Coloradans recently were shocked to hear Gov. John Hickenlooper apologize to 55 elected county sheriffs for not vetoing the 2013 legislation that outlawed gun magazines that hold over 15 rounds. Our progressive governor claimed that he hadn’t been aware of the sheriffs’ opposition to the bill until after he had signed the bill.
If the governor was in fact unaware of that opposition, he was the only one in Denver who was in that state of ignorance. Their testimony against the bill in two committee hearings was well covered in the press.
That was not the most shocking part of the governor’s confession. What was most appalling was Hickenlooper’s statement that after he signed the bill and saw the intense public reaction, he sent his staff looking for the facts – facts “we should have had from the beginning.” Wow. You research the factsafter you have signed the bill?
So, we are asked to believe that Hickenlooper was either unaware or uninterested in the testimony of nearly 200 witnesses who came to the Capitol to talk about the exposed deep flaws in the legislation. That’s the same Capitol where he sits.
Now, 15 months after he signed the bill, he suggests – in a typically evasive manner – he might have vetoed the bill if he had been aware of the sheriffs’ adamant opposition. But that strains credulity in view of the governor’s behavior in the 2014 session. He was offered a chance to support HB14-1151, which would have repealed the 2013 gun magazine bill. Instead, he remained silent.
What is even more disturbing is that Gov. Hickenlooper demonstrated the same lack of leadership by signing another group of bills passed on straight party-line votes by his out-of-control Democrat majority — bills changing the way we conduct our elections. Three bills – HB13-1303, the massive election reform bill passed in 2013, and two election law bills passed in 2014, HB14-1164 and SB14-158 – were enacted on straight party-line votes without a peep of criticism from our “hands across the aisle” governor.
That our governor was presented with three election code overhaul bills written by the majority Democrats without any Republican support ought to have sounded alarm bells in his office. State election code sets the rules for electing our lawmakers from the state Capitol to Durango and Yuma and Trinidad.
Surely, any responsible public official believes those basic “rules of the road” ought to be genuinely bipartisan, not the plaything of one political party with a temporary majority in the Legislature.
But our governor signed all of them and ignored the warnings of Republicans and the elected constitutional officer with responsibility for administering those election laws, the Secretary of State. That office was deliberately excluded from the drafting of 1303.
In the 2014 sessions, majority Democrats again rammed through “election reform” bills unanimously opposed by all 28 House Republicans and all 17 Senate Republicans. The governor did not think the party-line character of the votes on those election law reforms warranted his veto.
But gun laws and election reform were not the only bills enacted by Democrats on party-line votes over unanimous Republican objections. In the 2014 session, there were nine bills passed on party-line votes in one of both chambers. The governor signed all of them. Hickenlooper somehow mustered the courage in 2014 to veto five minor bills that had passed on bipartisan votes, but lacked the moral fortitude to veto a single bill passed on party-line votes.
Hickenlooper’s much-publicized commitment to the “bipartisan spirit of give and take” was conspicuously absent when it came to the legislation considered “top priority” by his fellow Democrats in both 2013 and 2014. In place of a veto pen, we saw only a huge rubber stamp.
There is a word for that brand of “bipartisanship.” It’s called hypocrisy.
Ted Harvey is the Republican state senator of Senate District 30, which encompasses Highlands Ranch, Lone Tree, Parker and Roxborough Park. He can be reached at 303-866-4881 or Ted.Harvey.Senate@state.co.us.
This opinion piece originally appeared in the Highlands Ranch Herald.