As the Colorado General Assembly adjourns today, the veteran legislator said he’s happy to trade in partisan bickering for unemployment.The term-limited state senator and former state representative had an uncharacteristically short answer when asked if he’ll miss serving in the legislature.
“No,” said Hagedorn, a Democrat who represented Senate District 29 for the past eight years.
He’s one of 15 lawmakers who are term-limited from office this year.
Term limits, along with the trend of increasingly polarized partisan politics across the country and in Colorado, have taken a toll on Colorado’s legislature, in Hagedorn’s opinion.
“My biggest disappointment, I think, has been the horrible political polarization that is now dominating the Senate,” he said. “It doesn’t serve the state well, it doesn’t serve our constituents.”
With term limits, politicians have to be more aggressive to make a name for themselves in order to be ready to run for their next desired office, which can lead to more acrimonious discourse, according to Hagedorn.
“It’s just gotten a lot uglier over the years,” he said.
Hagedorn, who spent much of his time at the Capitol pushing for health care reform, blames leadership on both sides of the aisle for losing an appreciation for the art of compromise.
“There’s nothing wrong with compromising, our system is based on compromise,” he said.
He recently became the backer of a controversial plan to mandate private health insurance for all Coloradans, while using federal funds to subsidize the cost for lower-income residents.
During his tenure, he successfully fought to expand health care, including passing a law that gave uninsured Coloradans discounts on generic prescription drugs. He also made national news last year when he successfully fought to make John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High” Colorado’s second state song.
Hagedorn has joked that from here on out he’s offering his services to the highest bidder after receiving $30,000 a year for his work representing Aurora and Arapahoe County residents.
Public office rounded out his trifecta of low-paying careers; he has also worked as a journalist and as an instructor at Metropolitan State College of Denver.
“The reality of the situation is that I don’t have much of a retirement so that is a serious consideration,” said Hagedorn, who is 56, adding that he’s lucky to have spent his time in the legislature as a single adult without a family to support.
He isn’t sure what he’ll do, but he doesn’t doubt he’ll remain in the world of public policy. He’d like to find funding for some research projects, although he’s waited until the end of the session to pursue his options in order to avoid any conflicts of interest.
One popular option for former legislators — becoming a lobbyist after the state’s mandatory two-year “cooling off” period — doesn’t seem to be in the cards.
“I’ve never had any desire to lobby,” Hagedorn said.
But seeing him at the Capitol during future legislative sessions is a strong possibility, although not for sentimental reasons. When he shows, he asserts, it will be on business.