Partisan calls for bipartisan progress at Capitol
DENVER — Republicans wasted no time telling Democrats why they lost seats in the Colorado Senate and how they can avoid losing more ground with voters during this year’s legislative session, which began on Wednesday.
Work with them and stop pretending that only the left side of the political aisle matters to ordinary Coloradans, Republicans said.
“Democrats divided by Republicans does not produce outcomes that are representative of this state,” Senate Minority Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs, said during his opening-day speech, using a mathematical metaphor. “That formula produced a hyper-partisan toxin that affected this entire institution, those who serve here and all who visited here. We started looking like Congress.
“When the left side of this chamber is divided by the right side of this chamber, this place does not represent who’s outside this chamber,” he added.
Cadman was referring to last year’s action-packed session that had the majority Democrats in both chambers pushing numerous left-leaning efforts from gun control to stricter renewable energy standards to increased ways for employees to sue businesses in labor disputes.
Some of those bills, particularly measures to limit gun magazines to 15 rounds and require background checks on all firearm purchases, led to three recall efforts, two of which were successful. Those resulted in the removal of former Senate President John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, and Sen. Angela Giron, D-Pueblo. Both were replaced by Republicans.
That lowered the Democrats’ decisive 20-15 grip on the Senate to a narrow 18-17 hold. A third recall attempt that could have flipped the majority to the GOP was thwarted when Sen. Evie Hudak, D-Westminster, resigned rather than face a recall vote. She was replaced by a Democrat.
The Democrats, meanwhile, started off the session talking as all lawmakers have historically done, with messages of, “Why can’t we get along?”
“Last session was a busy and productive session and much of what we actually worked on was eclipsed by marijuana and guns in the major headlines,” newly minted Senate President Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, said in her opening-day speech. “While D.C. was criticized for doing too little, some questioned whether in Colorado we did too much. But 95 percent of all we did in Colorado we did with bipartisan support. And while some issues were no doubt controversial, most of the policies we pursued, and results we obtained, are supported by a strong majority of Coloradans.”
Only time will tell if that is true as the two sides head into the 120-day session, and the longer term political season plays out between now and Election Day in November.
To help them maintain their majority, the Democrats’ first bills were aimed at helping those ordinary Coloradans, from parents who have children ready to head into college to Coloradans who still are dealing with the devastating wildfires and floods that marked part of 2013.
The first 10 bills introduced into the House on Wednesday primarily were devoted to that, measures ranging from homeowner tax credits to a bill by Rep. Millie Hamner, a Frisco Democrat whose district includes the eastern half of Delta County, to give local governments the authority to ban or restrict agricultural burns during times of red-flag wildfire warnings.
Meanwhile, the Senate Democrats want to devote more than $100 million to aid struggling students with dreams of getting college degrees, while House Republicans want to spend that same amount on improving roads and bridges.
At the same time, Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat who this year is facing his first re-election bid, is expected to ask for an increase in the state’s reserve fund, just in case more bad things like floods and fires hit the state again.
Hickenlooper, who will give his fourth State of the State speech later today, also is expected to ask for more business-friendly measures, such as business personal property tax breaks, something legislators of both parties support.
“When meeting with the business community, almost all of them said that the number one thing that we could do to help them is to leave them alone,” said House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso, R-Loveland.
“And while increasing opportunity remains of critical importance, so too does protecting that newfound prosperity once it’s achieved,” added House Speaker Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver. “Economic security, ensuring that Coloradans not only have a shot at climbing the ladder, but have a foundation in place to stay on those higher rungs, is just as critical to fostering economic opportunity during a recovery.”
In addition to that, some Republicans have introduced bills that aren’t expected to get far, such as measures to roll back new renewable energy standards for rural electric associations, and a measure, partly sponsored by Rep. Jared Wright, R-Fruita, to do away with concealed-carry licenses and allow anyone to carry a concealed weapon.
Beyond all that, some of the bills introduced during the first day of the session aren’t likely to create much controversy. Some of those include measures to create several new specialized license plates, such as honoring Scottish-Americans, to a proposed new official state cactus, the Kingcup.