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Legislative Year: 2014 Change
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Colorado Eyes & Ears »

With the 2013 legislative session in the bag, and with a month’s recovery period, it’s time to reflect on the quality of the General Assembly’s work. Democrats’ work dominated. But Republicans left their imprint.

Less is More
Every legislator is given a five bill range, too easily expanded. CCW has figured that many bills cost at least $20,000 to run.

Rep. Kathleen ContiBased on the above, for many taxpaying citizens, Rep. Kathleen Conti (R-HD38) is a hero. She held herself to two solid bills, HB13-1288 on uniform sales tax base, and HB13-1027, requiring PUC reports to the General Assembly on rate cases. She passed them both with bipartisan support. Conti’s BBI (bills batted in): 100 percent.

Freshman Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush (D-HD26) comes in second for efficiency with four sponsored bills and four wins. Her principal accomplishment occurred on a surprisingly bipartisan vote for HB13-1278, Oil Spills Gas Releases Reporting. Mitsch Bush’s BBI: 100 percent

Freshman Rep. Paul Rosenthal (D-HD9) went 6 for 6 on his BBI, passing CCW’s favorite consumer and law enforcement bill, HB13-1159, allowing car insurance verification by cell phone. Rep. Tony Exum, Sr. (D-HD17) also hit 6 for 6. His best bill is HB13-1006, k-12 breakfast after the bell that gets ‘at risk’ kids breakfast as food for thought.

Controversy and risk
Bill controversy and risk often go together. If the bill controversy is large, the sponsoring risk may be great. Some legislators will take on risk if they feel the cause is important enough. Rep. Claire Levy (D-HD13) thought that abolition of the death penalty bill was worth sponsoring. The bill died in committee.

Rep. Beth McCann (D-HD8) took on a variety of challenging bills. She worked with Rep. Rhonda Fields (D-HD42) to pass the background checks for gun transfers bill, which was signed by the Governor. She also moved the spousal maintenance guidelines bill through the chambers. But she couldn’t get HB13-1306 through, a bill to set up a task force on mental health and gun possession.

Rep. Bob GardnerRep. Bob Gardner, (R-HD20), showed his chops in passing 20 out of 21 bills, with a 95 percent BBI. He squeezed four bills through, with Democratic support, with only Republican sponsors. Just as interesting, he joined 17 times with Democrats as co-sponsor on bills. He worked on HB13-1029, the “Must and Shall” bill with Levy; the timely SB13-245 Colorado Firefighting Air Corps with Sen. Cheri Jahn (D-SD20), a bill with 17 House No’s from both parties; and HB13-1266, the Health Insurance Alignment with Federal Law bill enabling Colorado to comply with the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act., with 17 NO GOP votes to 8 YES.

Two Dem Colfax Ave bombers hit agenda fast balls out of the Dome
Speaker Mark FerrandinoTwo experienced legislators, House Speaker Mark Ferrandino (D-HD2) and Sen. Michael Johnston (D-SD33), smacked some Democratic agenda home runs, or big bills with big impacts on policy. The Speaker passed SB13-011, the Civil Unions bill, SB13-200, an expansion of Medicaid eligibility, and SB13-252, the controversial energy bill affecting rural energy delivery. The Speaker’s BBI: 6 for 6 at 100 percent. Bipartisanship was thin on these bills, with only Civil Unions getting one GOP vote in the House.

Sen. Michael Johnston also went 6 for 6, but his efficiency rating takes a big CCW dive due to the length of his “future education finance” bill SB13-213, the only passed Act in this session to include both square root and quadratic equation calculations in addition to 200+ pages of text.

More is More
Members of the Joint Budget Committee also carry a lot of bill weight. 2013 is no exception. Sen. Pat Steadman, the most bills winner, ran 64 bills, passed 61, for a 95 percent BBI.

Rep. Claire Levy ran 61 bills and passed 56 for a 92 percent BBI. She co-sponsored 19 bills with Republicans and passed 18, demonstrating her willingness to work both sides of the aisle.

Rep. Cheri GerouOther high BBI Republicans include Rep. Cheri Gerou (R-HD25) with 95% on 37 bills and Rep. Amy Stephens (R-HD18) with 83% on six bills; Sen. Ellen Roberts (R-SD6) had 86% on 29 bills and Sen. Steve King (R-SD7) hit 82% on 22 bills.  Overall, 25 Republicans, or more than half, had a BBI percentage at 50% or more sponsored bills passed.

Thirty five legislators scored 86 percent or higher on their BBI. Seven were freshmen: Rep. Tony Exum, Sr. (D-HD17), Rep. Tracy Kraft-Tharp (D-HD29), Rep. Jenise May (D-HD30), Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush (D-26), Rep. Brittany Pettersen (D-HD28), Rep. Paul Rosenthal (D-HD9), and Rep. Mike McLachlan (D-HD59).

Wins: partisan and non partisan
Democrats focused on several “agenda” items. They passed these social issue bills with Democratic only sponsors: Colorado Civil Union Act, Comprehensive Human Sexuality K-12 Education, and Crimes against Pregnant Women. They passed labor bills with only Democratic sponsors: Job Protection Civil Rights Enforcement Act, Family Care Act, and Collective Bargaining for Firefighters. They passed gun bills with only Democratic sponsors. And they passed budget, education, and election reform bills with only Democratic sponsors.

Other major issues had bipartisan sponsorship and received bipartisan support: job growth, health care especially related to the upcoming Obamacare implementation, workers compensation insurance deductibility, uniform sales tax base, marijuana implementation, and firefighting. Most successful agriculture bills, including those related to water, conservation, and easements, received bipartisan support.

Both ends of the candle
Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg (R-HD65) showed his caucus when to be partisan and when to be bipartisan. He ran several very conservative bills, such as requiring the federal government to cede agricultural public lands, and lost to Democratic opposition. But he then turned to Democrats to help pass favored agriculture bills. His overall record: 18 bills sponsored, 10 with Democrats as co-sponsors; he passed 11 and lost 7 for an overall BBI of 61 percent.

Losses: Democrats and Republicans share that territory
Whereas Denver and Colorado Springs used to be the hub of liberal and conservative activism, these centers have shifted north and north east to Adams, Boulder, Larimer, Weld, Morgan, and Logan County. Legislators living in these counties from both parties were on the big-time-strike-out-swinging end of their respective causes.

Losses: Democrats
Majority Leader HullinghorstBoulder and Adams County Democrats were prominent players in the Democrats’ biggest “losing” cause: oil and gas. Northern front range Democratic legislators sponsored bill after fracking bill, and lost all but two. Their biggest opponent, in addition to most Republicans, was the Governor. Majority Leader Dickey Lee Hullinghorst (D-HD10), Rep. Dominick Moreno (D-HD32), Rep. Mike Foote (D-HD12), Rep. Joseph Salazar (D-HD31), and Sen. Matt Jones (D-SD17) took on the fracking battles, and all scored from 50 percent to 67 percent on their BBI.

Only Rep. Jeanne Labuda (D-HD1) had a lower Democratic BBI at 40 percent. She took on another environmental losing cause: labeling genetically engineered food.

Losses: Republicans
Rep. Lori SaineNo one hit more long flyouts than Rep. Lori Saine (R-HD63). This conservative firebrand from Dacono in Weld County batted 0 for 11, for a 0 percent BBI. She swung at all the hottest issues:

• HB13-1176, income tax credits for non public education
• HB13-1174, business personal property tax exemptions
• HB13-1131 and SB13-056, banning sex selection abortions
• HB13-1128, excluding clean counties from enhanced emission areas
• HB13-1050, Sec. of State cancellation of non citizen voter registration records
• SB13-130, no federal laws concerning Colorado firearms
• SB13-062, requiring security at no-firearms businesses
• SB13-055, PERA actuarial soundness reporting
• SB13-009, school board policies allowing concealed carry

Saine received ardent support from fellow north/north east Colorado representatives and senators, but to no avail. Not one of her bills got past the first committee hearing. Rep. Steve Humphrey hit 0 for 6, including his “Abortion Ban” and concealed carry bill; Rep. Perry Buck hit 1 for 5; Rep. Tim Dore hit 2 for 6; Rep. Kevin Priola hit 3 for 8; Sen. Kevin Lundberg batted 1 for 6; Sen. Scott Renfroe hit 2 for 8; and potential governor candidate Sen. Greg Brophy smacked 5 of 11. The Republicans will need to flip the chambers, like Dems did, to pass these pieces of their agenda.

Both parties had wins and losses
No question that Democrats exercised their muscle in the 2013 General Assembly, but the whole story is more nuanced. Some Republicans worked effectively with Democrats to pass important legislation for the state. Many Democrats worked with Republicans to get 181 GOP sponsored bills through both chambers.

Democrats had big wins on election reform, civil unions, and support for undocumented youth going to college. Both parties supported various agriculture and fire fighting bills. Republicans were critical to passing marijuana bills. Bipartisan efforts, especially with pro-business Republicans, put “jobs, jobs, jobs” bills across home plate. Gun control bill results were mixed.

Some big Democratic causes went down: fracking, the death penalty, some gun bills, some labor bills.

Some big Republican causes went down: pro-life legislation, 2nd amendment bills, public education reform, and election rules.

The center of gravity for the farther-out wings of both parties is changing, moving north and east. The 2014 elections will present some clear choices, and once again, it will be the ultimate voters in suburban counties that will probably do the final deciding. PEN, CCW

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