Hillman: Jokes about our legislature used to be funny

By Mark Hillman | Guest Commentary

We used to joke that “no man’s life, liberty or property is safe while the legislature is in session.”  That’s no laughing matter in today’s Colorado.

The collective sigh heard across our state when 100 legislators finally went home to mind their own business reflects the growing sense of dread that accompanies the Colorado General Assembly convening each January.

Although some of their worst ideas died on May 8 when the annual session ended, many of them will rise again like zombies next January, and Coloradans will again be subjected to this same ritual.

 Not long ago, Democrats and Republicans argued mostly about whether taxes and government spending should be higher or lower.  But as Democrats achieved super-majority status – now 46-19 in the House and 23-12 in the Senate – they’re confident voters gave them a mandate and won’t hold them accountable for their excesses.

 Voters said don’t raise taxes without our approval.  Legislators renamed taxes “fees,” so they wouldn’t have to ask.  Voters said don’t create large new “enterprises” – government functions funded by “fees” – without asking our permission.  Legislators simply split enterprises into smaller units or exempted them entirely from the voters’ mandate.

Expect these practices to continue indefinitely unless voters make an emphatic statement to the contrary.  Overwhelming defeat of last year’s Prop HH was one such statement, but Democrats judged it to be an anomaly and remain undeterred.

Now consider: seven Democrat legislators are members of Democratic Socialists of America.  That’s more self-proclaimed socialist lawmakers than any state except New York.  A dozen or so more tilt very far left.

Socialist calls for “equity” and “justice” open a brave new world of intrusive lawmaking.  Not to be confused with “equality” or “justice for all,” equity and justice mean punishing “oppressors” and advantaging the so-called “oppressed.”  Lawmakers demand “environmental justice” and demographic analysis of legislation.

Who are these oppressors?  Anyone who owns a business or property or who produces good and services.  Taxpayers, gun owners, parents and voters themselves may be oppressors, too.

 If lawmakers aren’t trying to micromanage businesses which they don’t understand, they’re threatening those businesses with litigation, extortion or extinction.

Ordinary citizens, who once paid scant attention to the legislature, now discuss its daily absurdities over coffee, drinks or backyard fences.  Bills creating chaos in Coloradans’ daily lives bring hundreds of citizens to wait hours to testify in legislative hearings, only to be told they have just two or three minutes to say what’s on their minds.

Bills passed this year include:

• Creating a “Statewide Welcome, Reception and Integration Program” for immigrants whether legal or illegal.

• Extorting $175 million a year in new “fees” from oil and gas producers to fund mass transit and wildlife conservation.  Four years ago, Gov. Jared Polis said Colorado’s “oil and gas wars are over.”  Democrats in the legislature disagree, this year even threatening to end oil and gas production completely.

• Squashing property rights of owners of large rental properties by requiring them to offer the property to the government before they can sell it privately.  Violators face fines up to $100,000.

• Unilaterally rewriting residential leases so they don’t end just because the lease expires.  If a tenant chooses to be difficult, terminating a lease will become a costly, painful process requiring a lawyer.

• Mandating gun owners buy firearm liability insurance; adding hours more class time and training for a concealed carry permit; and passing an arbitrary requirement that a gun left in a locked vehicle must be in a locked container even when inside a locked compartment.  But crack down on gun thieves?  No.

• Threatening schools and teachers with lawsuits if they don’t call a student by (insert preferred pronoun)’s non-legal name.  Because “parents are the problem,” this law keeps parents in the dark.

• Raiding taxpayer refunds to create a $700 milllion “Family Affordability Tax Credit.” Those who pay higher taxes will receive a smaller refund while those paying less will get a “refund” that’s often more than they actually paid.  Will anyone thank taxpayers who made this possible?  Of course not.  Instead, Progressive politicians claim credit.

Coloradans can expect more of the same unless Democrats choose to govern toward the center or Republicans realize winning back lost ground requires listening to more than just their base.

Mark Hillman served as Senate Majority Leader and State Treasurer.  To read more or comment, go to www.MarkHillman.com.