Colorado Capitol Report

If the Democrats Control All Three Levers of Power in Colorado . . .


If the Democrats Control All Three Levers of Power in Colorado . . .

With the election just days away, the prospect that Democrats will control the governor’s office, the House and the Senate is very real, according to multiple polls.

For the last four years, the Senate has been controlled by the Republicans by one vote.

Consequently, many majority Democrat House-initiated bills that concerned the Colorado Chamber met their end in the Senate, usually in the “kill-committee,” the State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.  (Not to be overlooked is the fact that bills that the Colorado Chamber endorsed also met the same fate in the House kill committee, the State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.)

Here are some of the bills that the Colorado Chamber successfully opposed in recent sessions:

  • A worker-funded by state administered, mandatory paid family-leave program;
  • A worker-funded, state administered retirement savings program;
  • Pay equity;
  • “Ban the Box” to prevent employers from asking job applicants about criminal histories;
  • Restrictions on the oil-and-gas industry;
  • Allow local governments to increase the minimum wage above the state minimum wage;
  • Post all job openings for all workers to see; and
  • Require employers to disclose pay for workers by gender and national origin.

Finally, for a detailed review of the Colorado Chamber’s legislative agenda for 2017-2018, which details the anti-business bills that the Colorado Chamber fought, review the following summaries:

2018

2017

The Political Landscape after Tuesday

What will it mean for the business community if the Democrats control Colorado State Government in 2019 and 2020?

Here are three plausible scenarios for a state that most political analysts now call “purple”:

Moderation

First, the majority Senate Democrats might temper business-related legislation from the House that, in the past, was crafted and labeled “progressive” or “liberal” because the bills appealed to the base of the party, and the sponsors knew that the bills would not survive in the Senate.  Thus, the Democrats saw no need to compromise as the bills were only intended to score political points.

Knowing that they will be able to put bills on the desk of a Democrat governor likely to sign them, the Senate Democrats—if they have only a narrow majority of one or two votes—may moderate their positions and work more closely with business organizations to take the concerns of the business community into account.

Senator Rachel Zenzinger (D-Arvada) recently told Ed Sealover, statehouse reporter for The Denver Business Journal, that concerns that that the Senate will steamroll the business community are unwarranted because there are pro-business moderates in the Democrat Caucus who are reticent to pass sweeping legislation that would slow the state’s economy and cost jobs.

Two bills that illustrate that moderation and compromise can, indeed, prevail include:

  • The 2016 bill to provide accommodations in the workplace for pregnant workers; and
  • The 2017 bill allowing workers to share compensation information among themselves.

Here’s a list of additional bills that demonstrate that compromise is possible:

  • HB18-1128–Data Privacy for Consumers
  • HB18-1256–Continuation of Civil Rights Commission
  • HB18-1400–Increase in Air Quality Permit Fees
  • HB16-1002–Employee Leave for Child’s Academic Activities
  • HB16-1347–Employer Wage Law Violations
  • HB16-1432–Inspection of Personnel Files
  • SB15-107–Classification of Independent Contractors
  • SB13-18–Permissible Use of Credit Information

(Note:  HB stands for House bill and SB stands for Senate Bill.  The number immediately after HB or SB is the year of the session; thus 18 means 2018, etc.)

A “Gatekeeper”

Second, related to a possible one- or two-vote Democrat majority will be the potential role for a maverick Democrat “gatekeeper” to take an independent stand and oppose a controversial bill being advocated by the Chamber’s majority Democrats.

Such was the case in 2014 when Senator Cheri Jahn (D-Wheat Ridge), an independent-minded legislator who ran a small business, was labeled the “Gatekeeper” by The Denver Business Journal.  During that session, the Democrats controlled the Senate by one vote.

This year, Senator Jahn, who is term-limited, changed her party affiliation to “unaffiliated.”

Although a gatekeeper can wield substantial power, a legislator who plays this role takes an incredible political risk by alienating his or her caucus and leadership.  Retribution may come in many forms, including location and size of office at the Capitol and committee assignments.

Damn the Torpedoes!  Full Speed!

Third, the legislature’s Democrats and a Democrat Governor could choose to charge ahead full-tilt with a progressive/liberal agenda strongly opposed by the business community.

To do so, however, will open the Democrats up to the potential charge that they are harming the state’s economy and business climate and costing jobs.

In that case, the Colorado Chamber will vigorously fight the bad-for-business bills throughout the legislative process and vocally urge the Governor to veto them.

The Long View

Whenever one party, either at the state or national level, controls all three levers of power, there is always an understandable tendency of the party to finally push through its long-frustrated agenda–and ignore the opposition of the minority party.

But, if American politics now and then shows the voters one thing, it’s “what goes around (sometimes) comes around.”

And, with the next election, the minority party seizes at least one lever of power and total control by the other party is broken.  Compromise becomes the order of the day if anything is to be accomplished.

In other words, if the political pendulum swings one way . . . it may swing back the other way, at least in purple states.

News Media Coverage

For news media coverage of what the political landscape may look like after next Tuesday, read:

Will Tuesday’s elections continue Colorado’s trend line written in Democratic ‘blue ink,’” by John Aguilar and Nic Garcia, The Denver Post, November 2nd.

Business owners, take note: These 3 races will determine which party controls the Colorado Senate,” by Ed Sealover, The Denver Business Journal, November 2nd.

From gun control to health care: What Democratic control of the statehouse would mean for Colorado,” by Anna Staver, The Denver Post, November 1st.

These dead business-focused bills could come back to life if Dems take back Colorado Senate,” by Ed Sealover, The Denver Business Journal, October 4th.

Colorado state Sen. Cheri Jahn reflects on 2014 session: Bills blocked a few passed,” by Ed Sealover, The Denver Business Journal, May 7, 2014.

 


Federal Election Outlook: By the Numbers

On Election Day, voters will determine the outcome of 35 U.S. Senate seats and the 435 U.S. House seats that are up for this election. Below we’ve provided a snapshot of the current makeup in the House and Senate and what could happen on Election Day!

U.S. Senate:

Current makeup is 51 Republicans, 49 Democrats, including two Independents.  Republicans hold majority by two seats.

  • 35 Senate seats are in play, including special elections in Mississippi & Minnesota;
  • Neither of Colorado’s U.S. Senate seats are up this year (Sen. Gardner up in 2022, Sen. Bennet up in 2024);
  • Key U.S. Senate battleground states include:  MT, NV, AZ, MS, IN, FL;
  • Special election seats outlook:  MS is polling reliably polling Republican; MN reliably Democratic.

U.S. House:

Current makeup is 235 Republicans, 193 Democrats, plus 7 vacant seats.  Republicans hold the majority by 42 seats.

  • An election “wave” would require 48 seats to be overturned, but for a “Blue Wave,” to return Democrats to the majority party in the U.S. House, Democrats would need to maintain the current 193 seats & flip another 23 seats from Republican control;
  • House battleground states are most likely: CA, FL, GA, IL, IN, MN, NJ, NY, OH, PA, TX;
  • There are 140 seats deemed safe for Republicans and 182 safe Democratic seats.

Colorado Battleground Seat:

  • In early 2017, the DCCC identified several candidates/districts in each of the above battleground states, and targeted Congressman Mike Coffman’s CD-6 district as one of them;
  • In 2016, outside groups spent more than $13 million on this district – the 6th highest amount spent on any U.S. House race nationwide that year;
  • When CD-6 was redrawn in 2010, many national pundits believed the seat would start leaning in favor of Democrats, so the district became a bell-weather race during the last three House election cycles.  This year is no different, and pundits are saying CO-6 will predict which party will either retain or win House leadership for the next two years.

Politics Worth Noting:

  • 41 “competitive” House seats are currently up for election & of those at-play seats, only seven are held by Democrats.
  • 30 Republican Congressmen are retiring which overwhelmingly affects the powerful House Financial Services Committee, where 12 sitting committee members are retiring or running for another office;
  • 8 additional Republican House Financial Services Committee members are in seats deemed “toss-ups” and another 5 Republicans from the Committee are in districts which Politico shows only “lean Republican.”  CO-3 Congressman Scott Tipton is among those five seats which lean Republican;
  • Only 1 of the Committee’s at-risk seats has been labeled “likely Democratic.”

For any questions regarding these congressional races, please contact Leah Curtsinger at lcurtsinger@cochamber.com or (303) 866-9641.