Senate President Bill Cadman: 2015 Colorado legislature: GOP focus was on quality, not quantity

"Where you stand depends on where you sit."

I've thought often of that maxim while reading bleacher-seat critiques of the 2015 legislative session, given how they differ from what I saw, and where I sit, as one leader of the Republican effort. 

So let me share my perspective on how things went, as a corrective to some of the distorted end-of-session reviews I've seen. 

Where some saw excessive "partisanship," I saw a surprising level of cross-party cooperation on everything from the budget to school testing, workforce development to policing reform, resulting in the passage of measures that didn't grab headlines but did "move the dial" on issues meaningful to most Coloradans.

Where some critics saw low productivity or slow progress as measured by bill count — as if laws are widgets to be churned-out, assembly line-style — I saw selective lawmaking with a focus on quality rather than quantity.

Republicans entered the session pledging to keep faith with taxpayers, focus on governing fundamentals, hold government accountable and rein in (if not roll back) the liberal extremes we saw under one-party rule. And while a politically divided legislature made a rollback of all those excesses difficult, we finished the 120-day session proud of the remarkable things we accomplished in spite of the political obstacles we faced.

Taxpayers were clear winners this session, as we approved a bipartisan budget that sufficiently funded priorities like education and infrastructure, while returning refunds they are owed under the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights. Taxpayers also won because of the more aggressive oversight role Republicans assumed. We led the push for a deeper audit of the state's troubled Obamacare exchange, a better accounting of where Medicaid dollars go, more independence for the Child Protective Services Ombudsman, and an updated mission for the Office of Consumer Counsel.

Primary- and secondary-school students also were big winners this session, as we gave sizable funding increases to K-12 and higher education. We approved a compromise package of testing and student data privacy reforms that, while they didn't go far enough for some, will shake up the public school status quo.

Another major win for students missing from most session reviews was passage of the Claire Davis School Safety Act, a first-in-the-nation law that will help make campus security the priority it needs to be, by waving blanket immunity from lawsuits when school officials have not done enough to protect those on campus.

Were there disappointments this session? Undoubtedly. Republicans tried but failed to end an unjust loophole that ignores unborn crime victims under Colorado's criminal code. House Democrats blocked a bill aimed at addressing the state's affordable housing crisis by modifying construction defect laws. Similar fates befell our effort to restore Second Amendment rights by repealing a magazine-size limit approved during one-party rule, and to roll back command-and-control energy mandates also approved during those dark days. A bill that would require legislators to vote on any climate deal the state signs with EPA also failed to fly with House liberals.

Yes, there was partisanship. But partisanship is a two-way street. Democrats put forth a flurry of radical proposals that may have passed a few years ago but which just wouldn't fly today. Sometimes the proper measure of success isn't just the good bills you pass but also the bad bills you block. We're proud of blocking plenty of those.

Some have suggested we were less than productive. But we sent roughly 350 bills to the governor's desk, roughly three bills for each day of the session. I take pride in the fact that we were selective in the bills that finally passed muster. We restored a measure of practicality, common sense and, yes, sanity to a statehouse that only a few years ago looked more like California's than Colorado's.

Read President Cadman's letter in the Denver Post here

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