Governor John Hickenlooper presented his third State of the State address on Thursday, but it was his first to a legislature where Democrats own a majority in both houses.
That new status changes the impact of the governor’s address and helps to define where he would like to go this session. And in a state where the Governor holds as much sway as Governor Hickenlooper does, it would be a wise for Dems to go in the direction that the governor wants to go.
Hickenlooper made his biggest headlines for his comments about backing universal background checks on all gun purchases. That was a serious sign from the governor about where he is willing to go on gun control and also where he doesn’t want to go.
While he didn’t list a variety of other measures he would also back, he quickly segued to mental health issues being another area that requires attention to address recent violence.
I think the subtle hint here from the governor is that he is certainly willing to support some gun control issues, but he doesn’t seem willing to make it the centerpiece of the session.
When you consider that Colorado already requires background checks on gun sales in stores and at gun shows, expanding that to personal sales is not going to greatly expand the number of people who go through background checks. And since policing this new requirement will be difficult at best, it appears to me that this law is more about looking like tough gun control rather than actually being tougher gun control.
We didn’t hear the governor go into detail about other gun issues. And again, while he may indeed be supportive of other ideas, he’s cueing the legislature to not go too far on the issue. And by quickly mentioning mental health issues, he’s sending another cue that he would like to keep the efforts balanced. I wouldn’t be surprised to see public statements in the near future that looks to have the legislature pass as many mental health laws as they do gun laws. That actually might pass as bipartisanship this year, who knows.
Hickenlooper also set the table for other issues. He spent quite a bit of his speech on economic and job issues, and finished the speech by encouraging some constitutional reform. He continued his moderate stance by saying that the financial knot can’t be untied with only looking at one strand. That was a not so subtle way of saying that the legislature cannot simply attack TABOR. This doesn’t mean the legislature won’t be tempted to solely focus their work on that amendment, but it looks like the governor at least is trying to keep all of the various conflicting amendments in focus.
Overall, the governor maintained his moderate stance during speech and while he’s staying consistent, I think that stance served another purpose this week. I believe it was a cue to his legislative colleagues that he would like to remain moderate at the end of the session, meaning he may not smile upon far left proposals passed with little to no Republican support.
Hickenlooper has a successful brand, and his 2013 State of the State showed his fellow Democrats that he does not want that brand hampered by a legislative session that pushes too far left. His fellow Democrats will be wise to heed the not-so-subtle hints.
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.