Winners and Losers from Special Session are Obvious…and Troubling

Colorado Senate President Kevin Grantham does the bidding of AFP

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.”

10 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. JohnInDenver says:

    I learn something new frequently. This special session and its demise is the clearest example I can find to show Republicans' highest value is minimizing taxes. In this case, the Republican Senators who killed the bill are choosing to minimize the burden on the buyers of a federally-illegal drug AND minimizing the opportunities of governments closest to the people.

  2. SixPointBull says:

    Come on, no scolding of the governor? Who calls a special session without first counting the votes to make sure you can get something done. Turns out governing is harder than doing CNN interviews with Republican governors of states thousands of miles away.

    • ParkHill says:

      I don't recall the number of votes that passed the original bill. But, given that it passed, why would it be so strange to call a special session? Who were the Republicans who changed their vote?

      I think Hickenlooper should just call another special session.

      Make the Republicans come back to the Capitol to vote again, and again, and again. 

      • Pseudonymous says:

        It's normal for the governor and legislators to have spoken before the session and come to agreement on what can get passed before the session is called.  That doesn't have to happen, but this is the result.

        As for calling them back, that costs $25,000 a day, which adds up, and the person calling them quickly starts looking petulant rather than committed– that person also wants to be president.

    • Pseudonymous says:

      Apparently Hick (2020)™ does.  It wasn't great.

      How about some scolding, as well, for the Democratic lawmakers and party staff now wagging their fingers, none of whom managed to notice that the law they'd negotiated screwed these districts in the first place.  And the lobbyists for local governments (I assume there were some among the 175 on the bill).

      Plenty of blame to go around.

      • Old Time Dem says:

        Why not just blame the special districts? They have lobbyists who should have been scrutinizing every bill for provisions that affect their client's interests.

        • Pseudonymous says:

          I did.

          And the lobbyists for local governments

          • Old Time Dem says:

            Yes, you did.

            My experience with tax bills in the legislature is that very few legislators are experienced in drafting. And when that inexperience intersects with tax matters, they are even more hopelessly out of their depth. Thus, my point is that the legislators themselves–Democrats and Republicans–are not equipped to find these kinds of mistakes in bills. Thus my comment that “just” the lobbyists are at fault.

            But that doesn't get legislators off the hook when the errors are discovered. Technical correction bills should be legislative gimmes.

  3. ModeratusModeratus says:

    Colorado Pols, you owe Sen. Chris Holbert an apology.

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