With our state lawmakers burning the midnight oil over the next few days, a lot can happen before the session ends this week. But end it must, as it states in our constitution. So even if it is in a fury, it will close this week and probably with a flourish.
There are many issues still up in the air, but I think there are three big things to look out for because they will likely have major ramifications long after the session ends.
Here are three big items I am watching as the session ends this week.
1. Recreational Pot Regulation – Once Amendment 64 passed last November, state legislators knew that it would be their job to make some regulatory sense of the new law. And even though an historic committee was assembled to build the framework of bills for lawmakers, the fact is that much has yet to finally get through both the House and the Senate.
But the reason this is on my personal radar is how future elections will be affected. First, a proposed tax rate needs to go to voters, but many legislators want to tie an effort to actually repeal the legalization of recreational marijuana if the tax rates do not pass. With this potential line being drawn in the sand, marijuana activists that thought the fight was over might need to go back to the drawing board and fight the fight all over again. If that becomes the case, that first fight over pot will look like a tea party.
2. School Finance Act – While most of the challenges to the School Finance Act have been cleared, thanks to Democrats owning both the House and the Senate, the remaining struggle is one of the most important. Before lawmakers can send the $1.1 billion dollar tax increase to voters, they must agree on what kind of tax mechanism will be the most palatable.
And while I realize that the term “tax mechanism” is used as a sleep aid for some people, it’s the most critical element to this plan either becoming a bipartisan one, or a divisive partisan ballot measure. Referendum C showed how a bipartisan effort can help a tax measure pass. And when you are going to Colorado voters asking for over a billion dollars in taxes, you cannot only make the idea sound good to Democratic voters. It must sound like a good idea to all. That’s hard to pull off with no Republican support whatsoever. “Tax Mechanism” may sound boring, but this particular one will dominate headlines this November.
3. Hickenlooper Potential Vetoes – While we won’t know for some time after the legislative session comes to an end, we may get some hints this week on how many bills will be sent to Governor John Hickenlooper that he will intend to veto. Hickenlooper will be judicious and smart with his veto pen this year. He has seen how past governors have been pushed into making very unpopular vetoes, even when his own political party owned both the House and the Senate.
But despite his efforts, he still may see some bills come across his desk that he will decide to veto. The question is how many noses will be out of joint after he issues those vetoes? That’s a magic number. It’s magic, because if that number is relatively low, then the Governor can spend his time this summer and fall putting his considerable political capital behind the School Finance Act ballot measure. But, if the magic number is high, he will need to spend some of that capital explaining and recovering from potential vetoes.
The legislature may make all of these issues very boring by finding a way to tie a nice neat bow on everything before they adjourn the 2013 session. Or, the actions of the next few days may very well turn there three issues into major headlines this summer and even fall. But regardless, these issues will make the next few days interesting, to say the least.
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, on Colorado Public Television.