Elections loom large for 2014 Legislature

Election years always make for problematic legislative efforts. With every member of the Colorado House up for re-election (unless he or she is retiring) and roughly half the members of the state Senate, lawmakers are eager to win primary election and general election votes. Embracing controversial bills and working with members of the other party are not high on their agendas.

This year, the Colorado Legislature is coming off a 2013 session that was more acrimonious than most, so don’t expect there to be a sudden burst of bipartisan bonhomie.

There will be a good deal of positioning on both sides to back bills to win support from voters back home, even if lawmakers don’t expect the measures they support to become law.

For Republicans, that means working to repeal three big items passed by the Democratic-controlled Legislature last year, according to Daily Sentinel political reporter Charles Ashby. Those items are new gun laws, new renewable energy standards for the state’s rural electric cooperatives and new election rules that many conservatives believe make it easier to commit election fraud in Colorado.

However, since Republicans are still in a minority in both the House and Senate, it is unlikely these efforts will actually result in the repeal of these measures.

For Democrats, the emphasis will be on jobs and the economy. There will probably be little appetite for the sorts of controversial bills adopted last year — no enthusiasm now for eliminating the death penalty or banning hydraulic fracturing statewide. Some measures to place new restrictions on drilling and fracking may be introduced.

Senate Democrats may have learned one lesson from last year’s controversies and the subsequent recall of two Senate Democrats: Senate leaders say they hope to ensure all citizens who come to the Capitol to testify about bills have an opportunity to have their views heard.

Bills are also anticipated to aid people struck by disasters such as fires and floods and to help them prepare for future natural disasters. This issue may actually see some bipartisanship. A legislative committee created after last September’s Front Range floods has six Democrats and six Republicans.

As we noted in a previous editorial, Grand Junction state Rep. Ray Scott has asked state officials to seek more ways to help improve the economy on the Western Slope, including the possibility of moving some state agencies to this side of the mountains. That could require legislative action, and if so, we hope lawmakers will support such moves.

Legislators, of course, will approve a budget as they do every year in this state, and they will look for adequate funding for highways, schools, prisons and other state needs. We hope they are able to do so this year with considerably less vitriol and more bipartisanship than they exhibited last year. But, given the elections coming up in November, we aren’t optimistic.


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