Today, the Colorado Senate gave final passage to Senate Bill 217–a slate of urgent reforms to police procedure and immunity from prosecution intended to prevent killings like the alleged murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police two weeks ago.
As the Denver Post’s Saja Hindi reports, a dramatic shift by the Republican minority in the Senate toward support for the bill after amendments that sponsors say do not compromise the core goals led to almost unanimous passage–with the exception of a solitary Republican no vote, Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg of Sterling:
Colorado’s sweeping police accountability and reform bill passed the state Senate on Tuesday morning with only one Republican vote against the bill.
Senate Bill 217, sponsored by all of the state’s Democratic lawmakers, goes to the House next and is expected to head to the governor’s desk by the end of the week after the session concludes. The bill passed 32-1, with Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, casting the lone vote against it.
Sonnenberg said he voted against the bill because he’s representing his rural district… [Pols emphasis]
Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg has served in the Colorado General Assembly as a House member and then in the Colorado Senate since winning the Eastern Plains HD-65 seat in the 2006. He’s one of the longest-serving state lawmakers in office today. Sonnenberg’s income as a farmer in his day job is heavily dependent on government subsidies, having collected over $600,000 in federal ag subsidy welfare checks since 1995.
For all of that taxpayer money invested, we haven’t gotten much out of the deal. Sonnenberg has been a loyal soldier for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), running model legislation on the organization’s behalf including a recent bill to limit payouts to asbestos cancer victims. Despite his own addiction to federal subsidy checks, Sonnenberg pushed failed legislation to require drug tests from applicants for public assistance. Sonnenberg thinks that “enviros that want less carbon” “want to kill all the trees and plants,” that wolves will hunt skiers if re-introduced to the state, and laughed off President Obama’s concern about gun violence following mass shootings with a can of gun oil labeled “Obama tears.”
And don’t forget the time Sonnenberg referred to a female colleague as “eye candy.”
But much like Rep. Ken Buck, who Sonnenberg has been long rumored to want to succeed in Congress, Sonnenberg is one of those lawmakers for whom contrarian offensiveness has become an end unto itself. Sonnenberg standing proud as the only vote against police accountability in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death is the result of the same political impunity that allowed Buck to justify almost singlehandledly opposing coronavirus economic relief. Votes that should be politically suicidal become perverse badges of honor.
All it takes is a safe enough seat, and the outrageous becomes the norm.
That’s politics on the Eastern Plains of Colorado.