As The Denver Post reports today:
The fuming over Gov. Bill Ritter’s recent veto of a labor bill continues as angry critics swear that he never told Democratic leadership, bill sponsors or union backers that he planned to kill it.
Ritter’s office contends staffers warned that the governor would veto the proposal, which would have given a grocery workers union an advantage in contract negotiations.
But the disconnect over the death of House Bill 1170 may point to a rift between the governor’s office and the Democratic-controlled legislature on labor issues, and it has seeded anger among one of the pillars of Democratic political power: labor unions.
The governor’s office meets regularly with House and Senate Democratic leadership, and giving leading lawmakers and bill sponsors advance notice that a veto awaits their proposal is a political courtesy, not a requirement. Still, House Speaker Terrance Carroll said he never heard the V-word.
“They never directly told me the legislation would be vetoed,” said Carroll, D-Denver. “My understanding was that he had concerns with the timing. To me, that does not translate to ‘I’m going to veto the bill.’ “…
…While Casso spoke to the Democratic governor’s legislative liaison a handful of times during the legislative session, he was told what many others report hearing: There are concerns about the timing.
When asked directly by The Denver Post last week whether Ritter said “veto,” spokesman Evan Dreyer stopped short of saying “yes.”
“There was constant and regular contact,” Dreyer said at the time. “They knew exactly what the governor’s concerns were throughout the process.”
Dreyer later told The Post there were repeated meetings with Democratic legislative leaders before the bill was introduced and during the session to tell them he would veto it.
That claim makes Democratic lawmakers look like they recklessly charged ahead with legislation they knew would die, said Rep. Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver.
“He’s well in his right to say ‘I’m not taking a position. You do what you want to do as a legislature,’ ” said Ferrandino, a supporter of the labor bill. “But where the concern from the people in the legislature comes in is after using that argument, you say, ‘Well, I told them I’d veto it.'” [Pols emphasis]
This is exactly what we have been saying here for weeks. The bigger issue here is not whether each individual veto is merited — it’s the bumbling way in which Ritter’s office has handled the discussions, as Rep. Ferrandino notes in the last quote above. Ritter isn’t just angering labor unions — he’s alienating Democrats in general, and completely needlessly at that. If you’re going to veto the bill, then just say you’re going to veto the freakin’ bill. Why all this stupid dancing around among your own party, followed up by apparently false claims that they knew a veto was coming? This shouldn’t be this complicated — it really shouldn’t.
And ominously for Ritter, he may be causing irreparable harm to his own re-election efforts. Not only are some top supporters going to be sitting on the sidelines in 2010, they may actually be working against Ritter:
A group calling itself Labor Initiatives Against Ritter – or LIAR – has filed the paperwork needed with the Internal Revenue Service to begin raising money for political purposes.
Mark Johnson, an International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers member from the Colorado Springs area, is listed as the group’s agent. He declined to comment on LIAR’s plans.