June 9, 2015
Pro Firefighter General Assembly Bills Would Interfere with Local Sovereignty
Center Criticizes Trend Towards Centralized Government
At least four bills introduced in the 2015 Rhode Island General Assembly that would bolster firefighter leverage in the collective bargaining process, two of which will be heard in committee today, would infringe on the sovereignty of municipal governments and further represents an unhealthy trend towards centralized government planning, according to the nonpartisan Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity.
Similar to the arguments against the one-size-fits all RhodeMap RI mandates are now required of every locality, the four bills (H6278/S0961 and H6473/S0533) represent a universal statewide mandate on cities and towns that would restrict management rights of local officials in dealing with increasingly costly public employee collective bargaining contracts.
“America was structured on the concept that local representative government is the best government. These local decisions must be left to local officials; our state legislators must resist the urge to interfere,” said Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. “Every locality has a unique relationship with its employees, and it is not the place of the state government to mandate a single, centralized approach.”
The Center notes that the growing trend of federal and state governments seeking to interfere with or control local decisions, is a dangerous model that runs contrary to the principles of limited government. The most notable analogy is the recent RhodeMap RI plan which was centrally imposed upon cities and towns without any consent from the General Assembly.
With regard to the firefighter bills, the Center points to different paths that different municipalities are upon:
- In Coventry, local voters and officials chose not to fund their highly costly fire district. After the state interfered in 2014, a state appointed overseer is now attempting to negotiate a more cost-effective arrangement.
- In North Kingstown, local officials chose to alter the firefighter shift schedule, a right affirmed by the RI Supreme Court. The bills in question would block such action.
- In Providence, Mayor Elorza is looking to change shift schedules in order to save taxpayer dollars. The bills in question would pre-empt the Mayor from implementing his plan.
- In Tiverton, local officials voluntarily decided to include shift schedules as part of their firefighter collective bargaining agreement. The bills in question would tie the hands of municipal leaders.
“The Tiverton example demonstrates that a state mandate is not needed for certain issues to be collectively bargained,” commented Justin Katz, research director for the Center and Tiverton resident. “It should be up to each town, not state legislators, to determine when this tactic is appropriate and when it is not.”
Mike Stenhouse, CEO
401.429.6115 | firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Center
The nonpartisan RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity is Rhode Island’s premiere free-enterprise think tank. The mission of the 501c3 nonprofit organization is to return government to the people by opposing special-interest politics and advancing proven free-market solutions that can transform lives by restoring economic competitiveness, increasing educational opportunities, and protecting individual freedoms.