Setting the mood in a story last week from the Loveland Reporter-Herald:
"The Democrats in the Legislature? Their three buzzwords were cooperation, collaboration and consensus," Gessler said. "Remember that? And what did we get? … They used to accuse Republicans of only caring about God, guns and gays. And what did the Democrats come up with? It's guns, gays and grass."
Just before and during this past Memorial Day weekend, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a significant number of bills that were high on the Democratic priority list, but were not nearly as splashy as the big issues tackled by the Colorado legislature like gun safety and civil unions. Last Thursday, Hickenlooper signed House Bill 13-1193, creating a new Advanced Industries Export Acceleration Program, sponsored by Democrats Tracy Kraft-Tharp, Mike McLachlan and Cheri Jahn, and GOP Sen. Ellen Roberts.
Friday, in addition to Senate Bill 13-264 to encourage rural medicine residency programs, Hickenlooper signed House Bill 13-1003, a grant program for "second stage" small businesses ripe for expansion, and–a bill we've been talking about for years–House Bill 13-1292, the Keep Jobs in Colorado Act, finally putting some teeth into the longstanding requirement in state law that Colorado workers be given preference for public works contracts.
These bills signed heading into Memorial Day join other uncontroversial economic development bills passed into law this session. In the particular case of the Keep Jobs in Colorado Act, this is a bill that Republicans vigorously fought every time it was introduced, even though the idea behind polls stratospherically with voters. Now that it's law, it's a major talking point for sponsoring Democrats Pete Lee, Andy Kerr, and Jeanne Nicholson, with little the GOP can do to disparage it.
We'll add this: today, Hickenlooper signs much-anticipated legislation regulating the state's nascent (legally, anyway) retail marijuana industry. Scott Gessler included "grass" in his three-word summary of "Democratic priorities," but this legislation of course was mandated by the voters of Colorado when they passed Amendment 64. Pending the outcome of a ballot initiative this fall on taxing legal pot, and crossing our fingers that the feds don't shut down the whole party…well folks, this is pretty undeniably a "jobs bill" too.
With all of that said, we're under no delusions about the narrative most of the mainstream media has already written about this year's legislative session, or the resulting public sentiment after being blasted with daily cries of "overreach" and chronically unchecked misinformation. This year probably will go down in history as the "guns, gays and grass" session, even though that's not a full picture of what happened. There's also a persistent difference in that Democratic "social issues" actually enjoy majority support–as opposed to, say, banning abortion.
The best word to describe this year's legislative session, for the pent-up social issues as well as a backlog of simple economic development and many other uncontroversial priorities left over from the prior years of divided government, is "productive." The only exception we can think of to this rule is oil and gas drilling issues, an issue operating under a different set of rules as our readers know.
"Productive," with dry examples of all kinds belying partisan caricatures and rage, won't sell papers or boost local newscast ratings. But it's also the true story of what happened this year. And it ought to be known.