Depending on how you look at it, the Democratic-controlled Colorado General Assembly is in the midst of one of the most productive legislative sessions that anyone at the state capitol can remember.
Or, Democrats in the General Assembly are horrendously "overreaching," attempting to do too much too fast, and endangering the majorities they have been building up in this state for nearly a decade.
Only one of these opinions is correct, of course.
So far this legislative session, the Democratic majority has passed civil unions legislation for LGBT couples that had died twice in the prior two years of the Republican Party's one-seat House majority. Likewise with ASSET, the bill granting in-state tuition to undocumented graduates of Colorado high schools. Debate is presently underway on a massive overhaul of education funding in the state, which has been judged seriously deficient and unequal in the historic court case of Lobato vs. Colorado. Medicaid expansion is underway with the support of Gov. John Hickenlooper. Bills are proceeding to restrict the use of credit information in job decisions and increase oversight of the oil and gas industry, both major Democratic policy goals. And of course, the recent month-long struggle over gun safety legislation ended in Democratic victory on two of their biggest priorities.
All of that to report, and we're probably missing some items. Against this growing record of accomplishment, Republicans are beginning to respond–centered around the gun issue, but touching on all of these–that Democrats are "overreaching," that their focus has come off "jobs and the economy," and so forth.
What you're not seeing from Republicans, though, are many specifics in opposition to what Democrats are accomplishing legislatively with their newly recovered majority. To be sure, especially with regard to guns, they are vocally in opposition–but even with guns, they are reliant, as we have recounted in this space over and over, on hyperbole and outright misinformation to make their case. In the case of civil unions, Republican opposition didn't center on the issue itself, but the "distraction" from the "more pressing issues" of "jobs and the economy."
And why, you ask, does Republican opposition on these issues tend to redirect from the issues themselves?
Because the public in Colorado supports what Democrats are doing.
Public opinion polls have consistently shown support for civil unions legislation in Colorado for the past several years. Polls also show strong and enduring support for gun safety legislation, a change that has been brought about in part by tragic mass shooting incidents last year including in Aurora, Colorado. The charge of "overreach" simply does not stick with issues that enjoy the kind of broad public support as these do, no matter how many times Republicans use that word in the coming months. In fact, Democrats stand to gain much more by running on a record of actually accomplishing something on these longstanding and contentious problems.
By the end of the legislative session, Colorado Democrats will indeed have a long list of legislative accomplishments to run on. We predict there will also be some examples where moderates rein in expectations–we don't think, for example, that this is the year the death penalty will be repealed, nor do we expect the growing conflict between the conservation community and Gov. Hickenlooper is going to be resolved anytime soon. There's no sense among Democrats that they have permission to suddenly go hog wild. This is, as Denver Mayor Wellington Webb used to say, "progress as promised." It is in fact a whole lot of pent-up progress, a consequence of being stymied for two years by a divided legislature.
And nothing–not the cynical Colorado press and pundit corps ashamed of their own mediocrity, not an army of professional naysayers paid for by the Koch brothers and the Heritage Foundation–can take it from them. In an era where cynicism about politics is the rule, not the exception, majority Colorado Democrats are making good on their campaign promises, and making believers out of a disenchanted public.
If that is not to be rewarded in our politics, our politics are indeed broken.