Noonan: Red meat bill strategy wastes time and money at the Legislature

Author: Paula Noonan - February 15, 2017 - Updated: February 12, 2017

Paula Noonan
Paula Noonan

Patrick Neville, House minority leader from Castle Rock, said at the state GOP’s Capitol Club gathering that, “We’re going to make sure we push some good red meat bills.” For those confused by the term, those are school choice, religious freedom, Second Amendment rights and abortion. News stories outlining Neville’s assurances were published in this very publication.

Later, in the same journal but different issue, Neville complained about Democratic–sponsored joint resolutions in the Legislature that have asked the Trump administration to rescind its immigration executive order and to support a full range of reproductive health care for women. “How is this a productive use of our time,” queried Neville. He particularly pointed to the abortion resolution as counterproductive, saying it “antagonized members of his caucus.”

Then, in The Denver Post, a news story reported that House Dems rejected a Republican-sponsored anti-abortion pill bill in a hearing that “stretched well into the evening.” The House Health, Insurance, and Environment Committee also killed the “Women’s Health Protection Act,” sponsored by the minority leader, and “Protect Human Life at Conception,” sponsored by the minority leader’s father, Sen. Tim Neville from Senate District 16.

Currently, Minority Leader Neville is a red meat bill leader. His “Concealed Carry in Public Schools” bill was postponed indefinitely and two more bills on parents rights and the health care exchange will go down, as they did last year, based on a House with a larger Democratic majority than in 2016.

Senator Lucia Guzman, a Democrat representing Denver’s SD-34, is the minority leader in the Senate. She is sponsoring the “Repeal the Death Penalty” bill. Her SB-057 on “Healthcare Affordability and Sustainability” is unlikely to pass the Senate with its Republican majority. Republicans will see the bill as a TABOR go-around. The red meat arguments in future political blasts on health care will look something like this, but with more drama and lots of horrible photos: Democrats support tax increases to fund Obamacare; Republicans take away health insurance from Coloradans.

While Minority Leader Neville has a GOP-favoring definition of time-wasting bills, and his pronouncements on Democratic bills and resolutions are partisan, this “red meat” legislation does take up lots of time and money in salaries to write the bills and committee time to hear the bills. Red meaters also toy with the public’s belief that the bills might pass when they won’t.

According to Neville, the strategy behind the bills is to get Democrats on record on targeted issues. In the case of the reproduction rights bills, Democratic members in the Health, Insurance, and Environment Committee are on the hook for three votes supporting women’s reproductive rights.

So far, nine killed House bills out of thirteen are red meat repeats. The “Conservation Easement Tax Credit Landowner Relief” bill, offered every session for more than five years, didn’t even make it to the House Agriculture, Livestock, and Natural Resources committee where it’s been heard in the past. It was sent directly to the House “kill committee,” State, Veterans, and Military Affairs, for the shiv.

The red meat bill political strategy is old. It would save the public a great deal of antagonization if same or near-same bills could not be repeated within the two-year General Assembly. This policy would save many hearing hours and lots of money.

Paula Noonan

Paula Noonan

Paula Noonan owns Colorado Capitol Watch, the state’s premier legislature tracking platform.