As reporter Marianne Goodland writes for the former Colorado Statesman:
The Independence Institute has named Colorado Senate President Pro tem Jerry Sonnenberg, a Sterling Republican, as its inaugural winner of “Californian of the Year.”
The somewhat tongue-in-cheek award was given to Sonnenberg in recognition of his efforts “to turn Colorado into East California,” according to an Institute announcement Wednesday…
Institute President Jon Caldara said nothing exemplifies the California value of making decisions for others than the “massive tax increase” put forward by Sonnenberg and three other lawmakers during the 2017 session, in Senate Bill 17-267, also known as “Sustainability of Rural Colorado.”
To briefly recap, Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, one of the state’s more conservative lawmakers, struck a bargain with House Democrats via GOP Rep. Jon Becker on legislation early this year to reclassify funds raised via the state’s Hospital Provider Fee into an “enterprise” accomplishing the goals of the raised funds–thus exempting them from revenue caps in the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, and averting the possible closure of rural hospitals in Sonnenberg’s and Becker’s districts.
This bipartisan agreement was hailed by newspaper editorial boards across the state as a practical step to avert serious unintended consequences. That some of the worst of these consequences would play out in rural parts of the state represented by conservative Republican lawmakers like Jerry Sonnenberg was the key factor that brought them to the table. We can argue about the ethics of caring about health care funding only when your own constituents are threatened as opposed to everybody else, but at least in the face of major and fully avoidable harm to his neighbors Sonnenberg was able to act.
It’s important to remember that even right-wing advocacy groups like Americans for Prosperity were internally divided on this legislation, with AFP originally scoring the bill positively in their legislative scorecards before “revising” their scorecard–just ahead of the special session of the legislature called by Gov. John Hickenlooper to fix a drafting error in this bill costing special tax districts across the state millions in lost revenue. Between the passage of SB-267 and special session in October, the Independence Institute’s attacks on Sonnenberg were enough to force Sonnenberg into a truly farcical position: even though Sonnenberg has filed legislation for the 2018 session to fix this glitch, he was forced to argue against both the special session and even his own bill so as not to give political traction to Democrats.
And after all his humiliating contortions, Sonnenberg was still awarded Jon Caldara’s booby prize.
There are three principal takeaways from this. First, when diehard ideologues like Caldara are bypassed to solve problems that need solving, they get really upset about it–enough to dive headfirst into the unproductive process of attacking their own allies.
The second is that the ideologues don’t care who they hurt. They didn’t care about Jerry Sonnenberg’s constituents last April, and they don’t care about the special tax districts losing millions of dollars due to what everyone agrees is a minor drafting error.
Which brings us to the big one: Caldara and his ilk are so far from the political mainstream that both sides should just ignore them. Much like the fringe fanatics at the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and the tax-cheat felon who authored TABOR to begin with, giving Caldara’s ongoing nonsense the time of day debases us all.