Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Are Democrats Overreaching? Will There be a Backlash?

The commentary is rising, especially outside the Boulder, Denver confines that the Democratic legislature is rushing its full agenda through in breakneck speed – snow cyclones be damned. Does their behavior constitutes overreach and will it lead to a backlash similar to 2013, the last time Democrats were in command?

Democrats argue that the liberal agenda they’re passing were issues they were elected on. They are reassured by their political strategist that, as opposed to 2013 when Democratic control and legislature behavior was judged as overreach and political punishment followed with recalls, subsequent loss of the State Senate and a more difficult re-election for then Governor John Hickenlooper, 2020 will be another Trump blowout in Colorado, leaving the Democrats intact, if not enhanced, regardless of their rushed agenda in 2019.

Gov. Jared Polis | Photo: Rick T. Wilking/Getty Images
But, opponents are not sitting it out. A ballot initiative challenge has been mounted to the Democrats’ National Popular Vote law, which opponents claim will diminish Colorado’s clout in presidential elections and make it a subsidiary of California and New York voters. If it gets to the ballot, the Democrats and especially Governor Polis will have a busy time defending it since almost no time was spent explaining it and it appears blatantly partisan.

Also, a couple of political committees have been formed specifically targeting Polis, advocating a recall (highly unlikely) and simply opposing his re-election. But, clearly the honeymoon is over and Polis and fellow Democrats will be dealing with an increasingly hostile environment.

Opponents argue that the 2018 election was mostly about sending Donald Trump a message and not the far left agendas of the legislature and Polis. In fact, they point out that when voters actually dealt with state ballot issues, they said no to new oil and gas regulations and no to more taxes for schools and roads. They also believe that, beyond overreaching on policy, Democratic leadership is avoiding transparency and accountability; i.e., rushing bills to avoid study or reading them and calling meetings to avoid opponents’ participation.

The Democratic agenda is wide and deep. Along with a major overhaul of oil and gas regulations, including making clear that Colorado doesn’t promote but just regulates the industry, it includes spending state and business revenue in prodigious amounts. Full-day kindergarten is a more than $200 million annual price tag, a new annual commitment that gives pause to fiscally-conscious Democrats on the Joint Budget Committee. There is also a paid leave requirement being pressed on businesses, which is cited by the state’s chambers of commerce to add $1 billion in costs. Democrats are also taking on guns, the death penalty, TABOR limits, sex education and a host of other divisive topics that they have been waiting to pass for years.

The oil and gas regulations could provide the most potent political fight if the industry can identify and unite on an effective strategy. Although some New England states have banned fracking, no state with an industry as large and well-developed as Colorado has passed legislation that would allow specific bans and regulations against the industry. In an article in the Washington Times Valerie Richardson reported:

Colorado “is going to do something that hasn’t been done, and that is: a state with a very significant pool of gas and oil is going to make it a lot more difficult to mine it,” said Denver political analyst Floyd Ciruli.

“There is really now ample warning that the way this legislation is drafted, it’s essentially going to allow some level of a ban,” he said. “The public is clearly divided on this.”

Climate change has been the top issue for many Democrats, especially from Boulder, which includes Governor Polis and House and Senate leadership (House Speaker and Senate Majority Leader).

“When you look at the demographic changes in the state and the fact that climate change has now become a civic religion with a significant number of people, it’s hard for gas and oil to compete in that environment no matter how good their PR is,” Mr. Ciruli said.

If the economy should deteriorate as expected next year, Democrats could be held liable for both busting the state budget and driving one of Colorado most important industries to reducing activity and hence, employment and tax payments.

“If this turns out to be as economically devastating as talked about, mainly because it allows for actual banning, or incredibly draconian regulations, the oil and gas industry has choices. We’re not the only place they can drill, although we’re a good one,” Mr. Ciruli said. “And I think the Democrats will be vulnerable if that turns out to be true.”

Democrats need to be especially concerned if a cutback in Colorado’s oil and gas industry coincides with a recession next year. Someone will get blamed.

See the Washington Times: With Hickenlooper out, Colorado’s empowered environmentalists target oil and gas industry

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