Hickenlooper: the governor that might have been

John Hickenlooper had a chance to bring a breath of fresh air to the governor’s office.

Imminently likable and with a charmed political career, he could have been the rare maverick moderate Democrat – strong enough and bold enough to be a governor for all Colorado.  He could have been the adult in the room when liberal legislators ran amok on the lunatic fringe.

For two years, he largely fit the bill.  With a Republican majority in the state House offset by Democrats controlling the Senate, playing the centrist required little effort.

This year, however, he has been all too reminiscent of his feckless predecessor, signing virtually any bill on the wacky wish list of the loony Left.

As a conservative, my expectations of a Democrat governor aren’t all that rigorous: just demonstrate the courage to be governor for all Colorado by bucking your party’s extreme left wing now and then.

Given many chances to do that this year, Hickenlooper failed time after time.

To supposedly make us safer, he signed House Bills 1224 and 1229 that impose such ridiculous burdens on gun owners that most everyone who owns a gun will unwittingly violate one or both of those laws. These bills were so incompetently written that their supporters, including Hickenlooper, expressed hope that they won’t be strictly enforced.

But with a stroke of Hickenlooper’s pen, law-abiding gun owners are likely to become breakers of an arbitrarily and irrational law.

Juxtapose that decision against the choice to stop the execution of convicted killer Nathan Dunlap and Hickenlooper looks even worse. By granting a “temporary reprieve” to Dunlap, the governor circumvented the law of Colorado and overruled the deliberations of judges and jurors that considered the case in excruciating detail.

So a mass murderer gets a break but citizens who have done nothing wrong are burdened with nuisance legislation.

Then after seeking understanding from rural Coloradans that public safety considerations are “different” in larger cities, he nevertheless dismissed the objections and expertise of rural Colorado by imposing a costly new green energy mandate on rural utilities.

That Hickenlooper didn’t comprehend that Senate Bill 252 mandates inefficiencies on electric utilities and will cost consumers far more than its purported 2% rate cap should have caused him to veto the bill.  Instead he signed a bill that provides no tangible benefit statewide but imposes a senseless new burden on rural communities.

On the other hand, the former business owner certainly knew better than to sign House Bill 1136, the Sue Your Boss Bill, which creates new incentives for disgruntled employees and their lawyers to sue employers for up to $300,000 for “emotional pain and suffering.”

Unscrupulous attorneys have turned employment lawsuits into an extortion racket, knowing that employers can easily spend $25,000 to $50,000 defending against these lawsuits, more than 90% of which are based on dubious claims.  So employers who have done nothing wrong can defend themselves in cases that take years to resolve or they can agree to a payoff settlement with the employee and his attorney.

Earlier, everyone knew that Hickenlooper would sign the gay civil union legislation.  A governor for all Colorado would have insisted that the legislation protect the religious liberties of Coloradans, such as church-based adoption services that believe a child should be adopted by a father and a mother. Hickenlooper didn’t do that – not even when the bill’s sponsor argued that Christians have no right to apply their beliefs outside a church’s walls.

Add to that his signing of the purely partisan bill that allows voters to register on Election Day with no effective safeguards against voter fraud – an idea previously rejected by Colorado voters 60%-39%. Perhaps that was his insurance policy.

Sadly, for those of us who hoped to find a Democrat governor who would give a damn about people beyond his political base, we now know that he’s not a better governor than his predecessor – just a better talker.

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