Courts should stop Holden's order

Sunday, September 30, 2001

Gov. Bob Holden's infamous executive order on collective bargaining was against all evidence, good legal advice and sound judgment, not to mention 30 years of legislative history of rejecting bills to accomplish this result. So Holden went ahead and did it.

As many expected at the time of the June 29 order from the governor, a legal challenge has been mounted to overturn this unprecedented action. The lawsuit is a bipartisan effort that features a broad-based coalition of supporters. Lead plaintiff is Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau. He is joined by veteran Democratic State Rep. Charles Quincy Troupe of St. Louis. And the two of them are joined by a remarkable array of interest groups representing hundreds of thousands of Missourians from all walks of life.

To start with, there are the business groups you would expect to be part of such an effort: The Missouri Chamber of Commerce, Associated Industries of Missouri, the National Federation of Independent Business, the Heart of America Chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors and the Missouri Merchants and Manufacturers Association. To these groups add others from education (the Missouri School Boards Association and the Missouri State Teachers Association, Missouri's largest group of educators); agribusiness (the Missouri Farm Bureau); and municipal government (the Missouri Municipal League, which represents the elected leaders of nearly every city and town).

Most impressive, however, they have added to this list the Missouri Correction Officers Association, who not only don't want the executive order, but seek to de-certify the very union that now purports to represent them. Former MoCOA president Gary Gross, who is a named plaintiff in the suit, testified last week that his organization has already collected more than 3,000 signatures out of 4,500 officers to de-certify the union currently representing them. This is a remarkable fact, and its failure to receive the media attention it deserves -- at least up to now -- shames the independent news media of our state.

The lawsuit seeks to have the executive order declared void as unconstitutional and to enjoin any enforcement of its terms. The allegation is that in issuing it, the governor was legislating by executive order in violation of the separation of powers doctrine central to our Constitution, which vests lawmaking powers solely in the Legislature.

Further, the lawsuit alleges that the rights of state workers are certain to be infringed at such time as the order is fully implemented and mandatory service fees are deducted from workers' paychecks, whether they want to join a union or not.

We agree on both counts. Surely it is un-American to deduct fees from a paycheck even against that workers' will, when that worker wants nothing to do with the union.

In filing the lawsuit, Sen. Kinder told the news media: "Our suit seeks to restore the proper constitutional order between co-equal branches of government, where lawmakers make laws and governors are reminded that they are temporary custodians of the executive branch -- not kings, able to rule by decree."

Those lawmakers are now appealing to the third co-equal branch -- the courts -- to right this monstrosity. We trust that judges will see where their duty lies: In restoring that "proper constitutional order."

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