Littwin: Who’s in charge, Mr. Cadman?

[dropcap]I[/dropcap] don’t know about you, but I’m old enough to remember when Democrats in the state legislature were accused of overreaching on a series of gun-control bills. All it would cost them was two recall elections and, a year later, loss of seats in the House and loss of control of the Senate.

It was an obvious lesson, but one that at least some Democrats thought was worth learning. They got their three gun bills passed after all, and we might even be a safer state for it.

And then there was the distant memory of how Republicans had lost the Senate in the first place — by pushing too hard in the culture wars — and the Democratic dream that, given the opportunity, they just might do it again.

Which brings us to now.

[pullquote]Remember the Cory Gardner ‘play the centrist’ model for Republicans winning in Colorado? If you do, you might want to give someone at the state Senate a call.[/pullquote]

Now is when the newly minted, Republican-controlled Senate — which had been in Democratic hands for a decade — has moved into overreach overdrive. I don’t know what the state record is for going 0-to-60 in lessons unlearned, but I’m sure Republicans have shattered it.

Remember the Cory Gardner play-the-centrist model for Republicans winning in Colorado? If you do, you might want to give someone a call.

It’s still early days in the legislative session, but it looks like Republicans are in a mad rush to jeopardize their one-seat Senate majority with one headline-grabbing vote after another. I don’t know who’s running things in the Senate — President Bill Cadman, JBC chairman Kent Lambert or Chief Gun Nut Dudley Brown — but the place has turned into a lesson-free zone.

Let me count the ways.

Republicans went out of their way to offend Latinos by using the Joint Budget Committee to gut funding for the law allowing those living here illegally to get a driver’s license, greatly increasing the DMV wait time (as if that were possible). In the process, they also offended anyone who thinks the JBC is the one place where legislative grown-ups come to meet. And in any case, it can’t be smart to kill funding for already-passed laws with a 3-3 vote when the other party can then do the exact same thing to you.

Meanwhile, in the face of news that Colorado is last in the country in kindergarten-age vaccination rates, the Senate passes a “Parent’s Bill of Rights” — a conservative culture-war wish list — that would pretty much ensure that the bipartisan anti-vaxxer crowd would keep us at the bottom.

And then there’s this. First, the Senate passed a bill that would allow basically anyone who can legally buy a gun to legally carry a concealed weapon virtually anywhere, without need of a permit. Then they rejected a House bill that would reduce waiting time to get, yes, a concealed-weapons permit.

Confused? Of course you are. Everyone is, so let’s go over that one again. Democrats want the Colorado Bureau of Investigation to spend $370,000 in already-collected fees to hire people to make the permit process go more quickly. And Republicans voted no, beating back the bill on a party-line vote. This is a bill that — and you might want to read carefully here — was passed unanimously in the House (yes, all Republicans and all Democrats voted for it) and included funding for rape kits and child-abuse investigations, among other public-safety concerns.

Democrats say CBI background checks now take approximately 45 days and would go to 54 days with no new hires. Republicans say they question the numbers. But why would they reject the bill, whatever the numbers? I think you have it figured out. This is what they call starving the beast. The more difficult CBI checks get, the thinking goes, the easier it would be to get rid of them altogether.

It’s the weirdest legislative fight I can remember. Democrats suddenly want to make life easier for concealed carriers; Republicans, meanwhile, insist that it’s easy enough to get the permits now, even as they pass another bill to get rid of them, saying they’re too great an inconvenience.

What comes next? I think we know. The state legislature is headed for a showdown. The public-safety bill goes back to the Democratic-controlled House, which, the betting goes, is not going to back down. And eventually, Senate Republicans will have to explain why they seem willing to make things harder for their own gun-rights constituency while, at the same time, allowing rape kits to go unfunded. I don’t know what kind of explaining that is, but it’s not the easy kind.

What this does is allow Democrats to charge that Colorado is lapsing into Washington-style dysfunction. In fact, they’ve already begun. I’ve even heard use of the “S” word — shutdown — as if Ted Cruz had taken up residence here.

And here’s the irony: I was there on Election Night when Cory Gardner claimed his victory over Mark Udall was a victory over government paralysis, saying, “We have signed up to be the tip of the spear, the vanguard of the movement that is sweeping our nation, to pick the shackle of gridlock and fundamentally change the dysfunction of Washington, D.C.”

I don’t know if Gardner is the tip of the spear — Washington still looks pretty dysfunctional to me — but it looks like he left the rest of the weapon in the hands of Colorado Senate Republicans, who are aiming it directly at their own feet.

[Top image: George C. Scott in “Dr. Strangelove.” ]