DENVER — Gov. John Hickenlooper finally broke out his veto pen Friday after facing heavy criticism for failing to kill off a single bill during last year’s legislative session, but he didn’t earn any applause from Republicans.
On the contrary, Republicans dismissed the vetoes of the two relatively uncontroversial bills as an obvious election-year attempt to counter his image as a yes-man for the liberal Democratic legislature.
“I guess he can thump his chest and say, ‘You bet, I vetoed Democratic bills,’ and my response would be, ‘Big deal,’” said Republican strategist Dick Wadhams. “Use your veto pen when it counts.”
The business community opposed the first bill, which would have limited copays for physical rehabilitation, over concerns that it would have resulted in higher insurance premiums.
“To keep affordable coverage within the reach of Colorado families, we must make tough choices about new requirements that will raise insurance premiums, and we are concerned with the precedent-setting effects of this legislation,” said Hickenlooper in his veto statement.
The other would have prohibited state agreements on payment in lieu of taxes. Democrats sponsored both bills and neither drew much in the way of media attention.
In other words, the atmosphere surrounding the measures was a far cry from the public outcry over last year’s bills on gun control and the doubling the renewable energy mandate on rural Colorado. Hickenlooper’s decision to sign those bills over the objections of Republicans triggered a backlash that resulted in the historic Sept. 10 recall elections and the start of a 51st state movement.
As a result, it was all but certain that Hickenlooper would veto something in 2014. The governor has now vetoed a total of four bills in four legislative sessions, according to the Denver Business Journal.
“I envision him throwing a bunch of innocuous bills in a fishbowl and him reaching in and picking a couple out,” said Wadhams. “They were fairly inconsequential vetoes, as far as I can tell.”
Republicans running for the party’s gubernatorial nomination to challenge Hickenlooper in November were quick to dismiss the vetoes as little more than campaign window-dressing.
“Ding, ding, ding. 5/6th of the way through 69th General Assembly and @hickforco finds his veto pen,” said state Sen. Greg Brophy (R-Wray) on Twitter.
Said former Senate Minority Leader Mike Kopp on Twitter: “Too little too late. Hick needed the veto pen last year instead of wearing out the rubber stamp.”