In his opening-day speech for the 2013 meeting of the Colorado General Assembly, Speaker Mark Ferrandino assured members that Democrats' “first priority is the same one we have had for years: to find ways to accelerate our state's economy and connect more Coloradans to good jobs.”
We are now well over halfway through the 120-day meeting of the General Assembly. Unfortunately, rather than the promised focus on jobs and the economy, Democrats have concentrated almost exclusively on inflammatory social issues that utterly neglect Colorado families that are still struggling with an effective unemployment rate over 15 percent.
The three issues that have dominated news stories about this year's General Assembly are guns, civil unions, and sex education. The House debate on each of these has been divisive, bitter and consumed entire days of our limited time.
Of the three issues, the one that has drawn the most attention and will be most damaging to the economy is guns. Motivated by a sincere desire to do something in response to last summer's tragic Aurora movie shooting, Rep. Rhonda Fields introduced a package of bills to attempt to limit gun violence. Unfortunately, the bills will do little for public safety, but could easily cost the state more than 1,000 high-quality manufacturing jobs.
HB 1224 prohibits the sale in Colorado of rifle magazines with a capacity over 15 rounds. There are millions of these magazines already in circulation. The vast majority are possessed by law-abiding citizens. They are used for target shooting, hunting and self-protection. They are, it is true, also possessed by a handful of criminals and madmen who, if they are unwilling to obey laws against murder and mayhem, are not likely to obey a law outlawing rifle magazines.
What makes HB 1224 so economically damaging is the fact that one of world's best-known producer of these magazines is Colorado-based Magpul. Directly and indirectly employing over 1,000, Magpul also provides millions of dollars of tax revenues to state and local governments. Magpul has made it very clear that it is going to leave the state if the bill becomes law.
In a desperate and hypocritical attempt to persuade Magpul to stay put, House Democrats amended HB 1224 to allow Magpul to continue selling its products in other states but not in Colorado. In effect, Democrats were saying that it is OK for these devices to be used to kill citizens of other states just so long as Colorado continues to get the tax revenues and jobs.
The 2013 legislative session has been a squandered opportunity. Rather than focusing on what all would agree should be our highest priority, jobs and the economy, Democrats have aggressively pushed a divisive social agenda. Coloradans deserve better.
State Rep. Spencer Swalm serves House District 37, which includes Centennial.