I entered the room and immediately felt the call of the dark side. Coming from Republican parents the dark side of the force was growing inside of me. The evil Jedi knights Penry, Brophy, Stephens, Lambert, & Nikkel all faced me. I was about to succumb.
Then I heard them, the ancient Jedi masters on the side of goodness & hope - Jefferson saying "We hold these rights to be self-evident"; Jackson saying "you want a duel – you've got a duel"; Roosevelt saying "We have nothing to fear but fear itself"; and Clinton saying "Hey, is Leia around here". I pulled out my light saber ready to do battle. Their evil nefarious plans would be put to an end because I had the strength of a majority in the legislature and control of the governor's office flowing through my light saber.
Ok it didn't happen exactly like that – but it was close. The meeting was at the CADA (kudos for truth in ownership – the Dems should do the same and hold theirs at the SEIU office). I think I was the only liberal there. Everyone was very nice and it was a lot less partisan than I expected.
I'm just going to hit the major things I heard. If you want full details you can get it in the recording below.
- No discussion about personal issues – nothing on abortion, gay marriage, etc - with the exception of marijuana. They are focused on the economy and improving the government.
No discussion about reducing the role of government. They want to make it more efficient (don't we all) and they think it does too much in some areas – but this is not a group trying to drown the government in a bathtub. They are focused on what they think is the best way to handle the economic crisis we are in.
- The substantial difference between this group and a Democratic group, is there were no complaints about TABOR (no praising it either) and they are quicker to identify cuts.
- Penry & Brophy are really good. They both answer questions and do so well. They both come across as intelligent knowledgeable guys. And they both are up-front about their political leanings and what they would like to do.
- Lambert is really good. I understand why they put him on the JBC. On any question on the budget, etc. he was listing out detailed numbers. This guy knows his stuff – and that's step 1 to do an effective job on the JBC. It probably also makes him a strong voice in the JBC as knowledge is power.
- Stephens & Nikkel come across well but didn't talk as much and weren't diving in to details. Stephens was the best with a partisan quip – she does it very well. (After one about every business in Colorado had done worse under Ritter I pointed out that my company had done better, including through the Bush financial disaster J.)
- They think marijuana is going to be a giant issue. I got the feeling that they mostly view it as an overblown issue that takes away from handling the budget, but they will use it to maximum effect. I asked if they had considered legalizing it and taxing the snot out of it and Senator Brophy replied that legalizing had been defeated 60/40 on the ballot and the people had spoken. That's a fair point. So they are going to try and craft legislation that allows for legit medical use – but just that. (Hello State of Colorado – making drugs illegal does not work – you need to vote to legalize it!)
- They talked a lot about bringing more transparency to the government – and the giant battle they have with the administration on getting more information out there. Lambert & Nikkel brought this up a lot. When asked Brophy said that Ritter was not much different than Owens on this point. But several of them brought up the difference in the technology today and how that makes it much easier to provide more information. (Of course, that would require the brain trusts in the OIT to actually build a working system.)
I asked if there was anything the government is doing "big picture" that they would eliminate. Penry replied that he would roll back Medicaid to where it was in 2005, but that what they are looking to do is not eliminate services, but to roll them back to where they were 5 years ago.
- I think this is a very important point for us to realize. The Republicans (at least as they are presenting themselves) in the legislature are not a group of Doug Bruce acolytes looking to drastically reduce the role of the state. What they are trying to do is implement the services the state presently provides efficiently and at an appropriate level. And their level is a bit below what many of us liberals want. (Granted a lot below what many in Boulder want.) This leaves plenty of room to find compromise.
- They also talked a lot about efficiency and eliminating waste. They think transparency will help a lot on that. They also feel that state employees are on average significantly higher paid than equivalent jobs in the private sector. I have no idea if this is true, but if it becomes a major topic of discussion it needs to be clearly answered – and if the pay is significantly higher that's going to be very harmful to Democratic candidates.
- They see PERA headed for financial insolvency (which is a fair estimation) and want to fix it. Penry is working with Brandon Shaffer on this and thinks they will be able to find a good solution that has bi-partisan support. They see the solution as moving from defined benefits to something more like a 401K and increasing the retirement age.
- There were also a number of comments about no leadership from Ritter. (They were gracious to him as much as they could be while saying this.) This is one issue where there appears to be strong bi-partisan consensus in the legislature – virtually every Democratic legislator I have talked to has said the same thing.
- Oh, and Democrats are evil, Obama is a far left liberal taking us on the road to ruin, and we are all headed for total economic hyper-inflation. So vote Republican.
The Republicans are starting to get a good handle on using the web. I think they still face a basic problem that the web works much better for us liberals just as talk radio works much better for conservatives. But they are making some smart moves in how they are leveraging it.
podcast: GOP Blogger Event.wma