With the legislative session now over, we will be taking a look back on the last 120 day marathon and bestowing our snark and savoir faire upon a few lucky legislators and Capitol-focused folks, who we believe deserve recognition.
We have three categories of recognition for those lucky enough to make it on the hallowed pages of the Peak: Winners, Losers, and Sister-Kissers.
First up, the Losers. Keep checking back at the Peak over the next couple of days for the other awards.
1. Brandon Shaffer: The Senate Prez who hopes to embark on the campaign of his life in the coming months for the 4th Congressional District against Rising Star Cory Gardner, made a mockery of himself in the last few weeks of the session. Rather than spend his time hammering out a legislative compromise over redistricting, Shaffer spent his time pushing for more flower shop regulation.
On top of his infinitesimal priorities, he pissed off half of an electorate already pre-disposed to distrust him. By pushing a redistricting map that was notable for two things in the 4th CD — the Brandon-Mander and the carving up of the Eastern Plains — Shaffer ensured rural voters in the district will start off not only distrusting him but despising him for trying to disenfranchise them for his own political benefit.
Even if Shaffer were content with riding off into the legislative sunset after his term ends, we would still put Shaffer on this list. He killed a number of very important jobs bills in the waning days of the session, to spite the GOP for effectively hammering his asinine redistricting stance, including the repeal of the much-loathed Amazon tax which had bipartisan support to be overturned.
Shaffer also managed to insult and anger Governor Hickenlooper, attacking his budget and refusing to play well with others when Hickenlooper tried to broker a redistricting compromise. We hear Hickenlooper got so frustrated with Shaffer that he was ready to put Longmont into the 2nd CD.
2. John Morse: We don't think this one requires much analysis. We've covered Morse's ethical lapses quite extensively here. He may have survived an ethics investigation on a technicality, but technically speaking, no one thinks he has a wit of ethics. On a lighter note, we hear he's teaching classes on “how to collect per diem.”
Not only is Morse's image now forever married to his per diem abuse, but he felt the need to poke his own county in the eye by supporting the dividing of it for Democrat gain. What little allies he may have had have scurried for the exit, with his own boss green-lighting an ethics investigation against him.
The only positive for Morse is that he doesn't have to face the voters again, as he is term limited.
3. Sal Pace: At the beginning of the session we thought Pace might be a stronger adversary in the legislature this year, but in the end he turned out to be a bit player. That, in and of itself qualifies him as a “legislative loser,” but what really puts him here is the fact that his own party screwed him on redistricting. The Dem maps were drawn to give an advantage to Shaffer's Congressional ambitions, at the expense of Pace's political future.
Pace was also unable to be an impediment to any major legislative priorities of Speaker McNulty. With the Republicans having only a slim, one-seat majority, Pace should have been able to do a better job of swinging a few Republicans his way for key legislation, or at least on amendments. But Pace's political punch was nonexistent, with McNulty outmaneuvering him and leaving him in the proverbial dust.
If Pace lucks out and the courts end up backing the Republican map, which leaves the 3rd CD competitive, Pace will still have plenty of self-inflicted damage to account for, not least of which was threatening violence against opponents of the union agenda.
And like Shaffer, he has his own enemies in his party to deal with, especially after his attacks on his own party's budget. The redistricting smack dealt to him by Shaffer makes it clear he has developed enemies in his own party he'll have to address before attempting to knock off Congressman Tipton.
If he winds up in a court drawn 3rd CD he will get to explain to all those voters on the West Slope why it was he chose to do nothing while Brandon Shaffer and the head of the Colorado Democrat Party fought for a map that chopped the West Slope up into minced meat.
4. Tom Massey: A guy who is rumored for other offices is securing a tough primary for himself by constantly placing himself to the left of Republicans and Hickenlooper on budget and spending issues.
Massey seemed to get whatever he wanted, but it always seemed to result in bigger government. When ColoradoPols pushes you for Speaker, you know you're in trouble with conservatives. Being used as a foil by liberals to attack conservatives does not a winner make.
5. Colorado Economy: Despite Democrat promises that they would focus on job creation this session, the Democrat controlled Senate passed barely any bills that would have helped stimulate the economy. Speaker McNulty and the Republicans were successful in killing a couple of Ritter's Dirty Dozen tax increases, but with Dems in charge of the Senate not enough got done to help stimulate a hurting economy.
Most notable were Dems killing a repeal of the business personal property tax, one of the most noxious and anti-small business taxes in place. They also killed a repeal of the much hated Amazon tax just for spite (See: Shaffer, Brandon).
A number of notable spending reforms were attempted, such as political comer Brian DelGrosso's amendment to allow cities and towns to hold their employees to the same retirement contribution requirement as state employees, but were killed by the anti-jobs Senate majority.
If only the Senate had been on the same page as Governor Hickenlooper and the House majority, we might have seen some more progress for the creation of jobs.
6. Health Care Exchanges: A potentially good policy idea that has been fouled by the heavy hand of the federal government under Obamacare. We don't think Majority Leader Amy Stephens deserves the hyperbole that was thrown her way, but after watching the whole mess play out we wished the Exchange bill had died.
Stephens made an impassioned argument that the state needed to pass the measure to insulate it from the full force of Obamacare. But the argument was never projected broadly or persuasively — at least not until the political worm had turned against it. On an issue as dicey as this one for conservatives, once the argument was lost the bill should have followed.
7. Denver Business Community: They pushed for a measure to make it more difficult to put amendments in the Constitution, but Hickenlooper was too focused on payday lending and avoiding redistricting to actually give the measure any push.
We don't much care for the proposal ourselves, as it was an assault on TABOR, but the fact that Hick didn't care enough about it to lift the phone and swing a vote or two tells you all you need to know about where the Denver business community stands with the Guv.