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May 09, 2024 01:15 PM UTC

Winners & Losers of the 2024 Legislative Session

  • 2 Comments
  • by: Colorado Pols

The Theme: Patience and Persistence

This year’s legislative session was by no means guaranteed to be a success, having begin with friction within both party caucuses and a major leadership debacle among Republicans. But despite an environment more acrimonious than ever and some moments of appalling lack of decorum, 2024 turned out to be one of the most productive election-year legislative sessions in recent memory. Some of the biggest victories of the session for Democrats like affordable housing and renter protections were the result of multi-year campaigns by supporters, another lesson in how persistence pays off.

WINNERS

Julie McCluskie

When Julie McCluskie was chosen by House Democrats to be Speaker in November 2022, the Summit County lawmaker became the first person to potentially hold the top job in the House for more than one two-year term since Andrew Romanoff back in the aughts. But McCluskie faced a unique set of issues that none of her predecessors have dealt with: A micro-minority group of Republicans in the House and a supermajority of Democrats made for a ridiculously-wide variation of opinions on any given issue. McCluskie has nevertheless done an admirable job navigating between a right-wing faction that wants only to prevent Democrats from doing anything and a Democratic caucus that includes more of a far-left component than in recent memory. 

Many of the big victories in the 2024 legislative session are a result of several sessions worth of work, which is a credit in part to McCluskie’s leadership. In 2024, she used more of her procedural powers to cut back on the amount of time that lunatic Republicans – such as Rep. Ken “Dildo” DeGraff – waste with nonsense diatribes that are unrelated to a given piece of legislation. McCluskie also made a smart decision on a Republican demand for an impeachment hearing targeting Secretary of State Jena Griswold; rather than denying Republicans their chance at a discussion, she instead agreed to a modified hearing that fed House Republicans  just enough rope to hang themselves in shame

Not all Democrats are pleased with McCluskie’s leadership, but expecting her to be able to do more to police Republican attacks on social media is an impossible thing to ask. 

Gun Violence Prevention

Legislation to create a so-called “Assault Weapons Ban” didn’t make it across the finish line, but Democrats made significant progress on other gun violence prevention (GVP) measures. Building on past successes from red flag laws, expanded background checks, and safe storage laws, Democrats passed new measures expanding law enforcement tools to investigate gun crimes, and requiring gun owners to carry liability insurance against accidents.

There was also a notable change in the political atmosphere surrounding GVP legislation. Gun rights groups demonstrated meager opposition compared to years past, proving that the bitter 2013 GVP politics are well behind us. Republicans relied on asinine talking points that were easily disprovable, and groups such as Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO) resorted to absurd tactics such as sending a “cease and desist” letter to Democratic leaders and dropping off boxes of petitions to legislators that were signed by people who don’t even live in their respective districts. 

Brandi Bradley

Why is Bradley a “winner”? If the Littleton Republican’s goal in 2024 was to prove that she could compete with the craziest members of the Colorado Republican Party…well, mission accomplished. Bradley elevated herself from relatively-quiet lunatic to Scott Bottoms and Ken DeGraaf levels of dumbassery, and used her social media accounts to attack anyone and everyone who disagreed with her. None of this makes Bradley an effective legislator or a plausible candidate for higher office, but in this MAGA Republican era of performative politics – where making noise is the point – Bradley certainly grew her name ID with the right-wing crazies. 

Political Journalists

Sometimes it just takes asking the simple questions and then following up on the responses to get great stories. That’s what Kyle Clark of 9News did when he interviewed Republican Rep. Ryan Armagost about GOP efforts to impeach SOS Jena Griswold. Armagost’s talking points fell apart quickly, and Clark’s follow-up questions pushed Armagost to acknowledge that this was all a political stunt aimed toward pleasing a MAGA Republican audience. 

Clark’s “Did you just say the quiet part out loud” back-and-forth with Armagost was an instant political classic. 

Accountability for Hospitals and Health Insurers

Lawmakers pushed through some important bills to help Colorado consumers battle it out over ‘Big Medical’. Democrats made it tougher for health insurance companies to use the dreaded “prior authorization” tactic for the purpose of delaying benefits and also passed legislation to push health insurers to provide better pricing estimates for patients. Also passed was legislation to require owners of debt, rather than debt collectors, to put their names on lawsuits so that they can’t conceal their involvement from consumers. 

Education

To great fanfare, legislative Democrats concluded years of steady progress and hard work toward paying down our education funding deficit from the 2018 Recession. While nobody could ever argue that education is “fully funded” with TABOR constantly a limiting factor, Colorado lawmakers can finally say they’ve kept faith with the intent of the voters who demanded schools receive their due priority in the state budget.

Renters

Legislation, signed by Gov. Polis, establishing for-cause eviction requirements adds a transformative level of security for the large population of Colorado renters most vulnerable to housing insecurity. It also was a victory for months and even years of organizing from advocates to get the bill across the finish line.

Housing

Much was said this year about the adjustments in legislative strategy from Gov. Polis and housing advocates to break last year’s failed omnibus bill on housing reform into a manageable package of multiple bills. The result was new laws encouraging accessory dwelling units (ADUs);  overriding occupancy limits; and expanded and more portable tax credits for seniors trying to stay in their homes. Adding $13.9 Million to the state budget to support ADUs and commercial to residential conversions made the session a landmark achievement for building more affordable housing. 

Consensus Over Ballot Measures

The big agreement between industry and environmental advocates, brokered by the governor’s office, signified a major breakthrough in consensus-making and a victory for everyone worried about an expensive and potentially destructive ballot fight. It also ensured that meaningful air quality protections could become law without oil and gas industry retaliation, and secured a new source of funding for transit development. But the bigger victory here may very well be for people who had almost given up on elected leaders being able to forge compromises and govern for the common good. This broad coalition was a testament to what is still possible even in an era of increased partisanship.

LOSERS

RMGO

Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, Colorado’s “no compromise” gun rights group, was once feared by Republicans for their ability to influence primary elections and turn out large groups of supporters to oppose any gun violence prevention efforts. Republicans in the House micro-minority still gobble up RMGO talking points, but nobody worries about them as political gatekeepers anymore. Some of this has to do with the fact that gun violence prevention has become more important for people with the never-ending headlines of mass shootings, and some of it has to do with their very ethos; when your starting and end point in any negotiation is “no,” then nobody bothers asking for your input because there’s nothing to discuss. 

Mike Lynch

The Wellington Republican began this session as House Minority Leader and a potentially-formidable Congressional candidate in CO-04. He ended the session as a rank-and-file member with no hope of getting elected to Congress. Lynch’s political career was irrevocably broken when it was revealed in January that he had been arrested for an egregious DUI in September 2022. All DUIs are bad, but most of them don’t involve an elected official racing a State Trooper on I-25; almost getting shot by revealing both a knife and a gun when finally stopped; and then attempting to sway the arresting officer by doing the whole “Don’t you know who I am?” routine. Lynch survived, barely, an initial vote by Republicans to oust him as Minority Leader but later resigned the position when it became clear that he had little support left in his caucus. 

New Minority Leader Rose Pugliese

Mike Lynch’s resignation as House Minority Leader elevated freshman Rep. Rose Pugliese to the role, where she…didn’t do much. Pugliese is a perennial project for the GOP donor class who are always waiting for her to show that she is something more; her performance as Minority Leader proved again that she is just the same brand of nut as the rest of the MAGA universe.

Rather than leading Republicans in a more useful direction than their 2023 opposition to everything, Pugliese decided to make nice with the most freakish elements of her caucus. She cozied up so closely to the screwballs that even Colorado Springs Rep. Scott “There is No” Bottoms said that he had never felt more supported by leadership. Pugliese’s low point came when one of her members, Rep. Brandi Bradley, went online to literally condone death threats against colleagues who voted against one of her bills; Pugliese shrugged off Bradley’s behavior and defended her exercise of her “First Amendment rights.” 

Richard Holtorf

Holtorf concluded his final legislative session after deciding to chase the Republican nomination for Congress in CO-04 rather than seek re-election. The Republican Primary isn’t until June 25th, but you can write this down with a Sharpie: Holtorf will not be going to Congress. There are a lot of reasons why the Akron Republican failed so miserably at seeking higher office, but none more damaging than his incredibly bizarre speech in opposition to a resolution on abortion rights in which he inexplicably told a story about how his college girlfriend had an abortion and he later gave her money to help her out. 

Don Wilson

The freshman Republican from Monument whom nobody had heard of before this session might have single-handedly made the case for banning firearms in the State Capitol by leaving a loaded handgun IN A PUBLIC RESTROOM. Wilson wasn’t the first Republican lawmaker to fumble with a firearm at the State Capitol, but his timing couldn’t have been worse for those trying to argue against a “safe spaces” bill to ban firearms from certain public areas. 

Elisabeth Epps

Epps turned herself into a pariah with her bizarre display during the November Special Session in which she went to the balcony gallery to yell at her colleagues about the Israel-Gaza war. Epps was rightly disciplined for her antics, and then spent most of the first half of the session pouting about it from afar; despite representing the district surrounding the State Capitol, Epps worked remotely for several weeks while complaining on social media about everything from her office space to the snacks available to lawmakers. Epps even became something of a source of bipartisanship in the legislature, with both Democrats and Republicans agreeing that they would prefer not to deal with her nonsense.  

Ken “Dildo” DeGraaf and the Republican Caucus

Once again, Republicans spent considerably more time talking on the House Floor than Democrats – usually about nothing relevant to the discussion. Nobody was worse than DeGraaf, who is making it hard for even the most right-wing observer to defend his ranting and raving. DeGraaf did more harm to House Republicans in 2024 than just about anyone else with his time-wasting nuttery and obsession with ridiculous conspiracy theories (including his belief that excess carbon dioxide is actually good for humans, and that the real problem with Climate Change is water vapor…or something). It’s hard enough for the 19-member Republican caucus to push Democrats to take them seriously and compromise on an issue; it’s damn near impossible when they allow DeGraaf to vomit out nonsense on every single topic discussed on the House Floor. 

Lest you think we are going overboard, watch this

Abortion Bans (Again)

Republicans again insisted on pushing forward abortion restrictions in a state that has REPEATEDLY told them to pound sand. Introducing another “personhood” bill right after Alabama’s Supreme Court virtually outlawed in-vitro fertilization was a particularly silly example of failing to read the room. Republicans also went nowhere with yet another effort to force doctors to tell patients about so-called “abortion pill reversal,” which is not a real thing

Gabe Evans

Rep. Gabe Evans came into the session with a big challenge as a top congressional recruit with no more than one year of legislative experience under his belt to somehow gain attention for himself and position himself for an extremely competitive general election in a swing district next fall. Evans entered the session attempting to brand himself on crime, but by the end had made big critical errors in a failed attempt to stave off a primary challenge. Evans was forced to publicly reaffirm his support for Donald Trump and then inexplicably by his own choice decided to lead the House GOP’s January 6 apologetic questioning during the sham impeachment of the Secretary of State. On the very basic question of whether Evans was better off in May than he was in January, the answer is emphatically no. 

Small and Medium-Sized Animals

Colorado is bringing back wolverines, which eat pretty much anything that moves. The venomous snake lobby failed miserably here.

Colorado Concern’s Credibility

Gone.

Comments

2 thoughts on “Winners & Losers of the 2024 Legislative Session

  1. The wolverine restoration effort will be bad news for some animals, but probably not venomous snakes or domestic livestock. 

    That's largely because wolverines tend to live in high-altitude areas away from livestock.

    The animals are also good scavengers. And in the summer, they turn into effective hunters, killing and eating marmots and other rodents.

    So all the animals above 9,000 feet or so and the same size or smaller than the wolverines may well take a hit.  But since the venomous snakes of the state are generally considered to have a habitat below 9,000, there may not be too big a hit on the reptiles.

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