GOP Special Session Shenanigans: As Bad As You Thought

Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg.

As the Denver Post’s John Frank reports, one of 2017 most played-up controversies in Colorado politics is ending with an anticlimactic whimper:

Three months ago, a special legislative session to fix a mistake Colorado lawmakers made regarding pot taxes disintegrated into partisan finger-pointing and blame.

Now, with a new session underway, the discord is mostly resolved and the legislation to allow special districts to collect a voter-approved tax on recreational marijuana sales — one that lawmakers inadvertently repealed in May — is poised for easy passage.

Last year’s big fiscal deal in the Colorado General Assembly, which saved hospitals in rural areas of the state by exempting funds collected through the Hospital Provider Fee from limits imposed by the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, created a toxic division within the Republican Party. Hard-right fiscal groups like the Independence Institute viciously harangued Republicans who voted for the bill, and Americans For Prosperity, linked closely to the Senate GOP’s one-seat majority, made an embarrassing about-face on the legislation over the summer after it was passed.

All of which would have likely remained inside-baseball discussion among political insiders–but then a drafting error in Senate Bill 17-267 was discovered that had the effect of cutting off specific taxes levied on marijuana sales collected by special districts around the state. Rather than wait until 2018 while millions of dollars went uncollected due to a simple and unintentional omission, Gov. John Hickenlooper called a special session for early October to fix the glitch.

And as our readers know, Republicans in the legislature threw what can be best described as a $75,000 hissy fit. Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, a major player in SB17-267’s passage, had already filed draft legislation for the 2018 session to fix the error–but after Republicans turned against the special session under withering fire from Caldara, Sonnenberg was forced to disparage his own bill as unnecessary. Sonnenberg even questioned whether the bill was “constitutional,” which makes him look clueless either for introducing it to begin with or for ditching it later. Pick one.

Local liberal blogger Chase Woodruff summed up the GOP’s half-baked uprising against the 2017 special session quite well today:

This week, with lawmakers back at the Capitol for the 2018 regular session, Republicans finally admitted what everyone knew three months ago: that their tantrum over the special session wasn’t about policy or governance at all, just a spiteful political stunt…

Republicans never gave the session a chance. They signaled their intentions to block the funding bill weeks in advance, and instead used it as an opportunity to embarrass Hickenlooper and send fundraising appeals to supporters attacking him for “toying with taxpayer dollars.”

In the end, the cost of the GOP’s cynical stunt will be thankfully small; the service hit hardest by the funding glitch, Denver-area transit agency RTD, will have lost only a few million dollars out of its $478 million operating budget.

The only reason this sorry spectacle wasn’t even more damaging to Colorado Republicans was the steady barrage of headlines from Washington kept it from getting the attention it deserved. Today, with Republicans quietly allowing the fix to pass, all of the faux outrage and obstructive speculation about the bill’s constitutionality is revealed for the empty bluster it was. The tens of thousands of dollars spent on the October 2017 special session were truly wasted, and now we know who wasted them.

Like we said, in the shadow of dysfunctional Washington D.C. politics, this act of legislative bad faith and irresponsibility was easy to miss–and plenty of people did. But what happened here was every bit as spiteful and counterproductive as anything Republicans have done in Washington since Trump took office. Exactly the kind of behavior that breeds contempt for politics, differing only in scale. No matter how you feel about the “size of government,” this just isn’t the way responsible people govern.

Will it register in the polls next November? We don’t know. But morally, it ought to.

3 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. bullshit! says:

    "It's worth 75k to piss off libruls any day!" – Moderanus

  2. Moderatus says:


    The one thing you got right is that nobody cares. Not even your own readers. Carry Crisanta Duran's water another day.

    • unnamed says:

      Well Jar-Jar, when your fascist moron-in-chief has called African countries "shitholes" and has been outed for cavorting with porn stars (guessing you're green with envy over that), kinda easy to overlook.


      Btw, how about that State Senate election in Wisconsin?  Another Dem pick up in Trump territory.  After the Kochs dumped a whole bunch of money to hold it.  Guessing Scott Walker soiled himself.

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