It’s okay… You can breathe now

The Colorado General Assembly called an early end to the legislative session yesterday… and there was much rejoicing. Yay!!!

All in all, it turned out to be an unspectacular session – thankfully – with less damage inflicted than we originally feared. Having Republican Governor Bill Owens in place played a significant role in offsetting the Democrats’ new legislative advantage: with one key exception. And all state political focus now shifts to that notable exception – the November ballot’s Referendum C, which is sure to provoke a costly campaign on both sides.

As for me and my house, we will work actively to reject the folly of the “No Refund for You” Romanoff Rip-Off. Too bad the Democrat-controlled legislature couldn’t come up with a more sensible, fiscally-sound solution to the state’s budget difficulties. But they (and sadly, some Republicans) have their eyes on your wallet and on your checking account… what amounts to a $3.1 billion tax increase for an $800 million shortfall. That’s smart!

But the Post‘s initial reaction to the end of this historic legislative session highlights the disappointment of the Democrat base with the lack of accomplishments by their party in its newfound majority status:

Labor unions wanted better protections for workers. They lost.

Environmentalists wanted stronger measures for clean air. They lost.

Health advocates wanted a statewide smoking ban. They lost.

Women’s rights groups wanted emergency-contraception information for rape victims. They lost.

(I’m resisting the temptation to quibble over the above labeling and descriptions… someone else can deal with that.) The Post omitted, but you could also add:

“The teachers’ union wanted to roll back important education reforms. They lost.” Just one more reason to smile and to keep working hard to make sure that it doesn’t change.

But still the Democrats’ leader painted a glowing picture of his accomplishments (setting a “new tone” in Denver?):

Still, Democratic House Speaker Andrew Romanoff said this session was the most bipartisan in his five years and he noted that bills with Republican and Democratic co-sponsors passed at rates higher than others.

Most notably, Republicans joined Democrats as sponsors of the bills that outline a major budget-reform deal.

“I think bipartisanship is not a dirty word” Romanoff said. “You’re never going to get unanimity out of this building.”

And Democrats claimed victory even in defeat by saying they didn’t expect some of their measures to become law. In fact, they hoped to define a difference with the state’s top Republican, Gov. Bill Owens.

“There is a difference between what we believe in, what we fought for and our morals and values and what the governor’s morals and values are,” said Sen. Peter Groff, D-Denver.

With so little under their belts, will the Dems push even harder in 2006 to draw distinctions on issues of “morals and values”? Or isn’t this what they complained the Republicans spent too much time on when they were in the majority? They said it, not I. Unless you truly believe the Democrat party in the state legislature more widely and accurately represents the values of Coloradans, I sense an opening here.

So are you ready, Republican Party? Have you been recruiting good candidates for those legislative seats? Have you been taking notes on the Democrats? Have you been crafting a message? Have you been busy raising money? The election season will be upon us in no time, so I hope you’re motivated and prepared for the 2006 showdown.

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