We need effective citizens! Conservative groups host legislative workshop

DENVER — Conservative political groups hosted a training session at the Independence Institute on Tuesday night for citizens looking to testify on legislation at the Capitol this year.

“When you go to the Capitol, just stay grounded,” said Republican Senator Vicki Marble of Fort Collins. “Remember, that’s your house and it’s your voice we should be listening too.”

The event was hosted by the free-market Independence Institute, a main player in organizing public support for and against legislation in Colorado. Other groups hosting the training included Americans for Prosperity, Colorado Small Business Rising, Colorado Republican Business Coalition, Gadsden Society, and Grassroots Radio Colorado.

Shawn Mitchell, a former state senator and a longtime leader among Republicans at the Capitol, joined Marble in offering advice. He said honing your presentation before sitting down before a committee of legislators is crucial. He classifies testimony in three rough categories, he said.

“Number one is: ‘I’m an expert.’ They shouldn’t say that arrogantly, but there are people who come with expertise, and lawmakers know they’re experts and want to hear what they have to offer.”

“There’s another angle, that is: ‘I’m an ordinary citizen who will be affected by this bill; it will change the way my workplace operates; it will change the way I interact with my children in their public school.’ You can talk about the personal impact on you.”

Marble and Mitchell agreed that the “third” category of testimony — people who come in determined to demonstrate their ideological zeal — is the least effective.

Democrats control the legislature this year, as they did last year, but waves made by citizen testimony at the Capitol last year against gun bills have effectively dominated politics in the state ever since, even though the main gun bills passed and are now law.

The training session concluded with practice sessions based on two bills soon to be considered by lawmakers:

HB 1033, a “Regulatory Reform Act,” has the ring of bills written by the pro-corporate American Legislative Exchange Council that seek to strip oversight. But this bill is a bipartisan measure, sponsored by Republican Rep. Libby Szabo of Arvada and Democratic Senator Lois Tochtrop of Thorton. It appears a moderate proposal to give small businesses in the state more time and training to comply with new regulations.

SB 136, sponsored by Marble, seeks to delay implementation of the “common core” standard testing in Colorado public schools and to create a task force to study possible effects of implementation. The bill has drawn strong Republican support. Like similar efforts proposed in other states, it is part of a larger national conservative campaign to remake public education. Critics say these anti-common core bills leverage legitimate grassroots concerns over student testing to gain support for a larger political effort to loosen standards and expand school choice and vouchers programs to the benefit of the private school sector.