While the branches of our state government are officially separated and independent, when you have a governor as popular and influential as John Hickenlooper, the influence one branch can have on another can be significant.
An example of this influence came out on Thursday when Governor John Hickenlooper announced that it is time for lawmakers to look at gun control laws in Colorado. He’s changing his position that he took immediately after the Aurora movie theater shootings by saying that it’s time to have the conversation.
The influential part will get realized next year when the legislative session begins. Hickenlooper’s announcement should give his fellow Democrats in both the House and the Senate a clear path to start the conversations that Hickenlooper said should begin.
However, the important difference between Hickenlooper influencing the Legislative agenda, and controlling it, is that Democratic lawmakers will need to decide how far they want to go with those conversations.
Even though Governor Hickenlooper wants the conversations to begin, it’s not clear how far he is willing to push gun control regulation. The more progressive members of his party will want to take advantage of this time and push the issue as far as possible.
However, Governor Hickenlooper still enjoys his bipartisan reputation and approach. He won’t want to sacrifice it totally for this one issue. And since his signature is the final say, any proposed legislation will not likely go past Hickenlooper’s desired level of regulation. But how that limit is reached, whether in a private meeting or with a veto pen, is still to be determined.
Again, in his own way, Hickenlooper will control the gun agenda in the legislature, either from the beginning, or with the final say.
He will likely have an easier time controlling the gun regulation agenda than he will have controlling the conversation on hydraulic fracturing. Fracking was once an issue that Hickenlooper was able to hang his hat on, helping to craft a compromise on new regulations in 2011. However, since then, cities have ignored those state guidelines and have come up with some of their own.
If any lawmakers from those communities that have thumbed their collective noses at state regulations feel that their constituencies should come before state rules, we may see lawmakers bring renewed effort to changing state rules regarding fracking.
In the end, an extremely popular governor like Hickenlooper should be able to keep his own political party from putting him in a difficult bind. He may still need to veto a few bills here and there, but we will likely see his influence on the legislative agenda long before any bills hit his desk.
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.