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Gazette Premium Content Public converges on Capitol, says 'no' to another bad idea

The Gazette editorial Published: April 18, 2014

Coloradans have learned it the hard way: No one is safe with the Legislature in session.

Colorado is well known as a political test lab for the left, and this week's experiment stretched the boundaries of absurdity.

Radical experimentation gave us last-year's jobs-killing energy rate hikes. It gave us an election law so poorly written that Boulder resident Jon Caldara, president of the Independence Institute, summoned TV cameras to watch him vote in an election that was only intended for voters from one Colorado Springs Senate district. All the legal scrutiny local and state prosecutors could muster did not result in charges because the law really is that bad.

The latest effort at radical, amateurish, anything-goes legislation was Senate Bill 175.

Deceptively known as "The Reproductive Health Freedom Act," the bill threatened all reasonable state and local regulation of anything with a remote nexus to "reproductive health care." Even honest abortion-rights advocates opposed this bill for the mockery it made of civilized process.

"It appears this is a bill intended to rally the (Democratic) base in advance of November's election," Attorney General John Suthers said.

The bill's summary said it "prohibits a state or local policy that denies or interferes with an individual's reproductive health-care decisions or a state or local policy regarding reproductive health care that is inconsistent with, or that denies or interferes with access to information based on current evidence-based scientific data and medical consensus."

Legal experts said the bill was so broad, poorly worded and ill-defined that it would facilitate violations of common health and safety standards for medical clinics and hospitals. It could likewise threaten laws that require health care professionals to report suspicion of sexual abuse of children.

Suthers said the law could interfere with the ability of planning boards and city councils to regulate building plans and parking lots of proposed medical facilities. By reducing the size of a requested parking lot, for example, a government may interfere with an individual's access to reproductive health care.

The Denver Post's Kurtis Lee said the proposed law was written "more like a resolution."

But ordinary constituents can fight the Legislature. In fact, it was only the sanitizing effect of public scrutiny that kept the majority from further damaging rule of law in Colorado.

More than 1,000 protesters arrived at the Capitol on Tuesday before the Senate was to vote. Opponents packed the Senate chambers. They filled the voice mailboxes of all legislators.

Just before the motion for a vote, Sen. John Kefalas, D-Fort Collins, went home ill. His departure cost Democrats their one-vote majority, so they postponed the vote. Kefalas, who voted for the bill in committee, returned Wednesday with a plan to vote against it. Lakewood Sen. Andy Kerr, SB175's main sponsor, reluctantly killed it. Had it not been for last year's recalls, this bill would likely have passed.

We hope politicians are learning that control of the Legislature doesn't grant license for irresponsible laws designed mostly for expedient, partisan political gain. The public isn't going to stand for it and control of the Legislature can be fleeting.

"What (Democrats) ran into was a firestorm of public dissent. Period. A firestorm of public opposition to this political hatchet job is what SB175 was. They got called on it... and they put this entire institution into significant turmoil," said Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs.

Well said, senator. After the 2013 session, the people are paying attention and getting involved. They are demanding less extreme ideology and more good governance from those they elect.

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