Colorado’s five day 2006 special session is over. The front page headline in the Denver Post is:
Immmigration pact OK’d: Strongest reform in U.S., both sides say SOME AID BANNED Republicans won’t have the ballot issue they had hoped for, Democrats tout the bill as fair and humane.
Under the circumstances, it would be hard for Democrats to ask for anything better. Initiative 55 was poorly drafted and red meat for the GOP base. Bills to try to control the State Supreme Court docket and to require photo ID to vote were rejected.
Politically, the Governor’s effort to put Democrats at a political disadvantage backfired. Democrats proved once again that they get things done and come up with reasonable solutions to the state’s problems. Indeed, the biggest group of people who actually vote in an organized way who were impacted in a meaningful way by the special session, are small business owners, a traditionally Republican constituency, who now face sterner scrutiny at the hands of the urging of the Governor and the political party that they helped elect.
Illegal immigrants being extorted or coerced. People vulnerable to or infected with communicable diseases. Illegal immigrants under the age of eighteen who need state services. Young women pressured into becoming child brides.
Vote fraud perpetrators. Child molestors. Human trafficers and de facto slave holders. Businesses knowingly employing illegal immigrants. Business H.R. employees. State and local bureaucrats charged with policing citizenship. Adult illegal immigrants who receive state services, employment or self-employment. Voters facing two more dubious ballot issues.
The caveat is that the impact of the thirteen bills passed in the special session will be modest. Extortion and coercion were already illegal under federal law and even under generous readings of state law. Communicable disease programs weren’t, in practice, being policed based on citizenship now in a material way, nor were most state programs for minors (primarily foster care). Few child brides were entering into common law marriages with child molestors before the special session began. Intentional vote fraud by illegal voters was extremely rare in the first place. Businesses were already required to police citizenship through I-9 forms. And, very few non-emergency state services are currently being provided to illegal immigrants. Governor Owen’s estimate that 50,000 recipients will be impacted is bogus. On July 5, 2006, testifying in front of the Joint Budget Committee, the numbers cited by his department heads were in the hundreds, not the tens of thousands.
The session produced modest fixes to problems that are non-existent or trivial. Many of the solutions duplicate existing or federal law, because there aren’t any other realistic solutions. Real solutions are beyond the jurisdiction of the state legislature.
For bill tracking junkies, the score at the end of the day was:
House Bills passed: 1001 (no economic development incentives for firms that hire illegal immigrants), 1002 (communicable disease programs regardless of immigration status), 1009 (no business and professional licenses for illegal immigrants), 1014 (attorney general directed to obtain reimbursement from federal government for illegal immigration related expenses), 1015 (backup withholding), 1017 (fines for employers submiting fake ID and social security numbers), 1020 (ballot measure on tax deduction for pay to illegal immigrants), 1022 (ballot issue on suing federal government), and 1023 (state services for illegal immigrants).
Cross Posted at Wash Park Prophet.