The state Senate worked for you |

The state Senate worked for you

Entering 2003, Colorado faced a daunting array of challenges, one piled upon another. Not only were there budget deficits and a stubborn recession, we were also gripped by the worst drought in centuries and shadowed by fears of war and terrorism.

Republicans regained a majority in the state Senate pledging to “say yes” on the big issues before our state during the legislative session ending May 7. The people were watching, asking could we:

1. Balance the budget? Yes. Despite weak revenues, we balanced two budgets – for this year and next year – without asking the people for higher taxes as many other states have recently done. I’d have preferred tougher real cuts in spending, instead of tapping reserve accounts and raising a number of fees, but Colorado’s fiscal responsibility still ranks high nationally. And I took the lead in opposing any change to our Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR) amendment, the bulwark of that responsibility.

2. Energize the economy? Yes. We passed an aid package for two of the state’s major industries, tourism and agriculture, along with increased funding for economic development. But our main focus was free-market steps to encourage enterprise by getting government out of the way. These included regulatory reform, tort reform (with several strong bills curbing lawsuit abuse), and tax reform (with a phaseout of the business personal property tax attracting strong support before dying in the Senate).

3. Act boldly on water policy? Yes. SB-236 will ask the voters for $2 billion in bonding authority to build and expand reservoirs. The political momentum generated by such a vote should do more than anything in the last 50 years to jump-start new projects and overcome environmental obstacles.

4. Slow down auto insurance costs? Yes. HB-1188 will reduce the cost of insuring your car by 30 percent to 50 percent as it replaces Colorado’s expensive no-fault system with a simpler at-fault system matching that of 37 other states.

5. Cool off health insurance costs? Yes. HB-1164 provides new ways for small business to offer health coverage for their employees, and allows insurers to sell a more affordable Chevy-style policy without the dozens of costly mandates for Cadillac-style features that have driven so many people into the ranks of the uninsured.

6. Provide better schools? Yes. In other states, parental choice among public, private, and religious schools has spurred competitive excellence that helps all kids learn by making all schools better. HB-1160 puts Colorado ahead of any other state in offering parental choice for educational freedom.

7. Improve transportation? Yes. Funding for Gov. Bill Owens’ accelerated highway program, catching up from decades of neglect since the 1970s, was protected amidst budget cutting in other areas. Cost-effectiveness of metro transit services was improved as we increased RTD’s private contracting from 35 percent to 50 percent. But Senate bills for a higher priority of road money in both the state budget and RTD died after showing early promise.

8. Strengthen public safety? Yes. HB-1256 will build a new maximum-security prison to keep the bad guys off the streets. Streets and neighborhoods will be safer as law-abiding citizens can more easily go armed for self-protection, under SB-24. Other bills cracked down on methamphetamine labs and on bogus IDs for illegal immigrants.

9. Affirm mainstream values? Yes. The Pledge of Allegiance will start every day in public schools under HB-1368. Kids using the Internet in public libraries will be shielded from online pornography under SB-326. Parents of a teenage girl who seeks an abortion will have the right be notified under HB-1376.

10. Protect self-government? Yes. Honest elections will be safeguarded under a bill to require photo ID from every voter at the polling place, and by the Help America Vote Act, which will tighten registration lists and prevent Florida-style fraud. And very importantly, the districts for our state’s representation in Congress through 2010 will now be those set by the people’s elected legislators, not an unelected judge, under SB-352.

On all of these important issues for 2003, the Republican-led Senate has joined with our House counterparts and Gov. Owens in saying “yes” to Colorado’s needs. At this time in 2002, we were counting off 10 ways a

Democrat-led Senate had let the state down by saying “no” at every turn. What a difference a year makes.

State Sen. John Andrews, R-Centennial, is a small businessman and educator. He entered the Colorado Senate in December 1998 and became its president in January 2003. He is a founder of the conservative-minded Independence Institute based in Golden.

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