There are 65 members of the Colorado House of Representatives, and 35 members of the Colorado State Senate. The Colorado legislature as a whole is a representative body, with each Senator representing about 143,691 constituents, and each House member standing for 77,372 Coloradans.
The Colorado Constitution outlines the makeup and duties of the state legislature, but it is a guarantee in the United States Constitution that every state shall have a republican form of government (with representatives elected by the people), rather than a direct democracy governed by the citizens.
Even Dawson didn’t cry as much as Colorado Republicans in 2013
Why the brief history lesson? As the legislature closes out its 2013 session, Republicans and some political pundits are busy accusing Colorado Democrats of "overreaching" for passing a lot of progressive pieces of legislation, yet they seem to forget that this "republican form of government" is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. Members of the Colorado legislature are elected by popular vote, the purpose of which is to see that the majority of Colorado citizens are not overruled by the minority. It is a logical extension of the process that the minority may not be happy with the results of an elected body chosen by the majority.
To put it bluntly, that's kind of the point. The system is working as designed.
But don't tell that to Colorado Republicans. Take this recent press release from the Colorado House Republicans titled: "ICYMI: Democrats continue to run up the score."
The posting from the House GOP quotes liberally from an April 28th story in the Denver Post, though they notably failed to quote the sillier parts of the story about a "marathon legislative session":
Rep. Frank McNulty of Highlands Ranch raced to the microphone and, in a thundering voice, accused Democrats of "doing a touchdown dance at the expense of the minority." [Pols emphasis]…
…Republicans have accused Democrats of "overreaching," waging war on rural Colorado and introducing bills to reward unions and trial lawyers while harming businesses.
Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver, disagrees.
"Overreaching? No," he said. "I think we've been listening to the people of Colorado and they've told us, 'We put you in charge and we want you to get something done.' "
Hey McNulty, ask Carly Simon if this is about you.
Pabon is absolutely right here, and we've made the same argument before in this space. But before we get to that, let's examine how Republicans are so upset at the Democrats for continually beating them in elections that they think the 2013 legislative session is actually about them. To quote Carly Simon (no, seriously):
You're so vain, you probably think this song is about you
You're so vain, I'll bet you think this song is about you
Don't you? Don't You? Don't You?
There are many, many reasons why Republicans have never come close to regaining control of the state legislature since their surprise ouster in 2004, and their reaction to being steamrolled in 2013 is just another number on the list. Democrats are pushing ahead with progressive issues because Republicans don't do anything but get in the way. They don't offer reasonable amendments or attempt to debate in good faith — they just try to gum up the works and play procedural games. Anyone who has heard Republican Rep. Bob Gardner's version of a filibuster can understand what we mean here; Gardner just talks comically slow for as long as he can, his only goal to try to bore people into submission. Yet Republicans are annoyed when Democrats try to move things along and actually, you know, do their job?
Republicans call this "overreaching," and take it as a personal affront. But it's not about them, and it never was. It's about Democrats understanding that Colorado voters want them to lead; voters gave McNulty and the GOP a narrow majority in the House in 2010, and they promptly yanked it back from them two years later when it became clear that Republicans still have no intention of actually legislating.
Voters are tired of Republicans who can't figure out if they should still hate gay people. They're sick of Republicans who compare abortion to the Holocaust while everyone else is worried about schools and the economy. They're fed up with Republicans who persist with their ridiculous "Personhood" policy ideas that keep…getting…rejected…again…and again. "Personhood" isn't even about the issue anymore — it's a symbol of Republicans refusing to listen to even the most loudly shouted opinions of voters.
The simple truth of the 2013 session is this: Democrats were given a significant mandate from voters in 2012, and they are putting it to use. Some would say it is long overdue, and perhaps they learned their lesson from Congressional Democrats who did next to nothing with their 2008 mandate and then lost the House of Representatives in 2010. In fact, a closer look at the election results from the past decade tells a story that makes you wonder why Democrats waited so long to push harder on their agenda in the first place…