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May 04, 2009 10:30 PM UTC

The winners and losers of the 2009 Colorado legislative session (illustrated)

  • by: Alan

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

As the 2009 Colorado legislative session draws to a close this week, the state’s largest progressive advocacy organization, ProgressNow Colorado, released their annual list of winners and losers:

The Winners (starting with #1)

The #1 Biggest Winner for 2009. Colorado’s UninsuredDespite a budget crisis that might have doomed progress on health care, Governor Bill Ritter and legislative Democrats passed one of the most significant pieces of health care legislation in four decades. The Health Care Affordability Act stands to cover 100,000 uninsured Coloradans at a time when the health care and unemployment are combining to squeeze families more than ever. The act was a product of skilled negotiations, good policy and innovative leadership.

2. Sen. John Morse–Morse demonstrated that fighting the good fight can also be good politics. By taking the reins on reforming Colorado’s budget gridlock, Morse helped push an economic recovery agenda in the face of what has become typical partisan teeth gnashing from the Senate Republicans. In the process, Morse has been elevated to Senate Majority Leader after just two years in office.

3. Gov. Bill Ritter–Ritter proved how a crisis is also an opportunity. Facing what is likely the worst budget outlook in the modern history of Colorado, Ritter played a key role in budget negotiations, saving higher education and preserving some of his biggest priorities, while negotiating with hospitals to secure passage of the Health Care Affordability Act. Ritter also signed the FASTER Jobs bill creating jobs and addressing our roads. In addition he successfully negotiated a budget reform bill that will significantly increase Colorado’s Rainy Day Fund–something the Republicans failed to do when they were in charge. Finally, Ritter also launched a website tracking how money from the federal recovery package is being spent in Colorado:

4. Sen. Gail Schwartz–Schwartz chaired the Joint Committee on Job Creation and Economic Growth, providing leadership and lending her name to legislation supporting new energy job growth–not a bad position in a down economy. Schwartz continued to bring rural representation to the Democratic caucus, sponsoring bills encouraging rural broadband and bringing health care to underserved areas of the state.

5. Rep. Joe Rice–Since returning from his third tour in Iraq last year, Rep. Joe Rice has been busy. This year, he was the chief House sponsor of two of the biggest bills of the session: the FASTER Jobs bill, which is expected to create 5,000-8,000 new jobs on much needed investment in roads and bridges as well as the Colorado jobs creation tax credit.

6. Rep. Dennis Apuan–In a year where community-organizers-turned-politicians are all the rage, Dennis Apuan’s freshman session was impressive. Apuan sponsored bills providing care to seniors andsupporting Colorado veterans, and he is fast becoming a fixture on the 5 and 30 local news with his town hall events. With his Obama-like resume and his McCain-style outreach, it’s no wonder El Paso County Republicans are beside themselves.

7. Treasurer Cary Kennedy–Kennedy followed her collaboration last year with then-Speaker Andrew Romanoff on the Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) bill to work with new Speaker Terrance Carroll on HB09-1346, which uses federal stimulus dollars to build schools and renewable energy infrastructure. This work, along with some shrewd management of the state’s assets before the financial crisis, has made Kennedy a welcome leader at the Colorado Treasury.

8. Rep. Don Marostica–No one could have summed up the modern state of the Colorado GOP better than Marostica. Looking beyond the fireworks of Marostica’s comments (e.g. Dick Wadhams is a "has-been" and a "loser"; Josh Penry can "jump in a lake"; the Senate Republicans are "lemmings"), Marostica understood that the challenges facing Colorado actually require solutions. Such notions are apparently heresy in today’s GOP, which is why there continue to be calls to boot Marostica from the Joint Budget Committee.

9. Rep. Ed Vigil–For casting the deciding vote to repeal the death penalty in the House after agonizing over the longest minute of the session.

10. Colorado’s New Energy Economy–One of the few bright spots in all the economic news is Colorado’s continued leadership in new energy. Just last month, Gov. Ritter was cutting the ribbon at the new Abound Solarand GE Energy Control Solutions factories in Longmont. The legislature also tackled a slate of new energy jobs bills, including SB09-171 and HB09-1345, providing green-collar jobs training and laying the groundwork for a green energy grid, along with HB09-1312, a bill to help schools use renewable energy to save on utility costs. In addition House Bill 1346, the Investment Recovery Act, sponsored by Shaffer and Speaker of the House Terrance Carroll, would maximize the opportunity to leverage federal support for clean energy projects in Colorado that create homegrown jobs.

The Losers (from #10 to #1 Top Loser)

10. Right-wing spin–Going into session, we were told that oil and gas rules were killing jobs, conservatives supported transportation, Republicans wanted to put an end to the "permanent campaign," and the GOP was poised for… wait for it… a comeback. What we got was a hyper-partisan "party of no" strategy that continued to shill for the oil and gas lobby (Brophy in GJS 1/27/2009), flip-flop on the budget(Spence flip-flop on Homestead Exemption), and whine as Gov. Bill Ritter reasserted his leadership during the economic crisis(Penry in DP, 4/4/2009). Meanwhile, the headlines from the "resurgent" GOP were dominated yet again by Michelle Malkin, swastika guy and right-wing venom.

9&8. Sens. Scott Renfroe and Dave Schultheis–the two-headed monster–Either Colorado Republicans can’t silence their extreme right wing or maybe have no real objection to it. Either way, these two made national news by going to the Senate floor and suggesting that gays should be put to death and that HIV-infected babies served as a warning to promiscuous mothers. Go back and read the comments. They’re still shocking.

7. Pinnacol Assurance–Even though they held on to $500 million in surplus cash that could have gone to higher education, Pinnacol execs did not weather the publicity well. When even your defenders are comparing you to AIG, as Sen. Greg Brophy (R-Wray) did in the Senate on April 9, you know you’ve got problems.

6. Rep. David Balmer–Anyone taking bets on whether Balmer tries to run for leadership again after this year’s ethics scandal? Still, Balmer’s storied resume won’t stop his colleagues from accepting his checks.

5. Mesa County–The Colorado House of Representatives made history this year by electing Terrance Carroll the first African-American Speaker of the House… but not before presumptive speaker Bernie Buescher of Grand Junction was defeated by Republican Laura Bradford. Who’s Laura Bradford? Exactly. The Mesa County Commissioners were also party to the mill levy freeze lawsuit that was defeated in the Colorado Supreme Court. Now this same bunch is considering "re-Brucing" in their continuing legal crusade to deny funding for Mesa schools.

4. Oil and gas lobby–One of the few industries willing to bankroll the Republicans anymore, the oil and gas lobby is at least batting 1.000 for trafficking falsehoods about oil and gas rules, all in an effort to fight protections for air, water, and wildlife.  Last summer, the rules were supposedly to blame for high gas prices.  Now we’re constantly reminded how rules are closing drill rigs in Colorado, even as the global energy bust has shut down production in other states at comparable rates. For more on Big Oil making up falsehoods see:  For more on Josh Penry shilling for big oil see:

3. Rep. Cory Gardner–Widely rumored to be entering the GOP primary to carry on Marilyn Musgrave’s legacy in CD4, Gardner puts political self-interest in front of his constituents by voting to take out transportation dollars out of our state’s budget and then claiming he wasn’t trying to "hurt" transportation.  ("Road funding dumped from bill" DBJ, April 27, 2009) Gardner did little to distinguish himself–unless you count nearly weeping Glenn-Beck-style on cable over the oil and gas rule review bill. 

2. Denver Democrats–The legislature lost three veteran lawmakers this year from Denver: Sen. Jennifer Veiga, Rep. Anne McGihon, and even Senate President Peter Groff. Their experience will be missed.

The #1. Biggest Loser for 2009:  Sen. Josh Penry–If Penry proved anything, it’s that he was more afraid of offending his party’s base than appealing to the moderate middle. Penry was caught fudging the numbers on the oil and gas rules and was more than happy to polarize the state Senate when Colorado needed action on transportation and the economy. The coup de grace came with the state budget, after a bipartisan compromise passed the House by 51-13, broke along party lines in the Senate. This kind of weak discipline and immaturity was a lesson in being Penry-wise and pound foolish. And to top it off: Penry supporters began attacking primary rival Scott McInnis before the legislative session even ended. (See "McInnis’ voice mail posted at site run by supporters of possible rival", GJS, 5/1/2009)


20 thoughts on “The winners and losers of the 2009 Colorado legislative session (illustrated)

  1. Some uninsured people may have benefited from some of the legislation that was passed, but the vast majority of them remain uncovered and at risk of financial ruin from getting sick.

    The legislature had a good idea with HB 1273, but it was pulled because it didn’t get enough support. The bill was a good start, but it didn’t have a dedicated funding source which you would need to have if you’re going to create a new entitlement. The “compromise” bill that was put forth, and later pulled back, would have been much worse (with the mandated “tier 2” coverage that would have been a gift to the insurance companies) so it’s really to the benefit of Colorado that neither bill passed.

    Maybe someday we’ll have real health care reform (either at the state level or, hopefully, the Federal level) but it definitely hasn’t happened yet.

    Don’t get me wrong, the legislation that was passed that extended health care coverage for a lot of uninsured children was to be applauded. It did what it could, but it didn’t provide any real fix to the problem we face–and it sure as hell didn’t make Colorado’s uninsured the biggest winners of the legislative session.

    1. I agree with you redstateblues.

      Originally, one of the governor’s staffers told me that HB1293 would bring health care to 200,000 Coloradans and thereby solve 25 percent of the problem.  (Since I regard the problem as cost, I found that laughable.)  Next, the number dropped to 100,000.  Later, Director Henneberry said it would be 100,000 over the next four years.  And finally, the effort to reduce Medicaid funding will ensure that the 25,000 per year who do get onto Medicaid will have a difficult time finding doctors.

      Health Care for All Colorado made a decision not to oppose HB1293 because we regarded it as a good building block on the way to a truly universal, comprehensive plan.

      Personally, I have come believe that the claims about and campaign for HB1293 have been more than a bit misleading.  The bill is titled the Colorado Healthcare Affordability Act.  That’s a bit Orwellian–Clean Skies, No Child Left Behind, etc.  

      Advocates claim that HB1293 will have wondrous effects.  Presently, I am trying to identify the 22 other states that have enacted the same hospital tax.  I’d like to compare rates of growth in health care costs and rates of uninsurance in those states.  If anyone has seen actual data, please send it to me.

      Keep in mind, of course, that I was an advocate of HB1273, and read my comments in light of that.  I never saw the two bills as directly in competition, although the governor–and those individuals and groups that drank his Kool Aid–clearly did.  


      Tom Russell

  2. What are you smoking?

    Averting a train wreck is not an accomplishment.

    He personally killed 1273 by lobbying against it behind the scenes.

    He is in the process of keeping the state in the business of state sanctioned murder even as we speak.

    The guy is gutless, but perfectly willing to roll his “friends” in an alley.

    He is lucky about 2 things 1. The state GOP is a bunch of clowns (with notable individual exceptions) 2. redistricting will cause progressives to smile as we are getting rooked.

    1. I think ProgressNow was spot-on. Quiet competence is always under appreciated. But considering the awful hand he was dealt between the economy on the multiple strait-jackets in the constitution, I’d say he has done very very well.

      I think Ritter’s doing a really good job.

      1. Good in some areas (new energy economy, FASTER) but just awful in other areas like health care, the Bennet appointment, all the blue ribbon commissions, and the downright horrible A-58 campaign.

        Either way, I don’t think he’s the #3 winner from the legislative session.

    2. for many, many reasons. Its really too bad, he is a great human being. Maybe he can right his ship in the next 18 months.

      p.s. I had no fear you’d post against Penry and Gardner … you’ve had such hatred for them since January.

      1. And I also hope he can get it right in the homestretch of his term. He’s bright enough to do it, he should just stop listening to all the people around him–they’re as much to blame for his average performance so far as anything.

          1. 😉

            What I said in another post about voting for Ritter … ah, I must have been drunk and therefore ah yeah, not liable for what I said.

      1. Because redistricting is so critical and progressives do not want Republicans control the process coming out of the 2010 census, we will kiss and make up with Ritter even as he swindles us (Lies, tricks, stabs in the back–pick the word).

        1. …now it just sounds like par for the course.  Sometimes “progessives” have to accept the notion of difference, else they will unfairly otherize others.

  3. I’m definitely to his left but think someday he ought to go on to become a member of the Colorado congressional delegation or even Colorado Governor.  Great state-wide appeal potential.

  4. A website run by a bunch of democrat hacks names Josh Penry their # 1 biggest loser of the session.  Wow.  Who saw that coming?  

    I’d take that as a compliment if I were you, Senator.

    1. or probably you won’t, given your demonstrated penchant to recite talking points (i.e. your recent post about oil and gas regulations chasing the industry away) bereft of facts.

      1. You’re absolutely right.  This list wasn’t authored by a bunch of democrat hacks.  It was authored by some ProgressNow hack that uses Pols as a conduit to spew his left wing garbage.  ProgressNow’s obvious hard on for Penry has been on full display throughout the session.  They must have their own polling data.

        Thanks for the clarification.  

        1. Seriously, you don’t have to have opposite marriages just because they say you’re s’posed to. Go have an affair with someone of the same gender, and get it out of your system.

        2. Since you’re here to defend Penry every time he’s attacked by Progress Now or anybody else, who’s really got the hard on for whom?

          Or maybe you’re just, as they say in football, the receiver? Keeps both hands free and unsticky that way so you can type.

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