EDITORIAL: Democrats seeking scarlet letter for private contractors

Senate Bill 556 is another sad example of how California's legislative Democrats can't say no to their main benefactor, public employee unions, even at the expense of the voters they represent.

This bill is costly, unnecessary and meddlesome -- a legislative solution in search of a problem.

It's also another example of Democrats adding to California's image of being hostile to private enterprise.

Authored by Sen. Ellen Corbett of San Leandro, SB 556 would require contract employees working for state or local governments to affix notices to their uniforms or vehicles that identify them as "not a government employee."

According to the Assembly Judiciary Committee analysis, Corbett thinks "this bill is needed to ensure that members of the public can visually distinguish between government employees and nongovernment employees who are increasingly subcontracted to perform services once exclusively the domain of true public employees."

In other words, Corbett believes one way to address California's high unemployment is hiring folks to be the badge police.

We would be curious to know which members of the public are clamoring for more signage in their lives so they can distinguish between contractors and public employees.

Is there a petition drive we missed? Are citizens walking through the Fresno County Hall of Records asking workers, "Public or private?"

Clearly this isn't the case. That leaves us little option but to conclude the intent of her bill is to stigmatize private contractors with a scarlet letter. The apparent intent is to make it more difficult for local governments to contract for services, even when it saves money and improves efficiencies.

To be clear, this is strictly a public employee union ploy, with the emphasis on public.

Despite opposition from the League of California Cities, California State Association of Counties, California Special Districts Association and a host of other local government organizations, the Corbett bill zipped out of the Senate on a largely party-line vote.

SB 556 again raises the disturbing question: Just how far are Democrats willing to go to stay in the good graces of public employee unions?