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:
"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."