Jerry Kopel

Ritter Vetoes, Round 2


by Jerry Kopel
I know Democratic candidate for governor Bill Ritter reads this newspaper. Everyone running for office does.
So  can I tell you "which 38 vetoes by Gov. Bill Owens in 2005 did Ritter tell the business elite he would have also vetoed" as reported in the Colorado Statesman August 18th"? Sorry. The answer is "no".
Ritter's strategy is apparently to say nothing as long as it is ignored by the major dailies, hoping the issue will go away.
However, Ritter did tell the Rocky Mountain News on Sept. 15th he would have vetoed a dozen of the 44 bills Owens vetoed in 2006, but the News only revealed six of the dozen.
The 2005 vetoes can be divided into three categories: 36 bills sponsored by a Democrat in the original house and a Democrat in the second house, 10 bills with a Republican sponsor in one house and a Democratic sponsor in the second house, and one bill carried by Republicans in both houses.
Of the 2006 vetoed, 37 had all Democratic chief and second House sponsors. Six vetoes were of "bi-partisan" bills and one had two Republican sponsors. Ritter's opponent Congressman Bob Beauprez told the "business elite" he would have vetoed all of the bills vetoed by Gov. Owens.
Introducing a bill is easy. Once in a while a bill is so innocuous its speeds without effort through the legislature and becomes law. But there are also bill that "do something". It's easier to kill those bills than pass them.
Sponsors have to be well prepared for fights in committees, have competent witnesses show up, lobby committee members, be prepared to answer with facts, the contentions of lobbyists from opposition groups.
Sponsors then lead the debate on the floor of the House and Senate, understand the rules book and are prepared for legal or procedural questions. They must compromise on amendments when necessary to get the votes needed, possibly move the bill out of a conference committee and past the House and Senate.
Now the bill is almost law. The 26 mile marathon is almost over. Suddenly the governor jumps on a legislator's legs and he or she doesn't cross the finish line.
The text of the bill is not printed in the session laws. But there is a notation of veto and title of the bill is also noted in the back of the Session Laws. No one knows what it stated even if you read the House and Senate Journal. No one knows why it was vetoed unless you spend time tracing the bill in the House and Senate Journals.
Vetoes by governors of one party are always overwhelmingly vetoes of bills by the other party's legislators. That was true when Dick Lamm and Roy Romer were governors, as well as Gov,. Owens. That's not the issue.
To have a candidate for governor, whether Republican or Democrat, praise 80 percent of vetoes by the opposition's governor is totally out of the ballpark. In six decades of political involvement, I have never seen, read, or heard of such an event and I doubt if it ever happened before in Colorado history.
In 2005, Sen. Dan Grossman(D) had nine bills vetoed where he was chief sponsor or sponsor in the second house. That places his name on close to 20 percent of there 47 vetoes. (Grossman. who served as Judiciary committee chairman, did have six bills as chief sponsor, and 10 as second house sponsor, become law.)
Democratic Sens. Paula Sandoval, Lois Tochtrop, Ron Tupa, and Reps. Mike Cerbo and Mike Merrifield had four vetoes each. There are 53 Democrats in the legislature and 46 fought to get a bill with their name as House or Senate sponsor passed, only to see it vetoed. Only 10 of the 47 Republicans suffered the same fate.
In my fantasy, I imagine Gov. Owens at his desk, signing veto letters. After doing four vetoes, he calls out "send me a Grossman". The call goes out "send me a Grossman" after every four vetoes.
Leading the pack of disappointed marathon runners in 2006 were Democratic legislators Sens. Sue Windels, and Alice Maddon, six each, followed by Brandon Shaffer with five. Grossman only had three.
But the combination of 2005 and 2006 left Grossman with 12, Madden with nine, Windels with eight, and Shaffer with seven.
On Oct. 1, the Rocky Mountain News, reiterating its support of Bill Ritter for governor stated:
"This is a legislature that in the past two years, despite real accomplishments, has churned out a remarkable array of cockamamie measures.... Owens vetoed most of these bills and Beauprez undoubtedly would veto similar ones in the future. Fortunately, Ritter insists he'd spike the bulk of such legislation, too...
Anyone planning to re-introduce the 91 vetoes in 2007? Good luck. At least more than half of the legislation (50 Owens vetoes supported by Ritter)  will need it.
I would like to be a fly on the wall when the Democratic leaders in the legislature get together with Governor-Elect Ritter to discuss his insistence to spike the 73 vetoed "cockamamie laws" carried by Democratic chief sponsors in both houses. Oops! Ritter has stated that ten of the 73  would not have had his veto.
On Sept. 5, Rocky Mountain News editor John Temple in a pre-recorded television program, asked Ritter "which of the dozen or more statewide tax increases we've voted on since you entered public life in 1993 he opposed."
Temple's request was met with silence until the Sept. 15th meeting. Ritter listed two. One was the 2000 ballot measure for a property tax reduction for seniors. He opposed the constitutional amendment that was passed by a vote of 843,000 to 697,398.
Under the constitutional language, the legislature can vote NOT to provide the partial and limited tax exemption, which it did for three of the last four years. That saved the budget about $200 million total over three years. The exemption will be granted for 2006 and for future years unless modified by the legislature.
There is one exemption per household, and granted only if the homeowner is 65 or older and has lived in the residence for 10 years. Seniors with fewer assets are less likely to have the money to move to a new residence in later life.
Criticism of Ritter does not mean he won't receive my vote. After all, my choice is between "bad" and "even worse".
(Jerry Kopel served 22 years in the Colorado House.)

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