August 13, 2006
By Jerry Kopel
For the benefit of new readers, let me state I have been a registered Democrat for 57 years (back then we could not register until age 21). And I'm not a "yellow dog" Democrat who votes for everyone on the ballot carrying a Democratic label, even a "yellow dog".
My columns in the past and future will continue to criticize both Democrats and Republicans when major dailies miss the story I think needs to be told.
On August 4th, 2006, the Denver Post reported Bill Ritter and Bob Beauprez, the Democratic and Republican candidates for governor had been meeting with "several members of the state's business elite" who questioned both men as to how they would have decided on 47 bills that Gov. Bill Owens vetoed in 2005.
Beauprez went beyond agreeing with all of the 2005 vetoes and stated he would have vetoed the 44 bills Gov. Owens vetoed in 2006.
Ritter was more "modest": "Ritter (wrote the Post) reviewed the 47 vetoes issued by Owens in 2005, many of which directly or indirectly impacted business interests. He agreed with about 38 of them".
He was quoted as stating "I believe they (the business elite) came away believing I view my role as gatekeeper of good policy".
The 47 vetoes in 2005 were greeted by Democratic legislators with shock and dismay, and that included Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald and House Speaker Andrew Romanoff. According to a Denver Post reporter in 2005 "labor unions, gay-rights organizations and women's rights groups are using the vetoes to call for Democrats to take over the governor's office in 2006."
A story by Lynn Bartels in the Rocky Mountain News quoted Sen. Fitz-Gerald "(she) was upset with the governor over a variety of vetoes, including two bills she believes would have reduced prescription drug costs."
"I wouldn't pretend to understand how he thinks politically, but there is a risk of looking like an obstructionist."
Bartels continues: "A bill requiring hospitals to provide emergency contraceptive information to rape victims? Dead.
A measure creating a public list of companies whose workers depend on Medicaid for health care? Dead.
Legislation allowing the Regional Transportation District to take away routes from private drivers and give them to union drivers? Dead.
A bill to study sentencing for juveniles convicted of felonies? Dead."
The Denver Post story indicated, at least to me, that if Ritter had been governor in 2005, he would have vetoed 80 percent of the bills vetoed by Owens. The question I have is one of transparency. He told the "business elite" what bills he would have vetoed or not vetoed. How about telling the rest of us? Then we could question his views. And Ritter might also tell us which of the 2006 vetoes he supports.
The anti-veto sentiments are the wedge that separates Democratic nominees from Republicans seeking legislative seats. Ritter may well have destroyed a large part of that possibility. Attack an incumbent Republican who voted against a Democratic bill, and be told "well, your candidate for governor would have vetoed that bill."
As far as Beauprez is concerned, he would have been a 100 percent substitute for Owens. I have no doubt if Beauprez is elected governor, it will be Owens' 9th year running the show, with frequent, perhaps daily calls from Beauprez as to what to do with various bills.
Not every veto is "bad". I had concerns about a half-dozen of the 47 bills that were vetoed in 2005. But supporting 80 percent of vetoes?
Ritter bravely gave the public his personal position on abortion and for not trying to dodge that issue, he deserves commendation.
On August 12th. Ritter let us in on ONE veto. Asked by a Denver Post reporter what he would have done with a vetoed measure that would have allowed women easier access to the morning-after pill, he stated "I would have signed it".
If Ritter is going to be the next governor, it is up to Fitz-Gerald and Romanoff to talk some sense into him about how far he can go in losing the Democratic base and alienating Democratic legislators or nominees in order to ensure funding from the "business elite".
(Jerry Kopel served 22 years in the Colorado House.)
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