Wednesday, August 20, 2008
C.A. Upholds Union Labor Mandate for Capitol Project
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
Legislative leaders did not violate the constitutional separation of powers or the State Contract Act by mandating that a project designed to enhance Capitol security by controlling access to the building and grounds employ an all-union workforce, the Third District Court of Appeal ruled yesterday.
Under the state Constitution, Justice Coleman Blease explained, “the Legislature retains powers necessary to its lawmaking functions, including the power to protect the safety and security of the Legislature, its members and any buildings and grounds used by the Legislature.” Legislation establishing requirements for government cotntracts, including competive bidding rules, do not apply to the Legislature, Blease added.
Sacramento’s Zumbrun Law Firm brought a taxpayer suit challenging the contract requiring an all-union workforce for the Capitol Park Safety and Security Improvements Project. The project, which was authorized by the legislative rules committees, is overseen by the committees, with the Department of General Services as the day-to-day project manager.
The project, Blease noted, was a response to the January 2001 incident in which a big rig truck rammed into the south entrance to the Capitol, causing a fire and major structural damage and killing the truck’s driver, as well as the events of Sept. 11, 2001.
The Zumbrun firm told Sacramento Superior Court Judge Loren McMaster that the contract violated the separation of powers because the legislative branch has no authority to manage a contract. It was also contended that the involvement of the Department of General Services made the contract subject to the State Contract Act.
McMaster disagreed. He ruled that the authority to contract for the building and repair of structures on the Capitol grounds does not lie exclusively with the executive branch.
The judge also rejected a contention that the Legislature had violated the Legislative Open Records Act by refusing to disclose various documents, including e-mails pertaining to the decision to require that all work be done under union contract. Lawmakers provided disclosure of some of the materials requested by the Zumbrun firm, but the trial judge agreed that other documents were exempt from the act because they constituted preliminary drafts, notes or memoranda; correspondence among lawmakers and their staff members; or privileged communications.
The Court of Appeal found that the trial judge was correct as to all of the matters raised on appeal.
The separation of powers, Blease explained, does not preclude the Legislature from engaging “in activity that is incidental or ancillary to its lawmaking functions.” This includes providing for the safety and security of its members and employees, as well as other users of its building and grounds.
The contract at issue, he went on to say, “falls within the ancillary power of the Legislature to carry out its lawmaking function.” The selection of the Department of General Services as project manager, he added, did not constitute a delegation of that authority.
The case is The Zumbrun Law Firm v. California Legislature, C054832.
Copyright 2008, Metropolitan News Company