The special legislative session ended on Tuesday when Senate Republicans killed the second of two bills aimed at fixing an unintended glitch from the 2017 session that is costing special tax districts millions of dollars.
As Ernest Luning writes for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman, the “winners and losers” from the special session help tell an all-too-familiar tale of an era where right-wing special interest groups have a stranglehold on Republican lawmakers. The big winner this week, as Luning explains, is the Koch brother-funded Americans for Prosperity (AFP):
The conservative organization hit the special session early and hit it hard, mobilizing hundreds of members and supporters to contact legislators to make their opposition clear, and it worked. Not every Republican was on board with the strictest reading of TABOR’s requirements when the call went out, but by the time lawmakers filled the Capitol, AFP’s approach was widely shared and set the tone for the GOP. A deluge of digital ads over the weekend ahead of the session — five figures’ worth, state director Jesse Mallory said — helped reinforce the party line. The session also gave AFP a second chance to whack at Senate Bill 267, which has come under heavy fire from conservatives for lifting the state’s revenue ceiling allowed under TABOR, as well as flouting a constitutional requirement that a bill have a single subject.
Luning lists Senate Democrats as the only other “winner” of the special session, arguing that Senate Republicans put themselves in a tough spot with the voting public as they try to maintain their one-vote majority in the state Senate.
The big losers of the special session are easy to find: Colorado’s middle and working class. Buses, hospitals, museums and zoos will all suffer because Senate Republicans were more interested in proving their fealty to AFP than in doing right by hard-working Coloradans:
Nine special districts across the state — from the Denver metro area’s Regional Transportation District and Scientific and Cultural Facilities District to regional transportation authorities in El Paso County and some mountain towns and a hospital district in Montezuma — won’t be banking a total of roughly $590,000 in recreational marijuana sales tax each month the law remains as it is…
…the governor said he was calling the session because special districts insisted they faced a funding emergency — and couldn’t wait until January for a regular-session fix — and they came up empty-handed.
Republican lawmakers will tell themselves that they did the right thing because groups like AFP are happy, but as the Denver Post opined on Monday, “none of that background noise justifies blocking the simple-fix legislation.”