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Gazette Premium Content Legislative Democrats may not have learned from 2013

The Gazette editorial Updated: January 16, 2014 at 3:12 pm

Democrats in the Colorado Legislature need to remember an election looms large this November. They need to remember recalls that forced three of their colleagues from office last year. They need to understand they're out of step with a majority of Coloradans. They need to govern responsibly, in the best interests of Colorado, and not in a way designed to flaunt majority status for the thrill of tormenting opponents.

During the 2013 session, as former Colorado Republican Chairman Dick Wadhams told the New York Times, Democrats went down a liberal wish list and "just rammed it through." As a result, the Times reported Wednesday, a Democratic governor who once enjoyed a comfortable level of bipartisan support has become extremely vulnerable. A successful small businessman who previously governed with a fair approach looks like a doctrinaire ideologue on the left—whether it's a fair reputation.

"In addition to guns, Mr. Hickenlooper strongly supported a $950 million tax to increase funding on education that was rejected by voters on the ballot this year," the Times reported, referring to the Democrats' Amendment 66.

The Times reported additional evidence to support what most Coloradans know good and well: Colorado Democrats may have "pushed beyond the will of the general electorate," pointing out that 31.1 percent of voters are Democrats and 31.5 Republicans.

The Democratic Amendment 66 was not merely rejected. It was trounced in a landslide seldom seen in statewide elections. The tax increase had widespread support of the Democratic establishment and the electoral renunciation indicates the party has moved far to the left of mainstream Colorado.

One would expect leadership to tread more cautiously this session, mitigating some of its self-inflicted damage and improving prospects of remaining in power after November. Early signs tell us this may not be the case.

Almost half the Republican bills introduced in the Senate as of Wednesday had been sent by Democratic leadership to the infamous Kill Committee, aka the committee on Veterans and Military Affairs. The committee received bills that would have:

- Allowed Coloradans to buy health insurance from other states, increasing their options.

- Prevented welfare recipients from using Electronic Benefit Transfer cards at ATMs in marijuana stores and strip clubs.

- Repealed the doubling of renewable energy standards that pose financial burden to struggling ratepayers throughout much of the state—a bill written and sponsored by recalled former Senate President John Morse.

All three were bills killed in an afternoon this week.

To be fair, both parties have a tradition of using the Veterans and Military Affairs committee to kill some of the minority party's proposals. But seldom, if ever, has the committee been used so routinely. It's a fair maneuver for frivolous bills that deserve no serious consideration, or for proposed legislation that's clearly an insult to the controlling party and

or mainstream Colorado values. Today, the kill committee is a veritable spittoon for dismissing with reasonable dissent.

"Every bill will get a full, fair hearing," said Senate President Morgan Carroll.

With all due respect, Sen. Carroll, that's not true. Trashing half the minority's ideas does not provide a "full, fair hearing" on "every bill." It's another in-your-face, we're-in-charge power play that defends and protects some of last year's extraordinary overreach. It's an indulgence of power that disrespects fair process and political civility.

In one sense, this bad behavior is a shame. Colorado taxpayers need and deserve level-headed, mostly bipartisan governance from the people in Denver entrusted with their liberty and money.

In another sense, Republicans may ultimately give thanks. If the controlling party keeps it up, they'll marginalize themselves so badly that recalls and Amendment 66 may seem like the good old days. November is only 10 months away.

Body - Justif

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