By John Andrews
Watch closely as the legislature is in its final days of the 2013 session. This year is shaping up as a game-changer for the way Coloradans govern ourselves and seek the common good.
Over the decades, we’ve seen a Republican-led House and Senate confronting a Democratic governor, and vice versa. We’ve seen the House and Senate controlled by opposite parties. We’ve seen the GOP in complete control, as they were briefly under Gov. Bill Owens, and the Dems in complete control, as they are now under Gov. John Hickenlooper.
But never in my 40 years here have we seen so aggressive an ideological agenda rammed through by one party — and with a nasty kicker in the form of rigged election rules that could lock in the dominant party’s gains for a generation. That’s what I mean by a game-changer.
House Speaker Mark Ferrandino and Senate President John Morse, with Hickenlooper riding along, have done nothing wrong. Democrats got the car keys when voters turned over five House seats last November, and their leaders wasted no time in steering leftward and mashing the accelerator. Fair enough.
It’s been a joyride for the Obamian progressives. The result for Colorado working families, however, may be a hollow feeling like that bumper sticker you’ve seen: “The bigger the government, the smaller the citizen.” After this year’s liberal legislative rout, we’ll all be diminished as citizens — because bigger, bossier government is on the way.
Majority Dems in both chambers are decent people with good intentions. Most are sensible enough to see the joke in saying “you’re from the government and you’re here to help me.” Yet they’re also utopian enough to think that in their own case, it’s really true. So from a leftist viewpoint, no doubt their 2013 agenda looked noble. But not when viewed from the right.
For all of us who believe that citizens’ possibilities are nearly unlimited when government is limited, the future that Morse, Ferrandino and Hickenlooper envision is a very different Colorado than we’ve known, a Colorado where opportunity and liberty are narrowed.
Look at what this legislature has done with the bills that have already passed, or that are likely to pass before adjournment on May 8. They’ve impaired job-creators and employers to the advantage of unions and trial lawyers. They’ve obstructed oil and gas production and raised the cost of electricity with draconian green mandates. Economic growth will be the worse for it.
They’ve infringed the constitutional right of self-defense with unenforceable universal background checks and pointless ammunition restrictions. The emotional outlet of passing such laws won’t prevent the next Aurora massacre, but it may embolden the next Tsarnaev brothers.
There’s more. The legislature has signaled “come on in” to border-jumpers and visa-jumpers with subsidized college tuitions and driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants. If this is the rule of law, Chris Christie is a ballerina.
They’ve doubled down on a dysfunctional Medicaid program — unsatisfactory for patients and providers alike — by expanding it with megabucks of borrowed federal money — the same money former Colorado Gov. Dick Lamm recently called “economic cocaine.” And that money will soon taper off, sticking Coloradans with the tab — the same Coloradans this legislature hopes will raise school taxes by $1 billion.
The diabolically clever topper is something called House Bill 1303. It mandates fraud-friendly same-day voter registration. Upon its passage (effective even this fall), presto — Democrats will have tilted the electoral playing field permanently their way. Republican chances for regaining power and repealing any of this stuff will fade.
When progressives in 1913 passed the income tax, currency manipulation by the Fed, and new election rules for senators, they gave us a very different America. Progressives’ legislative rout in 2013 will give us a very different Colorado. Brace yourself.
Freelance columnist John Andrews (firstname.lastname@example.org) is director of the Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University and former president of the Colorado Senate.