Due to a Democratic majority in both the House and the Senate, the legislative term that ended on May 8 will go down as one of the most productive and progressive in the history of Colorado. It provides a sharp contrast to the do-nothing session headed by Republicans in 2012. The Republicans, you will recall, threw out a huge chunk of the legislation produced by their session in a maneuver to prevent the Civil Union bill from coming to a vote.
The 2013 session, on the other hand, produced legislation on a wide range of issues. Here are some of the highlights:
- Colorado Economy—This session produced several bills designed to boost the state’s economy. The Keep Jobs in Colorado Act puts Colorado companies first in line for state contracts. The Advanced Industries Accelerator Act makes Colorado more attractive to high-tech businesses. The Economic Gardening Pilot Project bill supports start-up businesses. And finally, the Renewable Energy bill creates jobs in the renewable energy field by broadening the definition of renewable energy to include sources such as methane capture and woody biomass, helping farmers find a way into the renewable energy business.
- Civil Unions—Colorado took a step forward on the civil rights path with legislation that authorizes any two unmarried adults, regardless of gender, to enter into a civil union by obtaining a license from a county clerk and recorder.
- Gun Safety—Several bills were passed in this area. Foremost among them was a bill mandating universal background checks for all gun purchases. Other legislation limited the size of magazines, protected victims of domestic violence, required gun purchasers to pay for their own background checks, and prohibited concealed-carry training performed entirely on-line.
- Election Reform—The Voter Access and Modernized Elections bill puts an end to the worst voter suppression abuses of partisan Clerk and Recorders and makes it easier for Coloradans to cast their vote by providing a mail-in ballot to everyone, by giving them a choice of how to vote, by employing modern Information Technology to verify votes, by ending the “inactive voter” category, by allowing for secure same-day registration, and by mandating more convenient early voting.
- Education—the ASSET bill provides in-state tuition rates for undocumented students. Another bill takes on the issue of funding for public education, with an eye to achieving a better balance between urban and rural school districts. The Breakfast After the Bell bill, sponsored by District 17’s Rep. Tony Exum, makes sure that low-income students will start the school day ready to learn.
All in all, a very productive session, and one in which three politicians from El Paso county—Rep. Pete Lee, Rep. Tony Exum and Senator John Morse played leading roles. As President of the Senate, John Morse took the lead in guiding the bills mentioned above through the state senate.
But this legislative success has not come without a political price. A group based in Durango has tried to recall four Democratic legislators: Michael McLachlan, Evie Hudak, Angela Giron, and El Paso County’s Sen. John Morse. On May 21, the recall effort against Rep. McLachlan officially ended when the Basic Freedom Defense Fund failed to turn in the needed signatures. You can find the details of the recall effort against Sen. John Morse here. In El Paso County, BFDF volunteers and paid signature collectors have until June 3 to get the signatures needed for a special election to recall Sen. Morse. The special election, if it is scheduled, will cost El Paso county between $150,000 and $250,000.
Sen. Morse has earned our support by standing up against the NRA and the gun lobby, and against the fossil fuel special interests, and by standing up for voter rights and marriage equality. A local group named “A Whole Lot of People for John Morse” has formed to support him against the recall effort. Here’s what you can do to support him in his fight against being recalled:
- If you are approached to sign the recall petition, decline to sign.
- If you have already signed the petition, but feel it’s purpose was not honestly represented to you, or that you were threatened by the signature collector, please give us a call at 719-425-2211.
- Most importantly, volunteer to phonebank, canvass, or write letters to the editor on Sen. Morse’s behalf. Please use the Volunteer links on the web page or blog, or call use at 719-425-2211.