The Special Session:
In 2004, a number of states put the issue of gay marriage on the ballot. Some say this helped turn out conservative voters and was a factor in Bush's reelection.
I'm not sure this is true, but it is part of the mythology of 2004, and it has caused both parties to look for ballot measures to help turn out their voters. In Colorado, the Republican ballot measure that was supposed to turn out conservative voters in 2006 was Initiative 55, the ban on services to illegal immigrants.
This is why some Republican leaders insisted we have a special session after the Supreme Court's decision to prevent 55 from going on the ballot. It had more to do with winning candidate elections than actually dealing with the issue of immigration.
During this special session, Republicans did not advocate for passing a law to prevent immigrants from receiving services. Instead, the Republicans pushed to put a measure on the ballot so that "the people can have their right to vote."
When Ed Jones (R- El Paso), went to the microphone and spoke of the "people's right to vote," I asked him if the people had a similar right to vote on domestic partnerships. I handed him a petition to help put domestic partnerships on the ballot. He wouldn't sign it. I tried to place a pen in his hand.
"Get your hand off of me," he said.
I said, "What about increasing the minimum wage? Do the people have a right to vote on that?"
Apparently the people only have a right to vote on services for illegal immigrants.
Let me be clear: I agree that immigration is a real issue that needs action. My objection is to those who would use it for political purposes in ways that cause collateral damage to people who are American citzens.
Joan Fitzgerald had a bill that allowed services only to those legally here, and would have done it as of August 1st, rather than after a November election. The Governor blasted it during a rare committee appearance.
But then something happened. Business went to the Governor and pointed out that nearly 200,000 people who would not be able to provide documentation are working in Colorado. There was a bill pending that would have caused all of these people to lose their jobs. I wasn't in the meeting, but when I heard that statistic, I thought we need to understand the impact of what we are doing a little better before we risk the economy of Colorado.
Maybe the Governor decided the same thing. In any case, he worked out a compromise with Democratic leadership, and we passed legislation that does require proof of citizenship before people can receive services, but doesn't put it on the ballot.
Some Republicans were outraged. Senator Mitchell (R-Broomfield) said in the Rocky Mountain News, "Bill Owens is the Bill Clinton of Colorado politics. He took over eight years ago, when the Republicans were in the majority in the legislature, and he's lost that. Now he continues to triangulate and make clever deals and treasure his personal approval rating."
This is an amazing statement from a Republican legislator about our Republican Governor. What has happened is that the Governor, as he did on Referendum C, has decided not to be a knee-jerk supporter of far right positions. He has this troublesome ability to pay attention to the welfare of the state and work across the political spectrum.
In the end, Colorado benefits from the compromise and a divisive issue does not end up on the ballot. We passed 11 pieces of legislation that deal with immigration now. This is frustrating to those who were looking for something to excite controversy and prejudice. Unfortunately these ploys often work.
People are upset. Many people work at low paying jobs. They don't have decent health care. They are frustrated with America's foreign policy, or the lack of one.
The current administration in Washington has done nothing to provide access to affordable health care for people. It has done nothing to help people who are not wealthy or in the pharmaceutical or oil industry. It can either face the justified wrath of the people in the next election or it can divert the attention of the people to some "other," for instance illegal immigrants, which they tell you are the source of your problems.
Don't let them trick you either here or in Washington.
Smite them with your votes.
Please forward this along.
* Watch his exclusive-to-the-net candidacy announcement ever here. It could well be the funniest such announcement of all time.