Breakfast with the Journal: It’s political

Speakers at the Oct. 16 Breakfast with the Journal probably won’t agree on much.

Four politicians — two from the Springs and two from Denver — will weigh in on the upcoming 2014 Legislature, on what bills they support and what the last session accomplished. There’s little room for agreement from Republicans and Democrats.

Republicans say the last session was decidedly unfriendly to business. Democrats say they are proud of the business legislation passed during the last General Assembly. GOP leaders say they want to roll back some of the legislation passed last year. Dems say it’s time to move on.

It will all be part of the political affairs breakfast, 7 to 9 a.m. Oct. 16 at the Antlers Hilton. Speakers are Rep. Brian DelGrosso, R-Denver, House Minority Leader; Rep. Angela Williams, D-Denver, chairwoman of the House Committee on Business, Labor, Economic and Workforce Development; Rep. Pete Lee, a second-term Democrat from Colorado Springs; and Rep. Bob Gardner, a fourth-term Republican of Colorado Springs.

And while there are major disagreements, both parties say that infrastructure, decisions about floods and fires, will top the agenda starting in January. Perhaps sooner, if Gov. John Hickenlooper calls a special session, but definitely in 2014.

“A lot of it will be discussion about roads and transportation,” said Gardner. “We have major repairs to roads and bridges — and there’s a backlog of infrastructure needs all over the state.”

No one understands that more than Lee, who spent the summer crossing the state and listening to leaders list much-needed bridge and roads repairs.

“Ironically, we had to end our last meeting early because roads were being washed out in Lyons, in Boulder, in Estes Park,” Lee said of the transportation committee meetings that took place in 11 communities, including Colorado Springs. “I applaud the governor for his ambitious plans to repair all the roads and bridges by Dec. 1. It’s going to be a tough job.”

But other than addressing community needs stemming from both wildfires and floods that plagued Colorado this summer, the two sides seem to have little else in common. Gardner has a specific agenda: roll back some legislation passed in 2013.

“There are going to be some difficult discussions,” Gardner said. “We need a rollback of the business-unfriendly legislation, the firearms legislation. We need nothing less than a rollback.”

Gardner points to the anti-discrimination bill as an example of legislation he considers unfriendly to business. Essentially, the bill removes limits on business size under which an employee can sue for discrimination. Before, small-business owners could not be sued for discrimination.

“Now any employee, of any size business, can sue for any reason when they’re let go,” Gardner said. “Even the smallest of Colorado’s businesses are at risk. It makes it hard to fire even a single employee.”

But Lee says he’s proud of what the Legislature accomplished last year.

“I had quite a few bills pass in the last session,” he said. “All of them were good for business — economic gardening, establishing the framework for corporations with social benefit. These things are good for business.”

Lee says he doesn’t have a new agenda.

“I can’t tell you what will happen,” Lee said of 2014. “It’s an election year. I know that in my first term, it was an election year and as a Democrat I was in the minority. I was told it would be hard to get any bills passed because it was an election year, and my political opponents did not want me to have any victories to talk about on the campaign trail. I was naïve. It was extremely difficult. I didn’t think then that holding bills hostage to the election cycle was any way to run a Legislature — and I still don’t.”

Lee is meeting with local business leaders to come up with legislation for the next session. He’s hoping those leaders will have workable solutions to the problems of job creation and business growth in the state.

“Many people have problems,” he said. “It’s the solutions that seem to be hard to come by. But I’ve gotten some of the best ideas from constituents.”

As far as Gardner’s wishes to roll back legislation? Lee says bring it on.

“There’s a process for that in place,” he said. “Just like any other bill — they’ll be assigned to a committee, testimony will be heard. If they get to the main floor, there will be a vote. That’s the way it works.”

Gardner expects pushback from the Dems, still in control of both chambers of the General Assembly despite recalls of two Democratic senators this summer.

“It will be contentious,” he said. “The Democrats don’t want a contentious session; we don’t either. But it will be, because it’s an election year. All of [the GOP’s] bills will die in committee. They’ll be assigned to committees that are considered ‘safe’ for Democrats. … We have to stop the steamroller of anti-business legislation and the assault on our Second Amendment rights.”

If you go

Breakfast with the Journal

When: 7 to 9 a.m.

Wednesday, Oct. 16

Where: Antlers Hilton

Price: $28 for subscribers, $38 for nonsubscribers

Register: Go to http://csbj.ticketleap.com/breakfast-with-the-journal-/dates/Oct-16-2013_at_0700AM