May 11, 2010

Bringing sunshine to union negotiations

Gov. Gibbons launched a petition drive yesterday that would force public employee union negotiations to be conducted in public. While the timing appears politically motivated, the petition still has merit. Collective bargaining negotiations are one of the few areas that deal with taxpayer money and are not subject to Nevada's open meeting laws.

The proposal, which conservatives have pushed for as public employee salaries have come under the spotlight, would go to the Legislature in 2011 if Gibbons and the Open Public Employee Negotiations Government Initiative collect 97,000 signatures by Nov. 9. If the Legislature doesn't pass the law, it would go in front of voters in 2012.

Gibbons said current local government budget shortfalls and the prospect of layoffs because some unions have refused to make concessions made the issue timely.

"Negotiations should be open to the public," Gibbons said. "This is about adding sunshine to the negotiation process."

Critics allege that opening up negotiations will lead to politicians grandstanding and would derail the sensitive process. But using that logic, everything that involves politicians should be hidden from the public because it might lead to grandstanding and posturing. And yet nobody proposes moving county commission or school board meetings to behind closed doors.

It should be self-evident that meetings involving the spending of taxpayer money should be open to the public. Unfortunately, that idea is lost on some.

You can read the Governor's press release here.