The case for same gender couples to have the right to enter into civil unions in Colorado passed a major hurdle on Thursday night. The House Judiciary Committee listened to over three hours of testimony and eventually voted to pass the civil unions bill based on one Republican changing her vote from last year.
Rep. B.J. Nikkel, who refused to take an official stance on the bill before hearing testimony, decided to vote for the bill. She may have infuriated conservatives with her refusal to take a stand before hearing testimony, but those same conservatives may eventually thank her for setting forward a process that may get the Republican Party in Colorado past an issue that it has continued to stumble over in the past few years.
However, before the party can officially move on, and before Nikkel’s vote becomes truly historic, a lot must happen in less than four business days at the State Capitol. The bill must be heard and pass two more committees and then pass the State House, if it is to get to Governor Hickenlooper’s desk.
By law, the 2012 legislative session will end by midnight on Wednesday, May 9th. If the civil unions bill is going to become law, it must pass the State House before that strict deadline.
Technically, there is time to pull off the miracle. However the person running the show in the House, Speaker Frank McNulty, is in charge of the traffic lights, so to speak.
Speaker McNulty is finally in the position where he will have to decide if this bill moves forward or dies. He has been in this position all along, however he never made an official move to kill the bill. He insisted on setting the bill on the standard course and letting the official process, without his interference, determine its fate.
Now that this process has determined that the bill is on a likely path to passage, the only real hurdle would be McNulty deciding to slow down the bill with an intentional procedure.
Up until this point, McNulty could honestly say that the bill took the normal course and met the appropriate fate. He now must decide to either intentionally slow it down or let it likely get through two more committees and let it go to a vote in the House, where it would likely pass.
This ticking political clock puts Speaker McNulty in difficult position.
Since he is now the focus for the future of this bill, if he allows nature to take its course and the bill passes, social conservatives will blame and possibly target McNulty in this year’s election.
But if he moves to slow the bill and stop it from passing with procedure rather than actual votes, he will become a target of Tim Gill, who has routinely spent millions to oust politicians that have worked against rights for homosexuals. Gill would also likely take aim at the precarious one vote advantage the GOP currently enjoys in the State House. If he couldn’t knock off McNulty, he could very likely make him a Minority Leader.
While it may hurt his conservative street cred, McNulty’s best move is to stay consistent and let the civil unions bill take its natural course, even if it ultimately means passage of the bill. As much as social conservatives hate the idea, unaffiliated voters are overwhelmingly in favor of the issue and the last thing the Republican Party needs is to continue to fight a losing battle.
Songwriter and philosopher Kenny Rogers said it best. You have to know when to hold ‘em, and when to fold ‘em.
Speaker Frank McNulty may not enjoy folding his hand, but by doing so, he will live to fight another day. If he stands in the way of the natural course of events with procedure or influence, he may find that he will not have any control of said procedure this time next year.
About The Blogger
– Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.