Updated: January 8, 2014 at 11:30 am
The 2014 session of the Colorado Legislature opens today, after recalls removed two senators and caused a third to resign. Last year's session was a political disaster for Democrats and a bipartisan disappointment for Coloradans who hoped state government would help them improve their lives.
Legislators, get it right this time. The electorate's unmitigated annihilation of a proposed $1 billion-a-year tax increase should clear up any doubt as to whether taxpayers want more government at this time. They do not.
Colorado needs more investment in the private sector for the sake of more and better-paying jobs. That means legislators must avoid imposing new expenses on families and small businesses. It means no more laws that encourage lawsuits. No more regulations that increase energy costs. It means allowing energy producers to produce what Americans need for houses and cars.
Last year's Legislature stuck Colorado with House Bill 1136, best known as the "Sue Your Boss Bill." The low-profile new law - lost in a spate of gun bill media coverage - subjects small businesses, the backbone of Colorado's economy, to civil rights lawsuits that had been more difficult to bring against businesses with 14 or fewer employees. It encourages frivolous claims that can generate enormous attorney fees and larger insurance premiums - all at a cost to job creation. It raises the liability factor on new employees, lowering the incentive for businesses to hire them. This year's Legislature, with only a one-person Democratic majority in the Senate, should rescind that law.
Senate President Morgan Carroll - who replaces recalled Sen. John Morse - told The Gazette's editorial board in December that she could support adjustments to a law that imposes needless regulations on rural electric providers. The law substantially raises utility rates throughout at an expense to the economy. Higher energy bills mean families have less money with which to participate in trade. The higher overhead means small businesses have less capital to invest in employees. Any constructive adjustments would be good, but a rescission of this law could help facilitate economic growth.
The Legislature must also fix House Bill 1303, a wretched law that eliminates nearly all traditional protections that ensured fair elections. The bill establishes election day registration and allows anyone to vote in a jurisdiction with nothing more than a stated "intention" of making it a permanent home. In heated special-interest elections, both sides will have motivation to import voters - if only in fear of the other side doing so. This bill must be fixed so none will wonder if our elections are honest and fair.
Because Coloradans became so fed up with last year's legislative free-for-all, seemingly invincible Democrats have seen once-solid approval ratings vaporize in the course of months. They've learned political majorities cannot abuse power without paying a price.
Democrats have an opportunity to redeem themselves this session by reaching across the aisle to craft bipartisan legislation that benefits ordinary, hard-working Coloradans. Most Colorado taxpayers, whether they vote Democrat or Republican, are not politically doctrinaire. They only want the opportunity to lead honest lives while enjoying the fruits of hard work and accomplishment.
Instead of inciting recalls, legislators have the chance to craft practical laws that might mitigate wildfire threats and improve response times. They have the chance to create a regulatory environment that encourages hiring at a risk of precious and limited capital. They have the chance to make life easier, safer and more prosperous for all in Colorado. It's not about beating political opponents with dramatic new laws designed to change our way of life. It's about making life more prosperous and free for the 5.2 million people who proudly call this place home.