Opinion: Coloradans pummeled by proposed legislation in 2015
Free Press Opinion Columnist
Protect the environment, address climate change, improve education, repair infrastructure, decrease economic disparities, implement sensible gun control, and insure equal rights for people regardless of differences.
I’ve been asking people for the top three issues they’d like to see Colorado’s senators and representatives address in the 2015 legislative session, and those were their top answers. Nobody said anything about protecting society from homosexuals, managing female body parts, or increasing accessibility to violence.
One respondent insisted that his top three priorities were climate change, climate change, and climate change. He added economic disparities and education when I asked for his top five. Another respondent refused to provide more than one answer, arguing that nothing matters unless we immediately address our impending environmental crisis. As a 16-year-old aspiring scientist who’s already completed a college-level environmental science class, her words were particularly compelling.
With the election of Senator Ray Scott, Representative Dan Thurlow and Representative Yeulin Willett to speak for Mesa County, as well as Republican control of the Colorado Senate and House of Representatives, it hasn’t taken long to see how well our community will fare in Denver this legislative session.
Despite their constituents’ concerns about the environment and climate, Scott and Thurlow are introducing Senate Bill 15-044 to a Senate committee at 1:30 p.m. on January 29. If passed, this law would increase fossil-fuel dependence and its associated side effects by cutting standards for renewable energy in half.
Regarding education, Colorado Republicans have already squashed Senate Bill 15-012, which would have prevented college tuition hikes of more than six percent annually.
According to Infrastructure Report Card, Colorado has 18 hazardous-waste sites on the National Priorities List, 18 percent of our roads are in poor condition, and we have 387 high-hazard dams. The list goes on, but our leaders aren’t talking about any of that this year.
As far as addressing economic disparities, Republicans just terminated Colorado’s Pay Equity Commission, despite the fact that the salaries of Colorado women have decreased in recent years from 84 cents for every dollar men earn for the same work to 78 cents, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
As if all of this weren’t enough, Republicans are hitting hard on gun control and civil rights in 2015. They’ve introduced the same personhood law Colorado voters have defeated three times, along with five devastating gun bills; plus they killed a bill which would reduce differential treatment of same-sex couples.
“For the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, and safety” House Bill 15-1009 would allow ammunition magazines of more than 15 rounds. Colorado’s history of mass shootings apparently demonstrates a need for high-capacity magazines and for House Bill 15-1086, which would simplify the transfer of machine guns between buyers and sellers.
Other gun-related bills expand Stand Your Ground laws to include businesses (HB1049), repeal background checks (HB 15-1050 and SB 15-086), allow concealed carry without background checks or training (SB 15-032), and establish no liability for businesses allowing open carry on their property (HB 15-1127).
With his assistance in killing Senate Bill 15-016, Senator Scott compromised the Republican mantra of limited and less chaotic government in order to cement his convictions against non-heterosexual relationships. The bill would have eliminated the red tape and differential standards created by civil union and same-sex marriage laws.
Perhaps the scariest thing about all of this is that I’m not making up any of it. This is what happens when we’re too busy to be informed and to vote. None of the men representing Mesa County in Denver earned close to a majority vote.
With only around 40 percent of eligible voters participating in the 2014 midterm elections, only a few voices were heard, and the results surely don’t represent majority of us. Until more of us participate in elections, 2015 demonstrates just what’s ahead for Mesa County and for Colorado.
A fourth generation Coloradan, Free Press columnist Robyn Parker is the former host of the progressive community radio show, Grand Valley Live. She is a stay-at-home mom, active community volunteer and board member for local environmental and social justice organizations. Robyn may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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