Now that the legislative session is over, and the social issue special session concluded, and the bills signed by the Governor, we figured it was time to look back at the totality of the 2012 legislative session and give the politicos, press corps and politicians a grade.
For technophiles, 2012's session was also one to remember. Twitter quickly became a dominant force under the Gold Dome, with minute-by-minute (or in John Schroyer's case, second-by-second) coverage coming from the Capitol press corps. Eventually, the House GOP and Democrat caucuses joined the battle, bringing their partisan food fight to followers of the #COleg hashtag everywhere.
The most sweeping change that the end of session brought about was the end of, as Lynn Bartels has noted, at least 33 lawmakers' careers at the Capitol due to term limits and those deciding not to seek re-election. We're not sad to see many of them go, and more are likely to be booted by voters in November, but there are some legislators who the Capitol will be less without, like Senators Nancy Spence and Keith King.
Seniors – For the first time in years, Colorado's seniors will get a break on their property taxes. Despite initial opposition by Democrats, a combination of improved revenue forecasts and the GOP's refusal to back down, the Senior Homestead Exemption was reinstated, allowing seniors who have been in their homes for 10 years to get a 50% break on the first $200,000 of their home's value.
The AP's Crack Capitol Squad — Ivan Moreno and Kristen Wyatt of the Associated Press achieved what few Capitol reporters can — they wrote fair stories that drew virtually no criticism from either side. They not only managed to cover the Capitol fairly, but prolifically, cranking out stories mere minutes after press conferences or news events happened. Plus, they mentioned our site in the AP story on Glitter Bomber Boy, and we're suckers for having our name dropped into nearly every media market in the country.
Speaker McNulty — He wasn’t a winner in the minds of the talking heads and press in the Capitol, but like Scott Gessler, McNulty didn’t seem much to mind. From the start of the session, McNulty was the power center that mattered most. Sometimes the political yappers liked it, sometimes they didn’t. McNulty boxed Hickenlooper and the Democrats into restoring a huge tax break for seniors, something the Denver Post editorial board and the yappers didn’t like. But he got his way anyway. The same can be said of everything from the budget deal, to the Laura Bradford imbroglio, to the civil union free for all. Love it or not, McNulty was in charge. And when he had the moxie to swing back at Hick in the social issues special session, he established himself as the de facto head of the GOP, whether the cackling yappers under the Dome like it or not.
The Class Acts – When Rep. BJ Nikkel (R-Loveland), Rep. Jon Becker (R-Fort Morgan), and Sen. Keith King (R-CO Springs) were Mario-Mandered out of their districts this year, Democrats were salivating at the idea of nasty Republican primaries. But, each legislator took the high road, and gracefully bowed out. We hope we’ll see more of these class acts soon.
Secretary of State Scott Gessler – Secretary Gessler’s term started out rough, but he’s proven his mettle this legislative season. After being derisively dubbed the "Honey Badger" by Democrats, Gessler decided to embrace the label, biting the heads off the poisonous Democrat snakes and "going on his merry way." Not only that, but Gessler has been the lucky recipient of an incompetent political rival in Colorado Democratic Party Chairman Rick Palacio, who launched a flaccid recall attempt on Gessler. Ever since that spectacularly failed opposition "campaign," Gessler has been given a fresh lease on his political life.
Read his blog, Second Reading. He's good with full sentences too.
Glitter Bomber Boy — State Senate Democrat aide Peter Smith thought it was a good idea to throw an unidentified substance (glitter) at Mitt Romney the same week Secret Service began their protection detail. Not only did Smith find himself quickly scooped up and escorted to a holding room by Secret Service agents, but his name ended up in newspapers across the country twice. First after he was arrested and second after we broke the story of his political employment with Brandon Shaffer's Senate caucus. Since Smith actually helped us land our first Drudge Report link, he's a winner to us, but a loser to everyone else.
Rep. Laura Bradford – Whether Bradford was drunk the night she was pulled over we'll never know for sure, but her handling of the situation and her subsequent immature standoff with Republican legislators was a distraction from the very real economic issues that legislators were tackling this year. Unsurprisingly, Bradford has decided not to seek re-election.
Occupy Denver – The scabies-infested squatters were finally ousted from outside the Capitol, as well as city and state parks, through the no-camping ban. If we knew what they were protesting, and didn't elect a dog as their leader, we might have more sympathy, but as it stands, we’re still scratching our heads and asking, “WHAT DO YOU WANT?” Maybe Rep. Max Tyler can explain — he protested in solidarity with them.
Rep. Joe Miklosi (D-Denver) – When Miklosi announced his bill to forbid discrimination against those in motorcycle gang clothing, we had to check our calendar to ensure it wasn’t April Fools’ Day. Turns out the only fool was Miklosi, who was also ranked as a Legislative Loser by The Denver Post. During his last legislative session before asking for a promotion to Congress, Miklosi did not do a single thing to shine. In his side job, running for Congress, he has been literally the worst fundraiser of any Democrat in any targeted seat in the country. Oh, and he was embroiled in a labor dispute with his former finance director, his general consultant bragged about "stealing" $90 million in taxpayer bonds and he doesn't even know who is running his campaign.
Senate President Brandon Shaffer (aka T-GRAC): At the moment of sine die, Brandon Shaffer's power in the political world began to deflate like a popped helium balloon — but that's not to say there wasn't a bit of narrative foreshadowing early on. Shaffer began the session comparing his political plight to that of a rape victim, and ended it entering a hopeless, delusional, some might say tilting at windmills, race for the 4th Congressional District. Pat Stryker and Tim Gill decided you were the weakest link in their redistricting plan, Senator Shaffer. Goodbye.
Senator Evie Hudak (D-Tax Hike): The Dean of the Dirty Dozen Delegation, Senator Hudak has never met a tax hike she doesn't like. Recently, Revealing Politics caught Hudak on candid camera admitting to supporting a tax increase that had not even been drafted yet. A leading cheerleader for $3 billion in new taxes in Prop 103, which went down 2-1 in Colorado, Hudak is wildly out of step with her district. Senator Hudak's biggest bill this session was lampooned by the Denver Post editorial board as "muddled economic thinking." Coming soon to a GOP mail vendor: a ready-made tax and spend messaging target.
Dianne Primavera (& Ann McGihon) ethics violation – Busted for having a lobbyist host a fundraiser for her campaign during the legislative session, former Rep. Primavera is off to a rocky start to reclaim her Broomfield-based House seat that she lost to Don Beezley in 2010. The ethics complaint was dismissed after lobbyist McGihon removed her name from the host committee, but the case was a major PR blunder for her campaign in the local papers.
In Twitter parlance this is called #TWITMO, or Twitter Gitmo.
*A term coined by a football coach at the US Naval Academy to describe the frustration of a scoreless tie, this category is folks who moved the ball forward, only to lose the same yardage right back.
Governor Hickenlooper — This category is really defined by Hickenlooper, who makes a positive move on energy, only to fall back with his less than engaged approach at the Capitol and decisions like disregarding victim compensation issues in the Lower North Fork Fire.
The Good Governor's meandering messaging has begun to catch up to him a bit. He landed himself in hot water with a few inadvertent X-rated references, including one with Denver Mayor Michael Hancock. Not helpful, Governor. Mayor Han(d)cock still hasn't fully put the allegations about his visiting hookers to (bed) rest.
Post-legislative session, Hickenlooper's tendency to run his mouth has landed him in more policy-oriented trouble, including opposing the individual mandate at the heart of Obamacare and seemingly endorsing Mayor Bloomberg's attempt to make 20 oz sodas illegal.
During the session Hickenlooper mostly played his regular legislative hand — he folded and sat it out, keeping himself free of the dirt of politics. The only thing that might be considered the least bit controversial was Hick's outright defiance of the enviros in his crusade for fracking, even recording a radio ad for the Colorado Oil & Gas Association.
"Hickenlooper is Amazing" may still be the bedtime story for many in the press corps, but his political chops are beginning to show some wear and tear.
@JohnSchroyer – He is everywhere.