DENVER (AP) – A year after saying “the time is right” for a gun-control debate, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper laid out a much more modest agenda for 2014 in an end-of-year briefing with reporters Thursday.
The Democratic governor is wrapping up the rockiest political year of his term, signing a package of divisive gun-control measures and angering death-penalty supporters by giving an indefinite pardon to a man on death row. Hickenlooper also signed a civil-unions measure and advocated for an income tax increase for schools, a measure that failed.
Next year, Hickenlooper said, he’s hoping for a quiet legislative session marked by bipartisanship and a focus on jobs.
Fat chance, given that Hickenlooper and many lawmakers face re-election next fall.
Democrats control both chambers, but Republicans are just one seat away from controlling the Senate after two Democratic senators were recalled over their gun votes. A third Democrat resigned last month rather than face a recall and put the Senate majority in jeopardy. In other words, it’s an uncertain time for Democrats in state government, and Hickenlooper seemed eager to downplay dissent.
“Having gone through what we went through – the fires last summer, the floods in the fall and then the shooting most recently – those kinds of disasters generally do bring people together,” Hickenlooper said.
But he added, “It’s an election year. I mean, I’m not blind.”
Hickenlooper said he doesn’t want to see any gun-control laws repealed, including new expanded background checks and a 15-round ammunition magazine limit. But he told reporters he’d consider tweaks to some of the new gun laws, without specifying what changes he’d agree to.
“If there’s a way to improve them some way, if you have some way that they work better or do a better job at what was their intention, then I think we should sit down and have that discussion,” Hickenlooper said.
A year ago, Hickenlooper said the mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora prompted consideration of ratcheting back gun rights.
Talking about the shooting that killed 12 and wounded dozens of others, Hickenlooper said, “a great deal of that damage was from the large magazine on the AR-15 (rifle). I think we need to have that discussion and say, ‘Where is this appropriate?'”
After saying several times that things would be less eventful this legislative session, he did vow to make one big change.
“I’ll find something to veto. I guarantee it,” Hickenlooper said, then laughed. “That was a joke.”
Hickenlooper had been criticized last term for not vetoing a single bill from the Democratic Legislature.
The governor said he’d look to add money for K-12 public education given the filed income tax hike. He also said he’d agree to a bill changing Colorado health insurance pricing zones. Some in mountain counties have complained their rates are unfairly high compared to the Denver area.
– By Kristen Wyatt, AP Writer
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