State of the State Address draws mixed reviews from Grand Junction legislators

Kelly Sloan, The Business Times

Gov. John Hickenlooper’s latest State of the State Address drew mixed reviews from three Republican legislators from Grand Junction.

State Rep. Ray Scott called the speech “heavy on appeal, light on substance.”

“Instead of giving businesses the opportunities they need to expand and grow, the governor and the Democrats are going to government Band-Aids to mask the problems,” Scott said.

“On some issues, it was an obvious appeal to folks on both the left and the right, on others — like gun control and civil unions, for example — it was an obvious play to his base,” Scott added.

State Rep. Jared Wright, a freshman lawmaker starting his first term, said he was impressed with the governor’s expression of intent to work in a bi-partisan way to improve the business climate in Colorado. But Wright also said he  hopes the governor recognizes Western Colorado “has lagged behind any recovery.”

State Sen. Steve King said the speech didn’t offer a lot of specifics upon which to comment. “The devil is in the details,” King said. “I am always cautious to comment on legislation that we haven’t seen or read yet.”

King added, however, that he was taken somewhat aback by the governor’s declaration the Colorado economy is “back.”

“I was instantly reminded of the image of President Bush on the carrier with the “mission accomplished” banner in the background, and how quick the left was to pounce on how prematurely optimistic that statement was,” King said. “I would just caution the governor that we are still seeing huge challenges on the Western Slope.”

Scott and Wright said they were cautiously supportive of some of the governor’s proposals — especially one to increase the use of faith-based organizations in addressing local poverty, an effort called “One Congregation, One Family.”

Wright said the speech was the first time he’d heard of a program the governor said will be introduced in several Colorado communities, including Grand Junction, but that he liked the concept. “Government is not the only answer to society’s problems,” Wight said, adding that such institutions as families and churches have a role to play.

Scott said he was amenable to the governor’s calls to update mental health care in the state. Scott said he could support an initiative to remove roadblocks to mental health care providers being able to point out to law enforcement people who pose a clear and immediate danger to society.

All three Western Slope lawmakers were less magnanimous in response to the governor’s calls for universal background checks on gun sales and possibly more stringent gun controls.

“Background checks are not the problem. Guns are not the problem,” Scott said. “People shooting them at other people is the problem.”

Wright said he was disturbed by what he considers an  “about face” on gun control” given previous statements from the governor on the issue.

“It is important that our reactions to tragedy not be driven by fear,” Wright said. “Fear can be a great motivator, but it can also be detrimental to the formulation of good public policy.”

King added: “I cannot be enthusiastic about any general proposal which lacks detail and potentially impacts the freedoms of our citizens as guaranteed by the Second Amendment.”