The Colorado Statesman’s Peter Marcus has an excellent write-up today on deteriorating relations in the Colorado House at the midpoint of this year’s legislative session. Tensions came to a head this week over the passage of House Bill 12-1005, an otherwise uncontroversial bill allowing local governments to make investments technically off-limits after the surprise downgrade of the federal government’s credit rating last year by Standard & Poor’s.
At long last, an explanation for the holdup on this legislation from Speaker Frank McNulty, which became increasingly inexplicable and politically damaging as time went on:
“There was no good explanation from the Republicans, so there’s something behind that, and what’s behind that is either one of two things: Either the Republicans were using that for leverage with the counties and cities, or they were upset with someone and that was a way to get retribution,” Ferrandino told The Colorado Statesman on Monday.
“The games that are being played seem to be growing as we’re going through the session,” he continued. “It’s unfortunate, and I think we’re seeing bills die because of the sponsor, not because of the content of the bill.”
McNulty offered The Statesman a different explanation, arguing that the bill was held for so long because significant concerns were raised over its content.
“There were substantive concerns about that bill related to the federal government’s inability to pay its bills, and the fact that we have to take action here on the state level to allow counties and municipalities to invest in sub-standard investments [Pols emphasis] because the Obama administration and Congress had the U.S. credit rating downgraded,” McNulty explained…
That’s an interesting position for a bill that had support from both sides of the aisle–and every stakeholder in the process at every level of government in Colorado. Once finally passed, the Secretary of State’s office actually stayed open late in order to receive the signed bill, all in the hope of allowing governments to get the hundreds of thousands of dollars a week they’ve been missing out on quickly. We can’t really say we find McNulty’s explanation adequate–and based on the beating McNulty took on the Denver paper’s editorial page today, on top of everything that’s been reported about this bill up to now, the story will go down as McNulty costing taxpayers real money, money that could actually make a difference, for no good reason.
Indeed, there have been growing charges of Republican leadership in the House killing and otherwise obstructing popular Democratic-sponsored legislation–individual anecdotal examples have been well reported, and Marcus lists a number of examples provided by House Minority Leader Mark Ferrandino. In response, Republicans sent in former Minority Leader Mike May to provide examples of Democrats killing Republican bills when they controlled the House. Republican spin on the legislative session revolves around equivalence between their admittedly sharp-elbowed tactics this year, and what they experienced in the minority under Democrats.
But according to Ferrandino, there’s an additional factor making things worse with McNulty this election year–the shallow loyalty his caucus has for him.
Ferrandino says his optimism began to decline last month, right around the time McNulty made some leadership decisions regarding embattled Rep. Laura Bradford, R-Collbran. The lawmaker became entangled in a controversy over whether she had been driving under the influence of alcohol and had invoked a legislative privilege that granted her immunity from arrest…
Some within McNulty’s own party questioned his decision to convene the ethics panel and strip Bradford of her post before all the facts had come to light. They accused McNulty of abandoning his Republican colleague in her time of need. The situation became so twisted that Bradford at one point threatened to leave the Republican Party over the perceived insult. With Republicans controlling the House by only one seat, the move would have thrown the House into absolute turmoil and would have undermined Republican leadership. Bradford ultimately decided to stick with her party.
But Ferrandino believes the damage was done and that some Republicans began to question McNulty’s leadership and loyalty, which has forced him to pander more to conservative interests in the aftermath. [Pols emphasis]
Folks, practically from the moment Republicans eked out a majority in the House by a under 200 votes in a single district in 2010, we’ve been talking about the precariousness of McNulty’s position. The “Tea Party”-aligned members of his caucus, along with GOP Senators, quickly ran into conflict with McNulty over repeal of the FASTER fees for bridge repair and undoing the so-called “Dirty Dozen” tax credit repeals. There’s the situation with Rep. Laura Bradford, which may have had the effect of making GOP members question McNulty’s loyalty to them.
But what both Republicans close to the legislature and their gleeful Democratic adversaries tell us is this: McNulty’s biggest problem with his caucus is the humiliating defeat he and his team of strategists suffered in the legislative reapportionment process. While the public face of GOP messaging on reapportionment has been all about “treacherous Democrats,” privately, Republicans are very much aware that they were tactically outwitted at every step in that process–and the decision to appeal the orignal maps to the Supreme Court, a great deal of the blame for which lies with Frank McNulty, has led to a situation where Republicans are much worse off, and Democratic recapture of the House majority in 2012 is very likely.
Bottom line: in every failed relationship, there’s an “all over but the shouting” phase. It’s not exactly what you’d call productive, but in this case, there’s a hard cutoff date. The ability to throw one’s weight around is limited when everyone knows you won’t be able to for long.