Expect newly elected Democrats — controlling all statewide offices and both chambers of the Colorado Legislature — to make swift changes after the 2019 General Assembly begins Friday.
Colorado has been a super-swingy, up-for-grabs, left-right purple state for generations. That has typically meant a mix of Republicans and Democrats in statewide offices. Democrats have dominated gubernatorial elections; Republicans have typically balanced the scales by winning races for attorney general, secretary of state or state treasurer.
Republicans and Democrats have taken turns winning House and Senate majorities.
That changed in November. Democrats took control of every nook and cranny of state government. They can and will, logically, take this as a public mandate to enact the changes they promised in their campaigns.
Given the rhetoric and literature Democrats ran on, expect early progress on the following issues:
• Education funding. Gov.-elect Jared Polis, a Boulder Democrat, ran on a promise to fund free all-day preschool and to improve state funding for K-12 and the state’s college and university systems.
• Health care. Polis promised to make health care more accessible and affordable. He wants “universal health care,” and in Congress supported Medicare-for-all. The Democratic Legislature is likely to help him deliver. The questions will be how to fund it, who will benefit and who will pay the most and the least.
• Oil and gas regulations. Far-left environmentalists failed again to persuade voters to impose extreme setbacks on oil and gas regulations. Expect Polis and the Legislature to impose regulations on oil and gas production that give environmental activists some of what they wanted from voters. Polis opposed the 2,500-foot setbacks on November’s ballot but earlier supported 2,000-foot setbacks.
• Legislation to move Colorado toward the Polis goal of 100 percent renewable energy use throughout Colorado.
• Passage of a bill to forbid gender conversion therapy for children. In a controversial practice with a questionable scientific foundation, a few licensed psychologists, psychotherapists and other counselors try to “convert” homosexual children into heterosexuals. The anticipated law would stop the practice among professionals licensed by the state.
• Passage of a “red flag” bill and other restrictions on gun rights. A red flag bill, if signed into law by Polis, would allow a gun owner’s family or law enforcement to obtain a judge’s order for confiscation of firearms from a mentally ill owner. Expect heated rhetoric about potential abuses by people misusing the option to deny another person’s Second Amendment rights. Republicans will fight but have little chance of stopping new gun regulations.
Like never before in Colorado, Republicans and center-right independents are going to learn the consequence of losing elections — of losing lots of elections.
Republicans lost badly, in part, because they failed to communicate to the state’s growing population of millennials and unaffiliated suburban voters just how free-market policies might improve their lives. Young urban voters want health care solutions, better schools and public safety. Communicate with them or die.
Democrats have every right and reason to leverage their victories as the session unfolds. That does not mean they should overreach, rushing to fulfill all wish lists coming from extreme elements of their base.
They won partisan elections, but they govern for all. Politicians seeking to remain in control, and those aspiring to higher office, will be wise to reach across the aisle, process oppositional concerns, and govern near the middle. Remember, Coloradans want good results. They don’t really care which party delivers them.
The Gazette Editorial Board