Gov. John Lynch this week vetoed House Bill 1666, which would have required legislative approval of all collective bargaining agreements between the state and public employees. As tempting as the bill sounds, Lynch's concerns were well-founded.
The bill stated that “every collective bargaining agreement entered into by the state shall be approved by the fiscal committee of the general court before each takes effect.” That would not simply give legislators a small role to play in contract approvals. It would give the fiscal committee a veto over contracts negotiated by the governor.
Not only is that an intrusion into the authority of the executive branch, but it would needlessly and enormously complicate labor negotiations.
Lynch was right to point out in his veto message how long and arduous contract negotiations are. A governor and his team spend months crafting contracts that contain dozens of individually negotiated items.
Under HB 1666, after a deal is reached the fiscal committee would then essentially reopen the contract. It could object to any item, big or small, and every objection would have to be renegotiated. It would prolong contract negotiations for months or longer and undermine the governor's negotiating authority. Any union whose leaders thought they could get more favorable treatment from the fiscal committee would refuse to compromise with the governor.
The trick to getting better contracts with state employee unions is not to dilute the governor's authority. It is to elect governors who are better negotiators.