Editorial: Watch out, lawmakers are back in town
January 9, 2013
The Colorado Legislature is scheduled to convene today, Wednesday, Jan. 9. Here’s a quick test. Lawmakers are back in town, so you better hide your:A) GunsB) WalletsC) “Traditional” valuesD) All of the aboveI’d put my money on D. It’s not that I harbor antipathy toward the Democrats, who will control both the House and the Senate when the General Assembly convenes. Rather, I had the opportunity to get a firsthand look at the leadership and their agendas last month during a pre-legislative forum. I have to say the mood was perhaps a bit “too blue.” But then, one-party rule is often fraught with peril.Mind you, the atmosphere at the forum was grim as everyone tried to process the morning’s news out of Newtown, Conn. Gov. John Hickenlooper was upset enough to be visibly shaken, but for his part he was engaging, comparatively modest, moderate and thoughtful.The same cannot necessarily be said of Rep. Mark Ferrandino, D-Colorado Springs, House speaker-elect, and Sen. John Morse, Senate president-elect, also of Colorado Springs. What shone through both was the hubris of a party that had just run the table and assumes they did so because they have a voter mandate.Such attitudes don’t enjoy a good rack record in purple Colorado. But what emerged was some politically contentious items are likely to be ramrodded by the majority party.Civil unions: “Last year it failed twice; this year it needs to pass once, and quickly,” said Morse. The civil union shenanigans last year were certain to leave an open wound, and one can’t blame the Democrats for throwing this back at the GOP given how the House GOP acted in 2011. But the assumption tacitly put forth at the forum – that the issue is the reason voters gave the Democrats control of the House – borders on preposterous.Immigration: Morse and Ferrandino also made it clear they and their cohorts are going to waste no time passing legislation granting in-state college tuition to children brought here illegally by their undocumented parents.Guns: It is a “tough day to talk about this kind of stuff -period,” said Sen. Bill Cadman, Senate minority leader-elect. “Most of our hearts are in our throats.”He did suggest, though, that the GOP position has not changed: Gun control will not stop such incidents and the minority party in the Statehouse does not generally favor more controls.The Democrats took a different tack.Assault rifles, said former police officer Morse, are “made to hunt people. We don’t need those weapons in the city streets. … Is there a way to ban assault weapons? We ought to have that conversation … so we can stop talking about burying our children.”Hickenlooper, too, in something of an about-face from statements he made the day of the Aurora movie theater massacre, agreed that a “conversation” about gun control should take place. But he was less outspoken about his interpretation of the Second Amendment than was Morse.It seemed axiomatic that Morse & Co. will push hard for an assault weapon ban and perhaps a ban on high-capacity magazines and online purchases of ammunition. If such legislation is indeed passed, look for heavy traffic from Denver to Kearney and Sidney, Neb., where Cabela’s will be happy to satisfy the demand Coloradans have for these items.Marijuana: Lawmakers this year will be tasked with creating a “legitimate industry in Colorado” in the wake of the passage of Amendment 64, said Ferrandino. Just how that will take place given that marijuana remains illegal under federal law isn’t certain.Hickenlooper, reacting to a statement just days before by President Obama to the effect that the federal government would not interfere here, said: “I’m unclear whether the president and the Justice Department are in concert. … Admittedly, more clarity from Washington would help us.”I’m not sure that the word “compromise” was uttered once during the three-hour forum. Come to think about it, maybe we should add a couple items to that list of things to hide: Start with the women and children.