Wednesday, February 4, 2009

State Senate Dems sinking Ritter's transportation bill

Pols points us to this developing story in the Rocky,

Sen. Mary Hodge, D-Brighton, has rankled her own party again, this time with an amendment that would prohibit tolling of existing highway lanes. It again passed on an 18-17 vote.

The bill had provisions that would allow for tolling existing lanes under a process that involves local and state governments and, if the road in question is an interstate, a federal waiver...

Democratic Sens. Morgan Carroll of Aurora, Lois Tochtrop of Thornton and Jim Isgar of Hesperus joined Hodge and Republicans in backing the amendment.

In layman's terms, we're seeing a coalition of Senate Dems (in conjunction with Senate R's) attacking the funding mechanism for the governors transportation bill. The politics of this are pretty striking. It's Brandon Shaffer's job as the Senate Majority leader to hold his caucus together - he's clearly failed. Senator Tochtrop is actually the Assistant Majority Leader in the Senate, so apparently Dem leadership in the Senate can't even agree among themselves.

It's also a pretty stunning rebuke of the Democratic governor by his own party. This legislation was a critical part of the governor's agenda, to not be able to get this passed and to see it go down in such a public manner does not speak well of the governor's influence. This sort of fight should have been settled behind closed doors before it ever came to the floor.

What the hell is going on down there?


Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

What's going on is that tolling currently free highway lanes is an extremely unpopular idea with the general public, which has been proposed and failed repeatedly. Most of the caucus and Governor Ritter somehow forgot that fact, probably because the state constitution rules out many more reasonable options. A few Dems were aware of it, and in this case, have probably saved the party a lot of grief in the long run.

Ironically, toll roads are usually a GOP idea.

Steve Balboni said...

I'm with you on that Andrew, I just don't understand why this wasn't worked out between the governor and the Senate Dems before it went to the floor. Makes no sense.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

The Colorado Senate is not Congress.

There aren't a legion of aides on the General Assembly side, the deadline schedule for state legislation is brutally strict in a 120 day session, and every new Senate President sooner or later has to learn the hard way why it is necessary to herd cats and reach consensus before bringing things to a vote.

The state constitution also prohibits caucuses from having binding caucus position votes before legislation reaches the floor, so the process of discovering consensus behind the scenes isn't always efficient.

A deal was worked out within a day, so it isn't that big of a bump in the road anyway (pun intended).

Steve Balboni said...

I've worked as a staffer under the dome and as a lobbyist. I'm very familiar with the legislative process in the state of Colorado.

This is a big piece of legislation, not something thrown together at the last minute. I don't understand why you would bring something to the floor that you knew members of your own party had significant issues with.

I'm glad a deal was reached though the toll issue wasn't really resolved. I'm just concerned when it appears that there's a lack of communication between the 1st floor and the General Assembly and from legislative leadership and their own caucus or even amongst leadership themselves.

That kind of stuff is basic "How to run legislation 101". It's frustrating to see it flubbed.

It should be noted I suppose that there is no Majority Whip in the state Senate.