Winners and Losers of the 2018 Colorado legislative session

THE WINNERS

Colorado’s Kids

This year’s state budget had a little more room for funding for our public schools, and lawmakers did what they could to support education after years of painful cuts. The fight to properly fund public education at every level took center stage late in the session when thousands of teachers and their supporters rallied at the Capitol.


Drivers and Commuters

Everybody who drives, takes a bus, or rides a train in Colorado knows we need to invest more in our transportation infrastructure. This year, a bipartisan coalition of Republicans and Democrats hammered out a deal to make serious investments in transportation, with progressive lawmakers driving a hard bargain to make sure smart transportation options are available for everyone.


Economic growth for rural communities

Overall Colorado’s economy is booming, but some areas of the state aren’t seeing the benefits as much others. Key bipartisan efforts like the Agricultural Workforce Development Program and help for communities dealing with plant closures and other crises, and, after years of trying, major support for the deployment of broadband internet access in rural areas, will help ensure we can all succeed regardless of where in the state we call home.


The women of the Colorado House

2018 witnessed a day of reckoning in the Colorado General Assembly, when the first sitting legislator in over a century was expelled from the House. Steve Lebsock’s serial sexual harassment and retaliation against women who spoke out against him were an intolerable offense against the dignity of every woman in Colorado. While the men in charge of the Senate were bungling their response to mounting harassment claims (see: LOSERS), Rep. Faith Winter and women in House leadership took care of business.


The women who will save the Senate

As progressives prepare to retake the Colorado Senate in November, four women–Rep. Brittany Pettersen, Rep. Faith Winter, Rep. Jessie Danielson, and SD-16 candidate Tammy Story–represent the vanguard of long-term change for a body that has been tainted by corruption and scandal for nearly four years. From the illicit Cambridge Analytica “psychoanalytics” that helped Republicans win the Senate in 2014 to Senate President Kevin Grantham’s disastrous handling of the Senate’s sexual harassment cases, and a platform that openly puts fringe right wing interests ahead of Coloradans, voters will have a stark contrast to choose from in November.


Veterans in crisis

Our nation’s veterans risked everything to protect our freedom, and the social problems that result from the horrors of war need to be handled with respect. New bipartisan legislation by Rep. Lois Landgraf, Rep. Tony Exum, and Sen. Bob Gardner passed this year will help veterans in the criminal justice system in Colorado get the services and support they need to turn their lives around.


Rep. Alec Garnett

Rep. Alec Garnett’s riveting testimony during the hearing to expel Steve Lebsock, in which Garnett tearfully disclosed that he was wearing a bulletproof vest to protect himself from Lebsock’s retaliation, became a nationwide example of the difficulty of confronting sexual harassment in the workplace. Later in the session, Rep. Garnett helped bring some Republicans to the table to introduce “red flag” legislation to protect the public from the mentally ill. The bill did not pass the hard-liners in the Senate, but his coalition inspires hope that this issue will be addressed soon.


Families struggling with opioid addiction

Overprescription and overuse of opioid painkillers in America has claimed thousands of lives. This year, bipartisan legislation reached the governor’s desk to address the clinical practices of health care practitioners, provide much-needed funding for addiction treatment, and limit (with certain exceptions) the initial prescription for an opioid painkiller to seven days. This work came as a result of a bipartisan interim committee led by Rep. Brittany Pettersen, Rep. Jonathan Singer, Sen. Kent Lambert, Sen. Kevin Priola, Sen. Cheri Jahn proving, once again, that Colorado can still put partisanship aside and be a model for the nation when it comes to tackling real issues.


Colorado’s forests, lakes and rivers

Responding to the threat from invasive species that have wrought havoc on water infrastructure across the nation, the Colorado legislature passed the Mussel-free Colorado Act to support inspection efforts at recreation areas and provide stiffer penalties for invasive species regulation violations. Another new law creates a statutory prohibition against leaving a campfire unattended in Colorado’s forests. With the reauthorization of the Colorado Lottery through 2049, Coloradans will benefit from continued stewardship of our cherished parks and open spaces for decades to come.


Wall Street finance guys (PERA)

Wall Street wins, Colorado loses. While Colorado’s public employees face higher retirement contributions and benefit cuts, a major investigative report this month revealed that for-profit money managers have received almost $1 billion–that’s billion with a ‘b’–in investment fees in less than a decade while failing to make investments that pay off.


THE LOSERS

Colorado Senate Republican Leadership

Sexual harassment is a problem that knows no partisan boundaries. But when the Colorado General Assembly’s GOP-controlled Senate and Democratic-controlled House were each confronted with credible allegations of harassment by their members, the difference in the response was night and day. Senate President Kevin Grantham and his henchman Chris Holbert made a mockery of their earlier lip service to putting a stop to harassment in their chamber. While the House expelled Steve Lebsock, Randy Baumgardner survived multiple investigations that validated the allegations against him by numerous women who worked in the Capitol. The message was loud and clear: sexual harassment in the Senate is okay as long as the cops can’t arrest you for it.


Women who work in the Colorado Senate

This point can’t be made strongly enough. The women who are forced by their profession to work in the Colorado Senate have been victimized on an ongoing basis by the Senate’s refusal to hold serial sexual harassers accountable. Even worse, Republican Senate leaders and legislative aides openly participated in attacks on accusers meant to humiliate and discredit them. The GOP’s response to sexual harassment allegations in the Senate was a textbook example of how to take an already difficult situation and make it much, much worse.


Steve Lebsock

Steve Lebsock was the first sitting member of the Colorado General Assembly to be expelled in 103 years. In the end, the final dishonor of a vote to expel was Lebsock’s choice. After a day of dramatic testimony on Lebsock’s conduct and retaliation against his accusers, rather than resigning before the chamber could vote to expel him, Lebsock, in a final act of vindictiveness, changed his party affiliation to Republican about one hour before the vote that sealed the end of his political career. Lebsock’s dishonorable career in politics is now over, and the one thing that can be considered a positive from his time in office is that his name is now a cautionary tale for predators who can’t keep their hands off other people they work with.


House Minority Leader Patrick Neville

Patrick Neville, the leader of the Republican minority in the Colorado House, had a backward agenda that went nowhere. Neville’s partnership with his father Sen. Tim Neville to weaken Colorado’s gun laws was soundly defeated. Neville was mostly sidelined during negotiations over major legislation this year, with the House minority overruled and bypassed in negotiations between House and Senate leadership. During the process that led to the expulsion of Steve Lebsock from the House, Neville even lobbied his members unsuccessfully to vote against expulsion–a low point for Neville’s leadership and Republicans in the Colorado House as a whole.


Anti-abortion radicals (this time)

In 2018, the progressive majority in the Colorado House fought off bills to dramatically restrict abortion rights in Colorado–including a bill that would make almost every abortion in our state a felony crime. These radical anti-abortion bills are totally out of touch with the needs and rights of Colorado women. Unfortunately, we need only look to states like Iowa, which just last week signed a six-week abortion ban into law, to realize that abortion rights can never be taken for granted.


Middle-class families

This year, progressive lawmakers proposed numerous pieces of legislation to help Colorado’s middle-class families in every part of the state get ahead. Sadly, the right-wing majority in the Colorado Senate killed all of these important bills–paid family leave, secure retirement savings, the option for cities and counties to raise their minimum wages, and many more. We can do better, but we need change in the Colorado Senate to make these changes reality.


Sen. “Both Ways” Beth Humenik

Once a bright hope for Republicans in the Colorado Senate, Sen. Beth Humenik was a willing participant in Senate Republican leadership’s disgraceful campaign to discredit the victims of harassment and assault. Humenik compounded that disgrace by filing a ridiculous counter-complaint against a Democratic Senator over his innocent use of an unmarked bathroom. Humenik’s support for radical school voucher bills and vote last year against saving rural hospitals show she is not the responsible leader her Adams County constituents need.


Gun nuts (this time)

Despite the failure of “red flag” legislation, it wasn’t all bad news for common-sense gun safety at the Colorado Capitol in 2018. As they have every year since 2013, the far-right gun lobby made another attempt to weaken Colorado gun laws, even as public support for tighter gun control has grown after recent mass shootings. But we’re reminded again that only a progressive majority in the Colorado House and a governor committed to gun safety can keep the gun lobby at bay. We’re never more than one election away from going backward.


Rural Coloradans

Everyone knows there is a major problem confronting Coloradans in rural areas buying health insurance in the private market. Premiums are too high and provider choices are starkly limited. This year, progressives in the legislature put forward numerous great proposals to bring down costs–reinsurance, premium subsidies for rural parts of the state, increasing health care pricing transparency, and studying innovate new options for care delivery–that all ran into a buzzsaw in the Republican-controlled Senate.


Conservatives

Student-led rallies for gun violence prevention. Teacher rallies for education funding. LGBTQ Coloradans and their allies outraged over the right’s attacks on the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The #metoo movement. When you look any just about any issue that impacted the daily news from Colorado’s legislature in 2018, political momentum for progressives is plainly evident. A “perfect storm” of accountability, boosted by national politics but very much driven by local events and characters, could well result in an historic defeat for Colorado conservatives in November.