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Legislative Year: 2016 Change

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Voter registration trends for Colorado’s political parties get worse by the month.  The “totals” numbers look bad and the “younger voters” numbers are terrible.

Here are the facts.  September 1 Registered Voter numbers for Democrats:  1,166, 819; for Republicans:  1,147,424; and for Unaffiliateds:  1,337,145.  October 1 Registered Voters voter numbers for Democrats:  1,177,863; for Republicans:  1,154,370; for Unaffiliateds:  1,359,553.

Between September 1 and October 1, Democrats increased their voter list by 11,044, Republicans increased their list by 6,916, and Unaffiliateds increased their list by 22,408.

Unaffiliated voters doubled the number of new registered voters compared to Democrats and tripled the number of new registered voters compared to Republicans.

Even scarier for the parties is the age distribution.  As of October, Unaffiliateds have more than twice the number of registered voters in the 18-25 age range as Republicans and about a third more registered voters in that range than Democrats.

Many citizens of Colorado are giving its political parties bad reviews, with the Republicans coming in at ONE rotten tomato and Democrats coming in at ONE+.

Results of these reviews show up in the initiatives on the ballot for minimum wage, which couldn’t get through the state house, for medically supported dying or assisted suicide, depending on your side, which also couldn’t get through the legislature, and for presidential primaries.

It will be interesting to see how Amendment 71 to make it harder for citizens to run constitutional amendments will fare.  With about $4 million put in on the pro-limits side and about $1000 on the anti-limits side, the money is betting on limits.  

But both minimum wage and medically supported dying/assisted suicide are constitutional amendment initiatives.  If they fail, their supporters will find it much  more difficult to get these issues on the ballot again.  If they pass and Amendment 71 passes, the results are mixed, but Amendment 71 supporters win in the long run.  If Amendment 71 goes down, then the parties continue to lose their legislation influence as issues can be put directly to the voters without 71’s defined limits.

Many reasons exist in Colorado for diminished party influence.  Since taxes are voted on, legislators, elected boards and councils don’t have as much decision-making power as they did before TABOR.  That diminution may affect other policy decision-making as legislators feel the push-and-pull from conflicting interests over oil and gas development, health care, public education, etc. 

If young Unaffiliateds take the time to get involved with the parties, they experience the sclerosis of overly complicated rules and the domination of older generations, putting this as politely as possible.  Democrats do have more young legislators than Republicans, but neither party seems inclined to make rules of involvement easier.

At this point, voters are taking the big leadership role in many public policy innovations.  Colorado’s voters decided to legalize marijuana, for example, a huge leap that defied many elected officials. 

One House district contender, Mary Parker in South Jeffco, is running as an independent after running twice as a Democrat. The district is Republican dominant.  She's heard from voters that they register "unaffiliated" because the parties don't listen and they're unable to solve big problems. She offers herself as an independent problem-solver. The election will tell whether that sells. 


Senator Vicki Marble, R-23, in a Colorado Statesman article, suggested a review of what happened to Senate bills sponsored only by Republicans when the bills moved to House committees. Here it is, along with an analysis of House bills sponsored only by Democrats when those bills moved to Senate committees.

In 2015, almost to a bill, the defeated legislation was highly partisan.  CCW defines “highly partisan” as legislation that represents the hottest topics on either party’s agenda.  The answer to Sen. Marble’s request is easy.  Each side sticks a knife in the other party’s highly partisan bills. <<See list of 2015 PI bills here>>

Second amendment, right-to-life, TABOR protection, income tax credits, parent bill of rights, mail-in ballots, renewable energy, and mineral rights are among the sizzling topics for Republicans.  The Republican Senate sent 29 of those types of bills to die in House committees in 2015.  These dead bills represented 27% of the 109 House committee-killed, Republican-sponsored Senate bills.

Senate committees killed 33 all Dem-sponsored bills out of a total of 188.  That’s 18% of Senate committee PI’ed bills.  Hot defeated subjects included early education, extra spending, pay equity, gay rights, mascots, employee leave, rain water collection, minimum wage, middle class college savings, affordable housing, and higher education tuition.

When these bills run again, and some of them are already on the docket, they will no doubt face the same fate in 2016 as in 2015.  One observation percentage– Senate Republicans lobbed more hot bills over to the House than were volleyed in the other direction.  This may be a function of State Senate districts where more Senate seats are “safe” for the GOP than for Dems.

More interesting in both chambers are the bills sponsored by all Republicans or all Democrats killed in committees in their own chamber.  GOP Senate committees killed 16 bills sponsored only by Republicans.  Dem House committees killed 22 bills sponsored only by Democrats. 

On the House side, Republicans were the big supporters of Dem-sponsored bills that most or all committee Dems opposed.  Rep. Paul Rosenthal, D-HD9, on HB15-1126, a bill to help overseas federal employees with their state income tax, and Rep.  Jonathan Singer, D-HD11, on HB15-1206 giving tax refunds on recycling equipment, apparently missed the “don’t do it” message from leadership with their legislation.


The biggest all-Dem sponsored House bill that went down was HB15-1135, the Death with Dignity Act.  Three committee Democrats, with all committee Republicans, sent the bill to defeat.  The Homeless Person’s Bill of Rights, HB15-1264, also went too far for three Dem members of the State, Veterans, Military Affairs Committee.  The House kill committee killed one of its own.

On the Republican side in the Senate, SB15-006, the Prohibit Forfeitures without Criminal Conviction bill, went down in Senate Judiciary when Republican Sens. John Cooke, R-13, and Ellen Roberts, R-06, voted with Sen. Lucia Guzman, D-34. to tank it. SB15-233, Revising Colorado Education Accountability Measures, passed two Senate committees but was PI’ed by Legislative Council, a casualty of the HB15-1323 compromise.

Sen. Marble herself showed an interesting division in the Republican caucus on SB15-072, Metropolitan State University of Denver Admissions.  While the bill sponsored by Sen. Kent Lambert, R-09, and Rep. Paul Lundeen, R-19, wasn’t the biggest of the session, it was plenty important.  It would have changed Metro’s admissions from “modified open” to “moderately selective,” making it more difficult for some prospective students to attend the college. 

The bill failed when three Republicans in the Senate Education Committee voted to PI the legislation: Sen. Marble, Sen. Owen Hill, R-10, and Sen. Chris Holbert, R-30.  Sens. Tim Neville, R-16, and Laura Woods, R-19, voted in favor of the change.

That type of scrimmage occurred in the GOP-controlled Senate on health issues, SB15-285, bike trails, SB15-081, public trustees, SB15-096, and eminent domain, SB15-114.  Each of these bills, while not the Long Bill, had serious implications.

Out of 682 bills in 2015, the 38 bills sponsored by members of the same party killed in that party’s majority committees represent 6% of the total.  The Governor signed 358 bills.  Democrats voted YES on the vast majority of those bills.  Republicans in both chambers spread their votes out.  Those are the voting trends setting the stage for the 2016 session of the General Assembly.  PEN,CCW

With 117 bills hitting the docket the first day of the General Assembly, both parties put down markers.  Marker bills are loaded for bear.

First House bills put politics front, not center

The first five House bills, sponsored by Democrats only, cover previous ground.  HB16-1001 pushes equal pay on state contractors, HB-1002 hits on employee leave, HB-1003revisits middle class college savings, HB-1004 forces climate action, and HB-1005 returns to a personal favorite - residential rainwater collection in barrels.


Not to be outdone, Rep. Janak Joshi (R-16) threw his "Offenses Against Unborn Children,"HB16-1007, into the pot as the first Republican-sponsored bill.  Rep. Kevin Priola (R-56) may have gone down a partisan rabbit hole with his HB16-1010, setting regulations on destructive rodent releases into conservation districts.
First Senate bills a mixture of politics and politesse
Of the first ten Senate bills, two are bipartisan.  Sen. Larry Crowder (R-35)  introduced two popular bills for the GOP:  SB16-001 allows retired military to exclude their entire pension income from state income tax and SB16-008 allows municipalities to let off-highway vehicles cross designated highways.  Crowder, a veteran, is up for re-election in a close district.
During Governor John Hickenlooper's State-of-the-State speech, he appeared to give the stink eye to some legislators on the subject of school testing.  Turns out, he was probably staring down two conservatives, Rep. Lori Saine (R-63) and Sen. Vickie Marble (R-23), sponsors of SB16-005, "Eliminating Statewide Assessments in 9th Grade."  It will be interesting if the bill gets out of the Senate as that would be a 180 degree turn-around for Republicans who unanimously supported SB10-191 that requires annual student testing for teacher evaluations.
That's about as much attention as public education received in any speech by any leader from either party.  Hickenlooper did say that higher education will lose $20 million.  That means tuition will increase, students will borrow more, and graduates will have more debt. Since the public schools k-12 "negative factor" won't be fixed either, Colorado's students are carrying most of the burden of TABOR effects.
Leadership speeches:  Freedom, Fairness, Prosperity
Senate President Bill Cadman (R-12) and Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman (D-34) put up contending values for civil society in Colorado.  Cadman praised freedom, citing Lincoln's titanic struggle securing freedom as our most important national achievement. Guzman cited fairness of opportunity, as opposed to handouts, as an essential foundation for ensuring a thriving society.  The Governor emphasized Colorado's favorable business environment, especially for entrepreneurs, as the power driver of the state's prosperity.
It's hard to see how Colorado can thrive without all three elements firing all cylinders. If Democrats can give Rep. Priola's rodent bill a fair shot, maybe Republicans will reciprocate on hospital fees.  That would free up funds to give Colorado's young people a fair shot at contributing to Colorado's entrepreneurial future.  PEN, CCW


Senate President Bill Cadman, SD-12, is term limited.  He spent much of the 2015 General Assembly herding his 18-person army.  His right flank kept squeezing out of the pocket, with eight of 18 GOP senators frequently taking shots at leadership’s bills.

Two legislators, one current and one former, are running in a primary for Pres. Cadman’s seat in Colorado Springs.  Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt of HD-15 is facing off against former Rep. Bob Gardner of HD-20.  The race captures the split in the Republican party and what’s at stake for the 2016 November election.

Some could argue that the race is Air Force v Air Force.  Gardner graduated as a zoomie, went on to law school, served, and retired as a Lt. Colonel.  Klingenschmitt , also known as Dr. Chaps, graduated as a zoomie, went to theology school, served in the Air Force and Navy as a military chaplain, attended a political protest in  his Naval uniform, asked for a courtmartial, was tried and found guilty.

Klingenschmitt, as Dr. Chaps, called an attack on a pregnant woman resulting in her fetus cut out of her womb “the curse of God” for abortion.  He was reprimanded by House leadership and removed from his committee.  According to the Colorado Springs Gazette, other controversies include his comments on the Boy Scout policy shift on gays as scout leaders causing an increase in child molesting and a comparison of US Congressman Jared Polis to ISIS leaders beheading Christians based on Polis’ support of a bill to extend employment protections for sexual orientation.

Gardner had his share of controversy in his early years as a GOP activist and political consultant in El Paso County.  He fought collective bargaining for police and fire fighters, backed school board candidates favoring vouchers, and supported a local ballot measure to increase taxes to support people with developmental disabilities while arguing against it as a campaign tactic.  As a state representative, Gardner offered legislation to support the developmentally disabled and to create a college scholarship program for low-income students.

Klingenschmitt is attacking Gardner as an “establishment liberal.”  He cites Gardner’s sponsorship of HB13-1266, a bill to allow Colorado’s insurance commissioner to regulate health insurers based on new federal requirements from the Affordable Care Act.  Nine House Republicans supported the bill that passed 45-16 in the House.  2013 minority leader and fellow Colorado Springs representative Mark Waller also voted YES on the bill.  It’s the same vote that hurt Rep. Amy Stephens in her run for US Senate.  Klingenschmitt now calls Gardner “bob and weave Bob.”

Klingenschmitt can make the case that he is on the far right side of Republican Senate and party leadership as he has been chastised by both.  In the 2015 session on bills signed by the Governor, he voted NO on bills presented by Pres. Cadman 131 times.  Cadman voted YES 352 times to Klingenschmitt’s 227.

Gardner and Cadman are much more closely aligned.  In 2014, Gardner’s last year as a representative when Cadman was Senate minority leader, Cadman voted YES on bills signed by the governor 311 times, Gardner 319 times.  Both Cadman and Gardner were far from House Speaker Ferrandino’s 409 YES votes.

So far, Klingenschmitt has collected $23,883 to Gardner’s $38,682.  Klingenschmitt is his own biggest donor at $6550.

The State Senate is up for grabs in 2016 in more ways than Democrat v. Republican.  Some of the most aggressive fights will be settled well before November in these intra-party battles. 

Legislators on the Democratic side said to their leaders, “YES! You bet!” Republicans, on the other hand, said, “Maybe, maybe not!”

Cadman herded cats while Hullinghorst had the strong arm of the Governor in her pocket

Cadman’s ‘cat herding cats’ environment contrasted sharply with House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst’s corgi nipping Democratic heels. Hullinghorst had the Governor in her back pocket to press interests. The voting range for House Dems looks like this: 363 Yes’s to 3 No’s (Majority leader Crisanta Duran) to 346 Yes’s to 11 No’s (Rep. Dan Pabon).

The spread between Cadman and Marble is 85 NO votes; the spread between Hullinghorst and Pabon is 7 No votes. The Republicans have become the disorganized party.

Three Republican Senators joined Marble in a cohort of frequent No voters: Tim Neville -81 No’s; Jerry Sonnenberg – 74 No’s; and MAJORITY WHIP Randy Baumgardner – 73 No’s.

Even so, Cadman helped pass 359 of the 366 bills that got through both chambers.

Senate Democrats helped Cadman when some GOPers went their own way

On numerous occasions, the Senate President needed Democrats to push bills across the finish line. HB15-1186, increasing the age limit for autistic children to receive services, only had 9 Republican votes. HB15-1215, the in-state tuition dependents of military members, only had 11 Republican votes. HB15-1029, the health care telemedicine bill, only had 10 Republican votes.

Some House bills passed without Cadman’s help, showing independence on the part of the “middle” cohort of the GOP. HB15-1072 expands ‘harassment’ to interactive electronic communications. This bill passed with help from Sens. David Balmer, John Cooke, Larry Crowder, Chris Holbert , Beth Martinez-Humenik, Ellen Roberts and all Senate Democrats.

A somewhat different group of Republican Senators helped pass HB15-1226, a bill to allow annual license fees for food establishments to be set by rule rather than statute. Sens. Kevin Grantham, Owen Hill, Chris Holbert, Beth Martinez-Humenik, and Ellen Roberts joined with Democrats to push that bill through.

Republicans settled into four groups

Cadman could rely on three Senators to vote YES consistently on bills that he got behind: Sen. Ellen Roberts (358 Yes – 8 No), Beth Martinez-Humenik (346 Yes – 9 No), and Mark Scheffel (357 Yes – 9 No).

Another group of four Senate Republicans showed good support, about as much as the Democrats: Sen. Kevin Grantham (349 Yes- 17 No), John Cooke (342 Yes – 19 No), Larry Crowder (346 Yes – 20 No), and David Balmer (312 Yes – 26 No).

Republican swing voters included Sen. Owen Hill (34 No’s), Ray Scott (42 No’s), Chris Holbert (53 No’s), Kent Lambert (53 No’s), Laura Woods (54 No’s), and Kevin Lundberg (57 No’s).  And then there were the big No'ers.

A party can’t be in the majority and be more scrambled than the Senate GOP.

10 Republicans voted NO more often than any Senate Democrat

Overall, Cadman received more consistent support from Senate Democrats than from half of his caucus. The most NO votes on passed bills on the Democratic side came from Sen. Matt Jones-Boulder (339 Yes – 27 No’s). Ten Republican Senators, or more than half of the majority, voted No more often than Jones.

Democratic Sen. Michael Johnston-Denver voted most frequently with Cadman on the donkey side, at 342 Yes – 10 No, giving the Senate President more help than 14 GOPers.

Only five Democratic Senators voted No 20 or more times, Minority Leader Morgan Carroll – 20 No’s, Mary Hodge – 21 No’s, Pat Steadman – 21 No’s, Jessie Ulibarri -25 No’s, and Jones – 27 No’s.

House leaders did need Republican votes, occasionally

Three bills that passed the House needed House Republican votes to get them through. HB15-1057 on the initiative process got 30 of its 41 votes from Republican Representatives. The red light camera repeal bill, HB15-1098, got 30 of its 38 YES votes from Republicans to pass it, with 26 Democrats on the NO side.   SB15-276, the voter approval for use of red light cameras, wouldn’t have passed without Republican support.

The two red light bills have yet to get the green light from the Governor, so the majority of Democrats voting against those two bills may still win the day.

Otherwise, the Democrats set the House agenda. Bills didn’t pass if leadership didn’t want them to. Democratic discipline left House Republicans swinging strikes and some progressive voters scratching their heads, especially on education issues.

The center held as controversial bills died, except for those pesky red light ones

Both parties managed to kill the bills most offensive to partisans. Cadman had a harder time than Hullinghorst and Duran in rounding up votes to get his agenda done. Especially harsh for Cadman must have been the PI on SB15-268, the offenses against unborn children bill. He squeezed the bill through the Senate 18-17, with all Republicans, including pro-choice Sen. Ellen Roberts, supporting. He lost in the House State, Veterans, and Military Affairs committee, 6-5, when no Democrat would break his way.

Leadership for Senate Minority leader Carroll was straightforward. On many occasions, she just had to get out of the way and watch Republicans sink their own party’s legislation.

On the whole, bills that passed worked from the center, but the center has moved to the right, given that 14 Senators in the Democratic minority party voted more often with the Republican Senate President than 12 Senators in the Republican majority party.

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