COLO. SPRINGS – Voters lined up Thursday to cast their ballots for or against recalling Senate President John Morse. Supporters of the first-of-its-kind recall are a diverse group, citing Morse’s efforts to restrict gun rights and derail legalized pot as they seek to remove the embattled Democratic lawmaker from office.
Morse is accused of trampling 2nd Amendment rights by pushing gun-control measures through the legislature – and ignoring opposition voiced by constituents. Morse took pride in passing what he calls “gun-safety” laws, but critics say his behavior is what ignited the recall election effort.
Recall proponents also bash Morse for backing new taxes disguised as “fees” in violation of the state constitution’s TABOR (Taxpayers Bill of Rights) amendment – all while Coloradans were losing their jobs and struggling to keep their homes from foreclosure during the Great Recession.
Among the “dirty dozen” fees are taxes levied on vehicle registrations, roads and bridges as well as sugar-laced products such as candy and soda – another reminder to critics of the parallel between New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the embattled Senate President.
Morse and Sen. Angela Giron, who is also facing an unprecedented recall, passionately pushed a bill to increase green energy mandates this year that will raise the costs of utilities in rural Colorado communities including parts of El Paso and Pueblo counties.
In May, Morse and Giron and several lawmakers sponsored a resolution that could have repealed Amendment 64, passed by Colorado voters last year to legalize recreational pot.
Concurrent Resolution 13-003 was passed unanimously by the Senate Business, Labor and Technology Committee and sent to the Senate floor for approval on May 6, the fourth-to-the-last day of the session.
The resolution sought to shelve Amendment 64 indefinitely if statewide voters didn’t approve a 15 percent excise tax and 15 percent sales tax on marijuana products in November.
The resolution stated in part “the concurrent resolution will suspend all provisions of section 16 of article XVIII of the state constitution relating to the regulation of marijuana until such time as voters approve the imposition of new state taxes or increases in state tax rates sufficient to fund the estimated costs of state regulation of marijuana.”
Sensing opposition, Morse scuttled the resolution.
However, Morse earned the dubious distinction as the worst – number one – lawmaker in the nation by the Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington, D.C.-based grassroots organization supportive of marijuana legalization.
“Colorado Sen. John Morse (D) – tried to sneak a Bill through the final hours of the session that could have resulted in the repeal of a voter approved initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol,” states the encrypted message on Morse’s photo on Marijuana Policy Project’s top 10 list of worst lawmakers.
Morse defended his resolution in an email to the Colorado Springs Indy.
“I support the legalization of marijuana, and I think it should be legalized at the federal level,” stated Morse. “What I don’t support is (implementing) Amendment 64 in Colorado without providing, and paying for, adequate regulatory oversight that ensures that we provide it only to those eligible and that we keep it from our children.”
If passed, the proposed state taxes will be used to regulate the retail pot industry, however, critics question whether the Department of Revenue and Department of Health can perform those functions.
Charged with overseeing the medical marijuana industry, both government agencies received scathing audits this year. The Dept. of Revenue misspent funds and failed to implement the seed-to-sale program; the Dept. of Health failed to protect the privacy of thousands of patient and caregiver records, most of who were not notified of the breech.
In November, voters will be asked to approve a statewide 15 percent wholesale tax and 10 percent retail sales tax for recreational marijuana plus levies requested by local governments. Added to those levy requests will be a nearly $1 billion state income tax for public education and an estimated $220 million in bond issues and tax overrides in about 18 school districts.