In this country, elections are the usual method for resolving important public policy issues. However, given Gov. Hickenlooper’s decision to convene a special session to deal with what he must believe is a civil unions “emergency,” he has apparently come to the conclusion that such issues may now be properly resolved in response to a cursing, screaming mob making death threats in the chambers of the Colorado Legislature.
The unfortunate but highly telegenic end to the 68th meeting of the General Assembly overshadowed a great deal of productive work that was accomplished during our 120 day session.
Some of the important achievements include:
A highly responsible budget that passed by the widest margin (64-1) in state history. Republican priorities that were reflected in the budget and other legislation include:
A successful, bi-partisan measure to grow the economy by providing small businesses greater regulatory certainty (HB 1002).
Restoring the senior homestead exemption to help them make ends meet in the face of rising prices for medication, gas and food.
Protecting K-12 education from further cuts.
Protecting severance tax dollars for vital water and infrastructure projects around the state.
Protecting Amendment 35 dollars for cancer research, prevention and treatment.
The governor attempted to cover his call for a civil union special session by including in the agenda a number of bills that had wide bipartisan support and which could have been dealt with during the last day of the regular session. Given that a three-day special session is going to cost taxpayers more than $70,000, this is a very costly smoke screen to circumvent the usual legislative and electoral process. Has he forgotten that we have an election this fall and that if voters don’t like what was done on civil unions they can elect new representatives?
Moreover, it is not as if that this rejection of what is only the latest effort to advance the cause of civil unions came entirely out of the blue. As recently as 2006, Colorado voters rejected the functional equivalent of civil unions when they turned down Referendum I by a margin of 53 percent to 47 percent.
The governor has also apparently lost sight of the fact that having bills die on the last day of the session is nothing new. In fact, Gov. Hickenlooper stood silent as Senate Democrats killed numerous important bills as time ran out on the 2011 session. Was the difference last year the absence of a howling mob? And, if so, has the governor sent a message that, going forward, this is the most effective way to get what you want from the Legislature?
In a little over six months, in January, 2013, the next meeting of the Colorado General Assembly is set to begin. This coming November, the voters have the opportunity to elect an entirely new House of Representatives and replace a third of the state Senate. Is the civil union issue really such an “emergency” that it couldn’t be dealt with first, by the voters, and then by the newly convened Legislature? There is an orderly process to deal with politic change in our country. It’s called democracy working through elected representatives. To allow a tiny handful of disorderly protesters to play such grossly disproportionate role in determining the outcome of such an important issue is, at best, bad policy. At worst, it undermines some of the most cherished principals of our democratic republic.
State Rep. Spencer Swalm serves Centennial’s House District 37.