We, the people of Colorado, with profound reverence for the Supreme Ruler of the Universe, in order to form a more independent and perfect government; establish justice; insure tranquility; provide for the common defense; promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution for the "State of Colorado".
Preamble to the Colorado Constitution (emphasis added)
In the wake of the failure of Prop HH, the governor of Colorado called a special session to begin on a Friday just a week before the Thanksgiving holiday began. Both the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate were hoping to knock the session out in three days – the minimum number of days it takes to pass a bill – which meant that the legislature would be working on Sunday. The legislature has proven through various actions that the profound reverence for God, the Supreme Ruler of the Universe, has faded since the Centennial State became the 38th state of the United States of America in 1876.
No longer do they respect the Lord’s Day. The House meeting on a Sunday was rare until this last regular session. And, as seen in parts 1, 2, and 3 of this series, no longer do they respect “we the people” who ordained and established the state. On the third day of the special session, the ruckus in the House continued while the Senate tried to present a congenial façade as both chambers blatantly ignored the will of the people who resoundingly said “NO” to Proposition HH on election day.
Summary of Bills Passed During Special Session
SB23B-001 2023 Property Tax Relief: Gives minimal property tax relief to residential homeowners and none to commercial real estate owners. Backfills local government entities and districts including schools. It is like Prop HH but for a year; it doesn’t do long term damage to TABOR like Prop HH did, unless they continue to renew it.
SB23B-002 Summer EBT Program: Allows the state to grab federal dollars to feed children over the summer months, and costs the state $15M over 3 years to administer.
SB23B-003 Identical TABOR Refund: Sets up the redistribution of TABOR refunds giving all Coloradans the same refund regardless of their tax burden. This was a part of Prop HH.
HB23B-1001 Emergency Rental Assistance Grant Program: This was not included in Prop HH. Some low-income renters will have access to $30M grant money.
HB23B-1002 Increased Earned Income Tax Credit 2023: Expands the refundable tax credit to low income or no income earners including those without social security numbers. Was not a part of Prop HH.
HB23B-1003 Property Tax Task Force: Creates a task force to recommend a new permanent progressive property tax structure the legislature can pass in the next legislative session.
HB23B-1008 Appropriation for Department of Treasury: Appropriates funds for the Department of Treasury to hire someone to handle the expected increase in requests to defer tax payments.
It was clear throughout the special session the governor was the one really driving the train. Sitting in a committee on the first day where HB23B-1003 was being presented – which will most assuredly enshrine a Marxist view of taxation into Colorado’s future – the sponsor admitted that it was the governor who designed the bill, and he would have no problem getting the task force going within the limited timeframe. In other words, he already had a plan in motion. As a matter of fact, when the bill was being debated in the Senate, Senator Roberts was strongly imploring his Republican colleagues to vote for the bill or else the governor was going to issue an Executive Order to establish the task force without them – meaning they would have no say in its creation. The bill was just a way to allow the governor to distance himself from the fallout of what will come out of that task force.
The minority in the Senate was able to significantly change the makeup of the commission – as they ended up calling it. But, a sticking point still remained. Senator Baisley calmly laid out the problem with the appointment to the commission of someone who is a member of the Colorado Education Association (teacher’s union) when he stated, “But if one person from that organization is at the table, my concern is that the majority party members will simply do whatever they were told by that [organization].” In the end, the bill remained a partisan nod to the governor’s wishes.
While the Senators were speaking in muted tones, things in the House chamber were heating up. The Representatives didn’t get to the floor on Sunday until late in the afternoon after the committees completed their work. There were 3 bills to debate. If the work done on the floor is not closed out by midnight of that day, the entire day’s work must be redone. As the clock was approaching 10 PM, the majority leadership decided to close out the work they had accomplished to that point.
They had one bill remaining (SB23-002), and the majority knew something was brewing within their own caucus. As they began the debate on the last bill of the day, the majority leader pulled out Rule 14 again limiting debate to only one hour. The only thing that could extend the time at that point was for someone to ask for the bill to be read at length. Representative Epps, from within their own ranks, yells out that she wants the bill read at length.
Once the reading was completed and debate resumed, she offered an amendment. The purpose of the amendment was to keep any money from being spent through the EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) program on food products originating from the “occupied territories” of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. Her claim was that there is ethnic cleansing and mass starvation happening in the Palestinian-controlled areas. (Listen to her words for yourself.) The problem with this view is that it is based on falsehoods and Hamas’ propaganda while also taking a hard-left turn away from America’s commitment to Israel’s right to exist. God’s word has much to say about Israel, and our founders understood that we ignore it at our own peril. Statements that veer so far from our country’s Judeo-Christian heritage, or veer from the unvarnished truth based on facts, should not be allowed to stand unanswered.
After the debate time expired, just before calling the vote on the amendment, the chair ruled the amendment outside the scope of the title of the bill, and no vote was taken. But, Representative Epps wasn’t done yet.
The following day, Epps was in rare form, and during the final vote of SB23B-003 she actually stated, “So when our colleague with the assessor experience suggested that this bill and others in past few days were just a repackaging of HH, I certainly can’t disagree with that.” Throughout all four days of the special session, the minority’s rallying cry had been that the people had voted against Prop HH overwhelmingly, but the majority ignored the people and were pushing it through anyway. This rallying cry was always met with rebuffs and scoffs until the last day, in the final hours, when someone from the majority actually confessed to it. The people’s will had been ignored, and they didn’t care!
During the debate around the “equitable” redistribution of TABOR refunds, Representative Evans reiterated the adage, “Give someone a fish, feed him for a day; teach him to fish, feed him for a lifetime”. Representative Epps was not going to let that go by without interjecting her worldview into it. In response to Evans, Epps said the following:
I had been thinking about that adage about giving a man a fish – that’s very gendered language – about giving someone a fish versus teaching them how to fish. And I realized how insulting that is, now that I consider it. Because teaching someone to fish is pointless if you then systematically exclude them and their descendants from the river. And teaching a man, a person, to fish isn’t the goal when the comparison shouldn’t be giving the fish versus teaching to fish, it should be making sure there is equitable access to fishing supplies, which is definitely a parallel to 003. It should be not blocking access to that river and it should be a recognition that how patriarchal, ya’ll, of us to suggest that anybody needs to be taught how to fish. Fishin’ ain’t hard. We just got to get out of our way and let us reach the river and we’ll work it out.
SB23B-003 is a mechanism to give more of a tax refund under TABOR to those who paid less taxes. A type of redistribution of wealth, which always leaves the middle class worse off. In her analogy, what is the river? How is the middle class keeping the poor from reaching it? Sadly, in her worldview, the force of government is the answer, and she misses the point of the adage. And did she really say fishing isn’t hard?
Meanwhile, protestors were allowed to gather in the House gallery to rally around Epp’s final plea for her cause. During the final vote on SB23B-002, Representative Epps asked for permission to offer a third-reading amendment which was in line with her amendment the night before. She failed to get permission by a vote of 21-39-5. Representative Weinberg became upset as Epps continued to speak about Gazan children being mistreated. As she pranced away from the lectern, she called out, “In our thousands, in our millions, free Palestine,” and proceeded to join the protestors in the gallery. As Weinberg stood up to respond, the protestors caused a disruption, continued to do so throughout his speech, and would not leave the gallery as instructed. The minority gathered together and stood in solidarity with Representative Weinberg as he spoke about his family’s experience with the Holocaust and called for peace and unity.
Epp’s was in the gallery during Weinberg’s speech sitting with the protestors. Watch her reaction as her colleagues try to calm her down. Listen to the pain in her voice as she spouts off about how we are living “in one of the most violent empires of all time.” Only a Redeemer God can intervene and reveal the truth that will bring peace.
At the end of the day, none of the Republican bills passed, and 7 of the Democrat bills passed. We saw the will of the people ignored and the public left out of the process. We saw rules applied with prejudice and protestors’ desires elevated. We saw blatant violations of the Colorado Constitution (SB23B-001 will be in court for violating the CO Constitutional mandate to make all property taxes assessed in a uniform manner). We saw the tyranny of the governor as he forced his will on the legislators and the people. We saw socialist policies reign supreme without apology. We saw lies and more lies.
On the other hand, the veil was removed. Their hope really is to destroy our republic. Silence the truth tellers. Lull the people to sleep with sweet falsehoods. Make the people believe it’s all being done in their best interest. Twist reality to the point where the only thing left is fear and pure emotion.
And leave God out of it. He has nothing to say about any of this. Yet, God is our only hope of restoring this republic!
We don’t know what discussions the majority has had about how to handle things in January, but you can be assured that after this debacle of a special session, next session in January 2024 is going to be messy as they try to put controls on speech they consider destructive to our “democracy.” While the left grows more extreme, those who hold to the principles of liberty grounded in God are the ones being painted as radicals.
Don’t forget, it’s we the people with God’s help who can change things.