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Death Penalty: Hickenlooper’s Influence Remains Strong

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Gov. John Hickenlooper (credit: CBS)

Gov. John Hickenlooper (credit: CBS)

Written by Dominic Dezzutti

A State House Committee voted down a bill that would have repealed Colorado’s death penalty on Tuesday. Before Governor Hickenlooper commented on the bill last week, the sponsors were confident they had the votes to pass the bill in the House and the Senate. But after Governor Hickenlooper let the committee and the rest of his Democratic colleagues know that he was likely to veto the bill if it hit his desk, that support faded fast.

It’s not surprising that one of the most popular Colorado Governors in a generation was able to convince his party quickly to leave this issue alone. But what is surprising is the defiant stance from the bill’s sponsors, Rep. Claire Levy and Rep. Jovan Melton, who were openly frustrated at their colleagues’ insistence on heeding the Governor’s warning.

I think the attitude from the sponsors is indicative that Legislative Democrats want to legislate further to the left than the Governor is willing to go. But seeing how quickly House Dems killed this bill, Legislative Democrats may have to simply follow a more moderate lead from the Governor.

I realize that gun rights advocates do not consider the passage of the magazine ban or the background checks laws as signs that the Governor wants to remain moderate, but the overall record this year remains fairly moderate.

Some may point to the Civil Unions law and ASSET bill moving forward as signs that maybe left leaning Dems are getting their way. But the fact of the matter is that both of those laws came very close to passing last year with a Republican held State House. If they were that close to success last year, it’s hard to hold them up as paragons of a progressive movement this year.

Many wondered aloud after the election last year about how Governor Hickenlooper would handle having a Democratically held House and Senate. Even though the session still has a little over a month to play out, I think at this point you would have to admit that Hickenlooper has effectively kept the stickier issues off of his desk. And the recent reaction to his displeasure with the Death Penalty bill also shows that Legislative Dems are firmly behind their Governor and not itching to test his veto pen.

The Governor’s veto pen may still get some use this year, but I don’t think it will be tested like Governor Bill Ritter’s was during his tenure. Ritter was not nearly as effective at keeping the controversial bills from his desk and was forced into some unpopular decisions and even more unpopular vetoes. Ritter ended up finding a way to upset both progressives and conservatives with his veto pen.

From what we have seen so far, it looks like Hickenlooper read his history books and has worked hard to maintain a strong influence in the legislature. Some of his more progressive Democratic colleagues may not like what that influence may mean for some of their bills, but they cannot deny that like in the E.F. Hutton ads in days of old, when Governor Hickenlooper talks, people listen.
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.

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