Gov. Janet Napolitano has signed an executive order requiring agencies under her control to meet with unions representing state workers.
In her five-page order, Napolitano said a "meet and confer" requirement in effect since February at the Department of Corrections has been successful in building relationships between the state and its workers. The governor said she believes the mandate will mean more employee input "with the goal of making state government more effective, efficient, reliable and accountable."
The order, made public Thursday, actually was signed Wednesday, apparently before two top Republican legislators publicly asked the lame-duck governor not to make any unilateral decisions during what could be her last 45 to 60 days in office. Incoming House Speaker Kirk Adams, R-Mesa, and new Senate President Bob Burns, R-Peoria, said any such moves should be left to Jan Brewer, who is next in line to become governor if Napolitano is confirmed by the U.S. Senate as President-elect Barack Obama's pick for Secretary of Homeland Security, something that can't happen before Jan. 20.
But gubernatorial press aide Jeanine L'Ecuyer said it would not have made any difference had Napolitano known of the legislators' objections: The governor was simply exercising the power that remains hers until she quits.
That same power devolves to Brewer the moment she takes the reins of state government. Brewer, however, was noncommittal Thursday about whether she plans to overturn the order, instead focusing her criticism on the incumbent.
"We would have hoped that if Gov. Napolitano wanted the next administration to follow this policy, she would have extended us the courtesy of briefing us on it prior to her issuing the order," Brewer said in a prepared statement.
She also criticized the "fiscal mismanagement" of the state, saying those policies are going to affect state workers.
"We need to focus on that right now and not on union politics," the statement said. "If we had focused on it sooner, then our state employees and everyone else would be much better off."
Napolitano's order is a big victory for Service Employees International Union, which already has 80 people trying to organize state workers.