Colorado Republicans will focus their efforts on jobs and the economy during the upcoming 2014 legislative session, two topics they criticized the Democratic majority for shortchanging during the last session in favor of more progressive laws.
The state unemployment rate recently fell to 6.8 percent, but Republicans say there is still work to be done.
“Seeing the unemployment rate in Colorado drop is positive news, but many communities around the state are still experiencing serious economic hardship,” said House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso in a press release announcing the GOP’s 2014 legislative agenda.
For the second year in a row, Republicans will be in the minority in both chambers, although the Democrats’ advantage was slimmed to one seat in the senate after a pair of Democrats was recalled in September. A third who was targeted by opponents of Colorado’s new gun laws resigned rather than risk losing her seat to a Republican challenger, a maneuver that preserved the Democrats’ majority.
Republicans were largely sidelined during the 2013 session that saw Democrats pass a slate of new laws with little to no input from the GOP, included civil unions, new standards for renewable energy, laws regulating the legal sale of marijuana and restrictions on firearms ownership that stoked debate around the country.
What they overlooked, according to critics, were jobs and the economy.
“I was hopeful that we would be able to come together more and work together on jobs and the economy,” former House Minority Leader Mark Waller told The Daily Caller News Foundation in May. “That just never materialized.”
Like others, Waller complained that Democrats took advantage of their majority and overreached with legislation that didn’t have bipartisan support.
One example is the new standard that rural energy cooperatives double the amount of renewable energy offered to their customers by 2020, a bill that passed without a single Republican vote. That law led 11 states to vote on whether to secede from Colorado to form their own state. Five voted to move forward with such a plan.
Republican Ray Scott, who is on the House Transportation and Energy Committee, will introduce a bill to reduce the standard from 20 percent to 15 percent.
“Reducing this new mandate to 15 percent maintains a renewable energy standard while alleviating some of the burden on individuals and businesses in Colorado caused by SB 13-252,” Scott said. “Even at 15 percent I recognize Coloradans will see rates increase, but I am hopeful this compromise will be agreeable to my Democrat colleagues.”
Also on the agenda are bills seeking to classify hydroelectric power as renewable energy, a bill that will require businesses violating state regulations be issued a warning before fines are assessed and a bill that would increase and extend tax credits for local companies and those looking to expand in Colorado.
“Providing greater tax credit incentives to companies for increasing wages and growing their business will strengthen local economies around Colorado,” said DelGrosso, who will introduce the bill. “Private industry is a vital economic driver, and we need to ensure Colorado remains an attractive state for businesses to operate.”
Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, who is seeking reelection in 2014, acknowledged that the previous session was unbalanced in favor of Democratic priorities and promised to do a better job of listening to the concerns of rural Coloradans, who tend to be more conservative than the majority in the state legislature.
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