Still sitting on his desk are three highly divisive measures: Senate Bill 252, which would double the state’s renewable-energy mandate; S.B. 251, which would allow illegal immigrants to obtain special driver’s licenses, and S.B. 25, which would make it easier for firefighters to unionize.
The governor’s office has scheduled a press event Wednesday at which he’s expected to sign an uncontroversial measure compensating wrongly incarcerated inmates, according to KDVR-TV in Denver. After that, however, it’s anyone’s guess whether he’ll sign, veto or ignore the remaining bills.
If he does ignore them, all three measures would become law without his signature at midnight Friday. That very real possibility has rural lawmakers worried about a potentially devastating increase in electricity costs expected to result from S.B. 252.
State Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling) issued a last-ditch statement Tuesday urging the governor to veto the bill.
“The time has come for the Governor to make the tough decisions Coloradans expect him to make,” said Sonnenberg. “Senate Bill 252 is a poison pill for rural Colorado that raises the cost of providing electricity to rural families and business owners by billions of dollars.”
It’s not hard to figure out why Hickenlooper has yet to act on the bill. Despite a statewide ad campaign urging him to veto the measure, along with dozens of businesses and a half-dozen editorials, S.B. 252 is strongly supported by the state’s potent environmental lobby.
Hickenlooper has consistently run afoul of environmentalists over his support for hydraulic fracturing, and signing S.B. 252 could put him back in their good graces. Conservation Colorado is pushing for the governor to approve the bill, saying “his signature will help create jobs and move Colorado toward a clean, renewable energy future.”
State Sen. Greg Brophy (R-Wray) predicts HIckenlooper will approve the measure either by signing it or by allowing it to become law without his signature.
“I listened to him on [Mike] Rosen’s show [on KOA-AM], and I got the distinct impression that he had bought the proponents’ arguments where they incorrectly suggest that we’ll only see a 2 percent increase in energy costs,” said Brophy. “I think it’s clear at this point that he’s intended to sign this all along.”
Sean Paige, deputy state director of Americans for Prosperity-Colorado, which has run radio ads and organized rallies against the bill, said Hickenlooper could “do himself a favor by vetoing S.B. 252 and give a break to rural Coloradans.”
“When you’re governor of the state and there’s a perception sometimes that you’re a captive of the Denver-Boulder bubble, I think he needs to show the rest of the state that he understands the impact this will have on them,” said Paige.
But Brophy said a veto may not be enough. “He’s already toast in rural Colorado and this just seals the deal,” he said. “The gun bills really did it for him, but now even those few people who might have still supported him will see that he doesn’t care about rural Colorado.”
Also unsettled is how the governor will handle S.B. 25, which would expand collective-bargaining rights for firefighters. Democrats watered down the bill after Hickenlooper threatened to veto it, but critics argue that the measure still allows firefighters to bypass local governments in seeking to form unions.
In a letter urging the governor to veto the bill, the Colorado Municipal League said the measures “creates a state-mandated collective bargaining process when none is needed and no ‘clear and compelling reason’ to overturn local control and home rule authority exists.”
Undocumented aliens would be able to obtain special state driver’s licenses under S.B. 251. The licenses would note that the holder is not a U.S. citizen and could not be used as identification to vote, obtain welfare benefits or board an airplane.
The bill’s Democratic supporters say the measure will reduce hit-and-run accidents by reducing the incentives for illegal immigrants to flee the scene, but opponents argue that the measure is ripe for abuse by human traffickers, drug cartels and others trying to falsify proof of U.S. citizenship.