BY FREDA MIKLIN
Republican state Sen. Jim Smallwood of Douglas County and Rep. Rod Bockenfeld, the sole GOP representative from Arapahoe County in the state House, shared their experiences from the just-completed legislative session with 60 members of the Arapahoe County Republican Breakfast Club at Maggiano’s DTC on July 7.
Smallwood, who is minority caucus chair in the state Senate and vice-chair of the legislative audit committee, told people it is important to participate in the ongoing public hearings of the redistricting commission because it could make a real difference in how districts are realigned following the 2020 United States Census. He cautioned people against paying much attention to the first draft of the realignment of the state House and Senate districts because “it’s going to change a lot before the final map is out.” Smallwood recommended that GOP members focus on areas west of the metro area, in Arapahoe County and in the eastern part of Boulder County,” for potential pick-ups for Republicans.”
Smallwood shared that there were many bills in the 2021 session that Republicans were able to amend based on their priorities because it was important to Democratic sponsors that they could describe their bills as bipartisan, even though there was little question that they would pass, since both the House and the Senate have Democratic majorities and Governor Polis is also a Democrat. On HB21-1232 Standardized Health Benefit Plan Colorado Option, Smallwood said that Republicans were able to change it from “the state taking over the health care system to just impacting hospital rates.”
Looking toward the 2022 election, he predicted, “Republicans are in the best position we’ve been in for years to take control by taking back the state Senate,” because it will only require a swing of three seats. He pointed out that the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) makes it harder for Republicans to get elected because TABOR “all but prevents anyone in the legislature from raising taxes or instituting new taxes,” thus Republicans cannot differentiate themselves from Democrats on that issue, as they do in other states.
State Rep. Rod Bockenfeld talked about HB21-1217 Military Family Open Enrollment in Public Schools, a bipartisan law he sponsored that was signed into law by Governor Polis on May 28. This bill, which he shared was brought to him by Aurora City Councilmember Curtis Gardner, requires public schools and charter schools to all-but-guarantee to children of active-duty military members from other states who are stationed in Colorado, the ability to open enroll at the public or charter school of their choice. Bockenfeld pointed out that not having this rule caused Colorado to be downgraded when the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) compared our state against Alabama in determining where the U.S. Space Force should be permanently located. In 2020, the federal government awarded it to Alabama. Earlier this year, it was announced that the Inspector General of the DOD, as well as the U.S. General Accounting Office, were reviewing that decision. Final results of those reviews have not yet been released.
Bockenfeld also told the crowd that he “wanted to talk about critical race theory,” because “it’s a hot button issue and folks need to get engaged.” He added that he represents eight school districts but the only one that he “is getting complaints (about) is Cherry Creek,” quickly adding, “I’m not saying that Cherry Creek is doing anything wrong.” As we reported in The Villager on July 1, the Cherry Creek School District has stated unequivocally that it does not teach critical race theory.
Elected officials who got up early to hear the speakers included Arapahoe County Commissioner Jeff Baker, Centennial City Councilmember Mike Sutherland, and Aurora City Councilmember Curtis Gardner, along with 2021 candidates for Aurora City Council at-large Becky Hogan and Dustin Zvonek.