It’s amazing what a difference one effective election can make. Last November, Colorado voters had the common sense to allow Democrats to maintain control of the Senate while also handing them control of the House. Those two victories, combined with a pseudo-Democratic governor, gave the donkey party the perfect political trifecta.
When Republicans in a western state can’t hold the governor’s mansion or either legislative body, they’ve clearly done something wrong. While there’s a long list of things Republicans in this state have done wrong, two primary issues inspired the voters to drive several Republican senators out of their seats, setting the stage for a more progressive Colorado.
First, the issues of fracking and energy exploration are of great concern to people on both sides of the political spectrum. Although some state Democrats, including Gov. John Hickenlooper, seem to be in the energy industry’s pocket, it’s Republicans who consistently and almost unanimously fight on behalf of that industry instead of their own constituents. This issue above all others is uniting Coloradans.
Second, last year’s civil unions fiasco in the state legislature left many of all political persuasions scratching their heads. The civil unions bill had already passed the Senate and, although Republicans controlled the House, it would have passed there with most Democrats and a few Republicans supporting it.
As the bill worked its way through the process, three different Republicans on three different House committees broke ranks with their party and voted in favor of civil unions. That left only a full vote on the House floor and Hickenlooper’s signature to make equality a reality in Colorado.
But then-House Speaker Frank McNulty had other plans. Even though a vast majority of Coloradans were in favor of civil unions, the bill had bipartisan support, and Hickenlooper was ready to sign it, McNulty said “no.” Due to their majority and his position as Speaker, McNulty was able to stop debate on the last day of the session and kill the bill in its tracks, all in the name of hate.
Many gay and straight voters were furious with what they perceived to be Republicans thwarting the will of the people, and vowed to make them pay. House Republicans went into the November election with a 33 to 32 majority; after the election, they were the minority party with just 28 seats to the Democrats’ 37.
As winners always like to remind losers, elections have consequences. Due to Colorado Republicans’ refusal to listen to their constituents, they lost the small amount of political influence they had in the state, and the Democrats took over with a vengeance.
Democrats began by voting for gay Denver Rep. Mark Ferrandino House Speaker, and it took less than two months for the state legislature to pass the civil unions bill, which was signed by Hickenlooper and will take effect May 1. The people of Colorado have said “no” to discrimination loud and clear.
Then came the gun control laws. Eight months after an evil sociopath killed 12 and injured more than 50 people at an Aurora movie theater, and three months after 26 children and teachers were murdered in Newtown, Conn., Colorado became the second state (after New York) to enact stricter gun control measures.
The three new laws are fairly mild as gun control goes; one requires universal background checks, one requires buyers to pay for the checks, and one limits ammunition magazines to 15 rounds. No taking guns from private citizens or criminalizing actions protected by the Constitution, just common-sense regulations to protect society from psychopaths with weapons of mass destruction.
Colorado’s chosen path has brought the crazies out of the woodwork locally and nationally. The NRA perpetuates the myth that the federal government is going to take away everybody’s guns, and is threatening to sue the state.
Gun control opponents try to use language to win people over to their side, regardless of if their claims are true or not. One NRA statement reads: “… despite overwhelming public opposition present, the Senate (committees) voted to advance the most sweeping and extreme package of Second Amendment-infringing legislation in Colorado history.”
That statement is nothing but flat-out lies. First, Colorado voters overwhelmingly support these new laws. A January Denver Post poll found more than 80 percent of Coloradans support a law requiring background checks on anyone who buys a gun, including through private sellers, and more than 60 percent support a limit on the number of rounds a magazine can hold.
The new laws also don’t infringe on anyone’s second amendment rights. You can still own, shoot, buy and sell guns, so there’s nothing “extreme” about the new laws. But leave it to a bunch of right-wing nut jobs to turn fairly innocuous regulations into “Obama is coming to take away your guns!”
In response to the new laws, out-of-state hunters say they’ll boycott Colorado, which makes me really happy. We don’t need your minimal tourist dollars. A company that makes magazines that hold more than 15 rounds is moving. To that, I say good riddance — go make your absolutely unnecessary death magazines somewhere else. Perhaps Texas would be a good fit.
And while some county sheriffs say they won’t enforce the new laws, Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo, to his credit, says the laws are reasonable and enforceable. That’s gotten him into some trouble with local neocon whack jobs who accuse him of aiding and abetting the Obama second-amendment-killing conspiracy. It’s not easy to stand against your peers, and some of your constituents, on such an emotionally-charged issue. Well done, Mr. Sheriff.
The neocons can scream all they want about civil unions and gun control, but the truth is they did this to themselves. If Colorado Republicans played fair and with even a modicum of compromise, they probably wouldn’t be in this position. Instead, they continue to sit on their moral high horse and refuse any form of political common sense or compromise, and in doing so banish themselves to the dust bins of political history.
Doug Allen thanks Colorado Republicans for giving Democrats total control of the state. Reach him at Doug.Allen75@yahoo.com  or follow him on Twitter @Doug__Allen (two underscores).