Elections matter. Last November Colorado voters gave control of both houses of the state legislature to Democrats. In just the first two and a half months, the Democratic majority has passed major legislation Republicans have killed for years. These new laws will change the lives of many in Colorado.
Civil Unions passed
Tuesday the legislature adopted a Civil Unions bill and sent it to Governor Hickenlooper who said he would sign it. Since voters passed a constitutional amendment seven years ago prohibiting same-sex marriage, civil unions was the only bill the legislature could pass.
Last year, a few Republicans joined with Democrats to pass civil unions, but the Republican Speaker used a host of parliamentary procedures and delaying tactics to kill the bill. The Governor called a special session just to re-visit the issue, but Republicans again killed the bill. Voters spoke in November, and Colorado joins a growing list of states to give rights to same-sex couples.
Republicans promised to use the issue against Democrats in 2014.
In-state tuition for undocumented immigrants passed
Another measure that Republicans have blocked for six years was passed. The legislature sent a bill to the governor which allows any Colorado resident who graduates from a high school in Colorado to pay in-state tuition despite their immigration status.
This bill opens the doors of opportunity to thousands of students who study hard to improve their standard of living and better provide for their future families. Many of these students came to the U.S. as small children and many others have parents who have been here for years.
Democrats argued it was the right thing to do. Denying undocumented immigrants the right to pay in-state tuition blocked their ability to go to college. Democrats asked why those students should stay in school, study, and work hard if a high school degree is the end of the road.
Republicans wanted to punish these kids for the “sins” of their parents claiming that this amounted to a taxpayer subsidy for law breakers, and it would make Colorado a magnet for illegal immigrants. The debate was reminiscent for the flack Texas Governor Perry took in the GOP debates for supporting similar legislation in Texas.
Gun laws moving through the legislature
Colorado has seen more than its share of mass murders including the slaughter at a Chuck E Cheese, Columbine, and most recently at a movie theater in Aurora. After the Chuck E Cheese and Columbine massacres, Republican legislatures did nothing to change gun laws in Colorado which are some of the most lenient in the State.
The new Democratic legislature decided it was time to re-visit gun violence in Colorado. After hours and hours of debate, a package of gun laws is working it way through the legislature. Both Houses have passed bills. One was sent to the governor for signature. The others were passed by the Senate but because of differences between the House versions, they have been returned to the House which is expected to pass them.
The bills, among other things, provide for background checks in Colorado even at gun shows. They charge gun buyers a $10 fee to pay the cost for those background checks, and they limit high capacity magazines.
The debate was marked by vitriol and death threats. One man was arrested for racially charged threats against one of the bills’ sponsors. A Republican sheriff in Colorado Springs charged Democrats for threatening to kill his pay raise because of his opposition to the bill. Democrats deny it and the Denver Post reports that the sheriff has not yet provided evidence supporting his charges.
Republicans promise retribution at the polls
Republicans are promising to use these bills to defeat Democrats in the next election. They also predict these laws will allow them to re-take the governors office since Governor Hickenlooper is signing these into law.
Popular opinion, however, seems to be on the side of the Democrats, so it may not be as easy as they think.
Colorado teaches the nation that elections matter and voting for down ballot races like State Representative and Senator can result in major changes that affect everyone’s lives.