A worthy story from KUNC’s Bente Birkeland up today recapping the failure of the special session of the Colorado General Assembly to fix a drafting error in legislation passed this year that’s costing special tax districts like Denver RTD millions of dollars in uncollected marijuana tax revenue. Birkeland appears to be first to report an important fact already well-known inside the state capitol–the legislation accomplishing the goal would have passed the GOP-controlled Senate if it had been allowed a vote by the full chamber.
“The legislature doesn’t make tax policy changes inadvertently by mistake,” said Democratic Majority Leader KC Becker of Boulder.
And some Republicans sided with Democrats. Sen. Larry Crowder of Alamosa said he would’ve backed the Democratic bill to restore the pot tax money to the special districts. [Pols emphasis]
“I think you’ve had three established cases similar to this and the courts found it legitimate,” Crowder said.
Republican Sen. Bob Gardner of Colorado Springs even drafted a bill that several members of his party were backing. But when he found out Republican leaders would not let it reach the Senate floor for a full vote, he didn’t introduce it…
We can’t be completely certain about Sen. Bob Gardner, but his help drafting legislation to resolve the problem strongly indicates he would have supported the House’s bill that died in the Senate Transportation Committee yesterday. Likewise Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, whose bill to fix the problem became such a political liability for Republicans that he was forced to embarrassingly disown it, would almost certainly have votes “yes” if Republican leadership had seen fit to allow the bill to the floor. Even without those two votes, Sen. Larry Crowder’s much more explicit support means the bill would have passed the Colorado Senate. Crowder is of course no stranger to sparring with hard-right interest groups like Americans for Prosperity, who he once referred to memorably as “honyocks.”
In retrospect, the fact that there were Republicans ready to support the objective of the special session in the Colorado Senate was significantly underreported by news media, who erroneously characterized the impasse as entirely along party lines. The truth is in fact more complicated in both chambers, from Rep. Dan Thurlow’s defection in the House to several potential such votes in the Senate. But in the Senate, it does appear that the powerful influence AFP exerts over the leadership in that chamber carried the day over the wishes of enough Republican lawmakers to have reversed the outcome. After all, only one was needed.
Here lies a potent argument for Democrats in the 2018 elections, even against Senators who never had a chance to vote either way in the special session: majorities matter. Who is in charge of the chamber–that matters. Just like it matters in Congress, where Mike Coffman pays lip service to liberal objectives while his leadership makes sure they never happen. In this way, the embarrassing collapse of the special session could directly contribute to total loss of GOP influence over lawmaking in Colorado in 2018.
As they say in this business, the attack ads write themselves.