The Colorado Legislature is coming to the end of one of its most productive sessions ever. Empowered by a clear mandate from Colorado voters, Democratic majorities in the Colorado House and Senate have passed important legislation that was long overdue.
Democrats expected push back from the Republicans that were still in office after the November elections. They had not anticipated the controversy that would surround laws that are just plain common sense.
Two quick examples are the new gun safety law and the new oil and gas regulations. Both are commonsense laws. Both faced fierce opposition from Republicans.
The idea that we should keep guns out of the hands of people who might kill themselves or someone else should not be controversial, nor should the idea that lawmakers should pass a gun safety law supported by 78 percent of Coloradans.
Fourteen states already have similar laws, including at least five states with Republican governors who signed Red Flag bills into law. The only thing unusual about the Extreme Risk Protection Order law should be the fact that it wasn’t already on the books.
Common sense would also lead us to think that laws should keep up with changes in technology and changes in a community.
There were already laws regulating the oil and gas industry. Unfortunately, most of these laws had not been updated since the 1950s, when Colorado had fewer people and more open space, and the health effects of chemicals involved in fracking were still somewhat unknown, at least to the public.
Since then, our communities have expanded. The extraction industry has become more aggressive. We know that chemicals used in fracking contaminate air, water and soil. Oil and gas operations, always an environmental risk, now pose a direct threat to homes, schools, and communities. “I don’t want benzene in my child’s blood” should not be a radical statement.
Common sense, along with a respect for democracy and a basic sense of fairness, would dictate that local citizens should be allowed to decide whether they want oil and gas exploration in their backyards. Communities use a wide variety of zoning laws to regulate which businesses will be allowed to operate within their borders and which will be restricted.
The idea that oil and gas should be exempted from the same types of laws that govern all other businesses defies reason. Once again, Democrats saw a problem and proposed a commonsense solution with widespread public support. And, once again, the Republican response was to defy common sense.
Our democracy works best when politicians focus on solutions instead of searching for ways to justify outdated laws that no longer make any sense.
Common sense should not be controversial.
Park County Democrats next meeting is May 11 at the Fairplay Library from 1-2:30 p.m. If you liked this article, please join us.