With Christmas in the rear view and the New Year upon us, now seems like the right time to look back on the 2013 legislative session and to look toward the 2014 legislative session.
Governor Hickenlooper, aided by his Democratic Party allies in the state legislature, muscled through a divisive and ideological agenda in 2013 that included gun grabbing, vote rigging and tax hiking.
That was a nearly perfect trifecta for aggressive liberals, but an agenda so outside the mainstream that Colorado Democrats have already been slapped hard by middle-of-the-road Colorado voters.
In the past, everything Hickenlooper touched turned to political gold. After passing tax increase after tax increase in Denver, he joined the progressive chorus in support of a union-backed billion dollar income tax hike. Even with Bloomberg’s east coast fortune aiding the effort and more than $10 million spent in support of the deeply unpopular plan, Amendment 66 was soundly rejected by Colorado voters on a 2-1 margin. The loss was so bad for Democrats that only two counties, Denver and Boulder, passed the tax increase. As a result, Hickenlooper’s personal approvals took another in a series of heavy hits.
Hickenlooper was already in trouble after he guided a legislative session that slammed mainstream Colorado far to the left. And he paid a price. Colorado Democrats passed bills revoking second amendment rights of law abiding Coloradans, a bill throwing Colorado elections open to voter fraud and vote rigging, and yes, the billion dollar tax increase. For each of these things, Hickenlooper and his Democrats paid heavily.
Colorado voters weighed in on this radical agenda when they recalled two Democratic state Senators and forced the resignation of a third. The divide between Denver Democrats and their compatriots across the rest of the state couldn’t have been made clearer.
While Democratic bills to slash the second amendment rights of Coloradans and push massive tax increases took their toll politically, Democrats are likely betting that the sweeping and controversial election law changes they imposed (dismissing concerns of voter fraud and intimidation) will create fundamental advantages for Democratic candidates.
The bill, known by its number as “1303,” has already been thumped by the courts on two special elections and a third election in Broomfield has been ordered de-certified by a district court judge due to fraud enabled by the terms of 1303. The bill is so shamefully partisan that not one Republican voted for it in either the House or Senate.
Even with direct examples of constitutional conflict and voter fraud resulting from 1303, Governor Hickenlooper and his Democrats continue to stand firm, rejecting calls from Republican legislators and good-government watch dog groups to work in a bi-partisan manner to plug the gaping holes that enable voter fraud and vote rigging.
Given the disaster created by liberal overreaching in 2013, responsible Democrats should be seeking a “quiet” legislative session next year. After what may very well have been the most partisan legislative session in modern history, Governor Hickenlooper’s own political future is on the line, and he would be foolish not to seek at least the appearance of bipartisanship next year.
But he may be unable to deliver. Despite the fact that Republicans do not control either chamber of the legislature, Democrats like Hickenlooper will remain under heavy pressure from their extreme left-wing base to step up their attacks the oil and gas industry, expand the welfare rolls, further weaken Colorado’s election laws, repeal the death penalty, and push the envelope on social issues.
The question that will dictate the tenor of 2014 session — and election — is whether the Democrats have learned their lesson from their partisan 2013 session, or whether they will double down on the same kind of radical agenda that defined 2013. Only time will tell.
With Democrats trailing Republicans in national polls, and state polls painting a similar picture, Hickenlooper and his legislative minions would be smart to look to Republicans to be their life raft in 2014. By rejecting the demands of their ideologically extreme financiers and making an appeal for bi-partisanship, Democrats could paper over last year’s self-inflicted political damage before voters head to the polls in 2014. Call it a New Year’s resolution to work with their political opponents instead of steamrolling them.
But those efforts will have to be sincere and substantive. Sitting down with Republicans to restore some semblance of integrity to Colorado’s election laws, which were reduced to smoldering wreckage by 1303 last year, would be a good start.