the start. Business leaders claimed it would hurt the state’s efforts to lure new jobs and business. Republicans attempted a rare Senate filibuster.The Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry’s leadership sent a letter to Ritter claiming the bill had “galvanized the business community into a solid wall of opposition.”The organization predicted a long-running dispute between business and labor if the bill passed, and even said it could end with a pro-business right-to-work initiative on next year’s ballot.And when Ritter vetoed the measure, labor reacted angrily.Steve Adams, president of the Colorado AFL-CIO, said the governor backed out of a commitment to labor and said he was “flabbergasted” by the veto.Romanoff says he was disappointed by Ritter’s veto, but said the labor initiative was not a key element of the Democratic agenda this year. He said there are no plans to attempt a veto override or to reintroduce a similar measure this session.Instead, Romanoff said he developed the idea for a business-labor committee to help forge agreements as he read over the governor’s veto message.Healing the rifts caused by the bill and the debate may not be easy, but Romanoff said there must be some accord.”Consensus doesn’t magically materialize out of thin air,” Romanoff said. “Consensus is forged by leaders. Nobody really benefits from paralysis.”
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