Colorado lawmakers face a greater unknown than at any time in recent memory: President Donald Trump.
More alarming than trying to solve issues about transportation, standardized school tests and whether Colorado needs yet another official song, legislators are anxious about what a Trump administration and tea-party GOP Congress will bring.
Our expectation is that it bodes ill for Colorado, and the General Assembly will be the state’s first line of defense.
In a reflection of that trepidation, state lawmakers are so far considering a restrained cache of bills. They’re holding their breath on what Trump and a solidified GOP Congress will do after an election season rife with inflammatory and contradictory rhetoric, threats and promises.
Trump talked about a wild host of things that should be repulsive to the entire nation, but especially to residents and leaders in Colorado.
Trump has threatened a Muslim registry, Muslim harassment, Muslim detention, deportations of Muslims and illegal Mexican immigrants. Trump has threatened or promised to limit the rights of the press, limit or end rights to abortion, limit or end gun-control restrictions, and repeal the Affordable Healthcare Act, and, with it, access to health care for millions.
Because Trump has changed his rhetoric so many times on so many critical and far-reaching issues, it’s completely unknown what his unpredictability, volatility and a willing or unwilling Congress will do. It will be the Colorado Legislature that stands between Trump and Congress, and the interests of Colorado residents. Often those interests are conflicting.
Colorado has moved far ahead with ending the destructive prohibition of marijuana. And even under the somewhat receptive watch of the Obama administration, the nascent marijuana industry is up against a host of federally imposed obstacles. It’s likely that, at best, Congress will do little to help with the problems of classifying marijuana as an illegal substance. So state lawmakers must work to create banking and other solutions for the industry, regardless of what Trump and Congress do.
Neither Trump nor GOP leaders in Congress provide any sort of confidence that they can offer an alternative to Obamacare that will actually be cheaper, just or as accessible, or acceptable to all of the conflicting parties involved. But having thrown the gauntlet on this issue, it’s clear Trump is compelled to do something.
Colorado lawmakers must ensure that residents here maintain access to health care, and more than likely, it will be the states that pick the issue up again. Colorado was already headed in the direction of Obamacare before it became a federal program, and it will be up to state lawmakers to preserve as much of this as possible, while finding a way to force down prices that have been spiraling for the last 20 years.
The situation is similar with abortion rights. Colorado has for decades been on the forefront of ensuring women’s right to medical privacy and control of their own bodies. If Trump and the Congress work to undermine those federal rights, it’s paramount that Colorado lawmakers shore up the rights of women to make their own reproductive decisions without government interference.
The list goes on and on regarding what an unbridled tea-party Congress has wanted to do, and what states like Colorado can and must do to prevent the erosion of civil and other rights.
This isn’t a partisan problem. Many Colorado Democrats and Republicans have been repulsed by Trump’s campaign rhetoric. More than a handful of GOP state lawmakers publicly promised they would fight against abhorrent threats Trump and others made.
We, and other Colorado media, will hold lawmakers accountable to their campaign promises, and the public must, too.
Colorado must brace for the worst, and be able to capitalize on changes ushered in during the Trump era that may work to everyone’s benefit. Given Trump’s performance to this point, however, the Colorado General Assembly must stand guard for those whom legislators represent.