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Ask First is the term currently in use in Colorado to describe legislative initiatives that prohibit public employers--state government agencies, city and county governments, and public school districts--from deducting union dues from public payroll checks without the advance authorization of the employee from whose paycheck the deduction is being taken.
The idea behind "Ask First" is also known as Paycheck Protection or "Paycheck Deception."
In Colorado, the "Ask First" movement is a response to a November 2007 executive order--Order D 028 07--of Colorado's Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter that authorizes what are called "partnership agreements" allowing government organizations to partner with private interests. These partnership agreements allow government agencies to process payroll deductions for private groups such as labor unions. Ritter's executive order overturned an executive order of his Republican predecessor, Bill Owens, who in 2001 signed a "paycheck protection" order prohibiting government agencies in Colorado from using payroll deductions for unions.
A United States Supreme Court 9-0 ruling in June 2007 said that states may create laws granting extra protections to public-sector workers who want to be asked first before the union can spend their money on political causes. The Supreme Court ruling upheld a 1992 law in Washington approved by 73% of voters that required unions to receive "affirmative authorization" from non-member agency fee payers before spending mandatory fees on politics.
Caldara and the Independence Institute
The "Ask First" movement is identified with Jon Caldara of the Independence Institute, a free-market think tank based in Colorado.
The Rocky Mountain News editorialized in September 2007 in favor of the "Ask First" concept, saying, "We hope the campaign continues to gain ground, because governments should not serve as collection agents for any dues-based organizations, not just unions."
Three Colorado cities had Ask First initiatives on their city-wide ballots on November 6, 2007. Voters in Centennial, Colorado approved the legislation, while voters in Englewood and Greeley rejected it.