Wayne Laugesen

Majority Democrats put social redesign ahead of Colorado economy

It’s the economy. That’s what we heard repeatedly when The Gazette’s editorial board hosted meetings, just days before the start of this year’s legislative session, with House and Senate leadership and Gov. John Hickenlooper. They told us we needed more economic development and a business-friendly climate that would generate taxes — for better education, roads and bridges — while creating jobs for the unemployed.

So here we are, more than halfway through the session, and we have mostly seen a Democratic race to socially redesign the culture.

They tried to force our city and others into mandatory negotiations with a firefighters’ union. Hickenlooper wisely suggested they back off, insinuating a veto.

We’ve seen bills that would help plaintiffs’ attorneys sue small businesses into oblivion. Tuesday, as if we had the luxury for self-indulgent academic workshops, a House committee wasted nine hours discussing possible repeal of the death penalty. Whether state government should kill cannot be dismissed as a marginal concern. Unless one lives in Colorado, that is, where we only kinda-sorta have executions. Since reinstating capital punishment in 1975 — 38 years ago — the state has killed one convict. Texas has killed 493.

Then there’s the central obsession that has dominated the Legislature’s time and attention for months: more gun control for a state that is known for hunting, self-defense, gun ownership and weapons manufacturing.

The Legislature belabored a proposed law that would have rendered young people at all state colleges and universities unarmed — even if trained, finger-printed, background checked and licensed by law enforcement to carry concealed.

A proposal from hard-left Senate President John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, would have held makers of semiautomatic rifles liable if the products are used in crimes. Maybe we should hold Ryder liable the next time some monster turns a moving van into a bomb. We could blame Ford if a teenager kills innocent victims while drag racing a Mustang.

Even some proponents of the new gun laws concede they might not do much, if anything, to save lives. This means they were crafted to make politicians feel good. The new laws will, in fact, cost us jobs, money and priceless good publicity that brought tourists to Colorado.

Magpul, a primary employer, manufactures high-capacity magazines near Boulder. Company officials reacted to the ban on Facebook on Wednesday, stating its move from Colorado will start “almost immediately.”

When Magpul leaves, it will hurt more than 400 Coloradans employed directly by the company or as subcontractors. It will take about $85 million the company was on track to pump into Colorado’s economy this year.

Then there’s the Outdoor Channel, which will pull all of its Colorado-based programming. Executive producer Michael Bane lives and works in Boulder and uses Colorado as the setting for four of the network’s staple programs. The shows attract tourists, who spend and pay taxes.

“We will be moving all of our production OUT of Colorado,” wrote Bane, in a March 5 letter shared with The Gazette. “We have proudly promoted Colorado in our productions (and have been moving more and more production into the state); now we will do exactly the opposite … Last week I had lunch with a major network producer who was looking to locate his new reality series in Colorado … the new reality series will now be based out of Phoenix.”

The Outdoor Channel has a new warning for millions of viewers: “The message we will take to our viewers and listeners is that these proposed laws are so dangerous to hunters and any other person, be she a fisherman or a skier who brings a handgun into the state for self-defense, that we cannot recommend hunting, fishing or visiting Colorado,” Bane wrote. “We estimate that as many as one-quarter to one-third of out-of-state hunters will desert Colorado in the next 18-24 months, which will quite frankly be a disaster for the hunting industry in Colorado and have a devastating effect on our western and northern communities.”

We believed the Democratic party, which controls every branch of state government, was committed to helping Colorado’s economy. We might have been wrong.

Wayne Laugesen is editorial page editor at the Colorado Springs Gazette, where this op-ed originally appeared

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