• November 16, 2023

    Colorado Series: The Violent Murder Of Our Republic, Part 2

    November 16, 2023
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    In Part 1, https://coloradofreepress.com/colorado-series-the-violent-murder-of-our-republic-part-1, we saw how the Democrats began their use of House Rule 14 to silence debate and eviscerate the 1st Amendment speech of the minority in the Colorado House. Debate to them is useless and meaningless. After the redistricting in 2020 put more House seats within their reach, the 2022 election gave them an overwhelming super majority in the House. To them the people had spoken and their agenda to further the transformation of Colorado was what the people desired. Allowing the minority to speak was a useless distraction and would seriously stall the implementation of the majority’s agenda and what they saw as a mandate from the people.

    Boiling Over

    The boiling point of water is lower at an altitude of a mile high than it is at sea level. The minority went into the 2023 session already agitated knowing anything they had to bring to the table would be pushed aside. By the end of the session, after that very reality played out before their eyes, they were frustrated to say the least. The water in the minority’s pot stood at least at a lukewarm state entering into the last week of session.

    One of the bills (SB23-303 Reduce Property Taxes and Voter-approved Revenue Change) introduced in the last week - that everyone knew was being pushed by the Governor’s office - would eventually become Proposition HH on the 2023 ballot. An outcry from the minority in the Senate and the House went out as they scrambled to figure out what this 58-page bill did to the taxpayers of Colorado. By the time it was heard in a House committee, just three days before the session had a hard stop at midnight on Monday, May 8th, changes had been made in the Senate and there were more to come in the committee. The bill was still a moving target despite it taking the Governor over a hundred days to introduce it. The water was definitely heating up.

    According to the Colorado Constitution, for every bill introduced there must be a public hearing held where citizens get to weigh in on the law being proposed. A companion bill (HB23-1311 Identical Temporary TABOR Refund), that would go into effect if SB23-303 had passed, was designed to equalize the distribution of any TABOR refund (ie: redistributing the wealth). It was introduced on Saturday, May 6th and rushed to the House Appropriations committee for a public hearing. The bill text was not even up on the website before the committee was asking for public input and committee members had only received the text as they walked into the room. One person bravely went forward to testify and confront the matter head on. Her words echoed the public sentiment that day, “I would love to address, speak to the specifics of this bill, but sadly when I go to the website…I can’t even find the bill. So, with this little notice, how should I speak to specifics?” But, of course, a lobbyist had the bill text on hand and was more than happy to give the legislators bringing the bill cover. Another snub to the minority; raising the temperature of the water even higher in the pot. 

    On Sunday, May 7th at around noon, the debate on the House floor began for SB23-303. More amendments. More pleas from the minority to truly vet the legislation. All met with disdain. Eventually, the majority cut the debate short by invoking Rule 14 yet again. The only thing the minority could do to slow down the process and try to inject some balance into the bill was to have the now 61-page bill read at length by a computer. But no movement came. As their hopes were dashed, the temperature continued to elevate.

    The time for sine die at midnight on Monday, May 8th was fast approaching. The majority was resolute in their objective to get the Governor’s bills passed and the clock had become their enemy. Despite all the amendments and deals made with lobbyists, the minority in the House saw SB23-303 as the hammer it was. Not only that, but the majority still wasn’t done amending the bill. Though 3rd reading amendments are rare, they can be brought with approval of a majority vote. The sponsors of the bill brought an amendment and it passed. Meanwhile the minority tried to run an amendment as well. The time it would take to discuss an amendment was eating up precious time which was making the majority nervous. So, though Representative Bottoms was standing in the well with his hand raised to be recognized, the Speaker called on the majority leader where she proceeded to invoke Rule 16 (which essentially “calls the question” without further discussion) to succinctly shut down the minority’s ability to speak. The tension in the room was palatable. The water in the pot was definitely simmering.

    The sponsors still had another amendment they wanted to get on the bill. The amendments were substantial policy changes that had been negotiated with special interests. This put the minority over the top! The water had reached the boiling point!

    When it came time for a vote giving permission for a third reading amendment, every member of the minority resolutely refused to vote. As the speaker called on them individually to vote, they stood unified – something that hadn’t happened all session. No one replied to her bidding to vote. The Speaker asked them if they wanted to be excused from the vote. No answer. She eventually marked them “excused with protest”. Then came the vote for the actual amendments. The water was now boiling over the pot.

    The minority caucus in the House walked out in unison – never to return.

    Special Session Called By The Governor

    Since the repeal of the Gallagher Amendment in 2020 and the subsequent increase in property values due to inflationary pressures during the government-induced pandemic, the legislature knew a day of reckoning would come when homeowners’ property taxes would skyrocket. Prop HH was the latest attempt by the Democrats to fool the electorate. This bait and switch was the worst yet! It asked voters to essentially eliminate TABOR (The Taxpayer Bill of Rights) – a Colorado Constitutional mechanism to control the growth of government – in exchange for a 0.06% decrease in their residential property taxes. Fortunately, the voters didn’t fall for it. Prop HH failed with almost 60% of the voters against it.

    After the loss of the Governor’s premiere legislation, he called for a special session. It will begin on Friday, November 17th at 9 am. The majority hopes to pass bills to address all of the governor’s eight goals in three days over the weekend before Thanksgiving. 

    Questions remain. Will the minority remember what happened in the last week of session and how their calls for a special session went unheeded? What is the temperature of the water in the pot at this point? Will they fold or will they fight for the people? Will the majority respect the people’s vote and stay away from using the people’s TABOR refund to backfill government entities?

    What do you call it when someone steals someone else’s money secretly? Theft. What do you call it when someone takes someone else’s money openly by force? Robbery. What do you call it when a politician takes someone else’s money in taxes and gives it to someone who is more likely to vote for him? Social Justice.  Thomas Sowell

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