Rocky uncritically quoted Suthers' conservative talking point about Democrats in legislature


In reporting on a Colorado House Republican Caucus gathering, the Rocky Mountain News quoted state Attorney General John Suthers' criticisms of Democrats in the state legislature without giving any Democratic response. Suthers echoed the conservative talking point about Democrats advancing supposedly frivolous legislation; the News did not list Democratic legislative achievements and did not mention any controversial Republican-sponsored bills.

A March 28 Rocky Mountain News article about appearances by former Colorado gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez (R) and state Attorney General John Suthers (R) at a Colorado House Republican Caucus luncheon uncritically quoted Suthers' criticism of Democrats for introducing supposedly frivolous legislation. The News provided no Democratic response to Suthers, who echoed the misleading conservative talking point that the Democratic-led assembly has achieved little so far. Furthermore, in reporting Suthers' comments about the "fundamental differences about how" Democrats and Republicans "view the role of government," the News failed to note examples of controversial Republican legislation, including a measure that would have implemented a statewide ban on almost all abortions.

As the News reported in the article by Alan Gathright, "Ex-gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez dropped by the Capitol on Tuesday to say that rumors of his political death have been greatly exaggerated":

Beauprez joked with House Republicans that after losing a lopsided election to Democrat Bill Ritter in November some people made him feel "a little like the corpse in the coffin."

"But we did not die. The sun did come up the next day ... and we're going to live to fight another day," Beauprez said, drawing applause and knowing laughter from the House Republicans Caucus.

The News further reported, "A GOP comeback was also the pep-talk theme for the caucus luncheon speaker, Attorney General John Suthers," who "lauded lawmakers for aggressively playing the 'loyal opposition' and urged them to keep showing voters how theirs is the party that's strong on free-market solutions, tough on crime and sensible about regulation":

"I was glad to see that you folks rallied and kids are safe to go burn themselves at tanning parlors," Suthers quipped, about Republicans killing a much-maligned bill that would have required minors to get parental approval to use tanning salons. He also blasted Democrats for pushing legislation to regulate art therapists and to allow parolees to vote.

"These are fundamental differences about how we view the role of government," he said.

Presumably Suthers was referring to Senate Bill 23, which would have "prohibit[ed] anyone under 18 from using a tanning salon unless they have a doctor's prescription," according to The Denver Post; and House Bill 1080, which proposed to regulate "art therapists," according to the Post. He also apparently was referring to Senate Bill 83, which would allow parolees to vote in elections.

In reporting Suthers' criticism of those Democratic-sponsored bills, however, the News failed to note the significant legislative accomplishments this session by the Democratic-led legislature on the bipartisan priority issues of education, health care, and renewable energy, among other areas. For example:

  • Gov. Bill Ritter (D) signed on February 5 Senate Bill 1, establishing a program allowing the state to buy discounted generic prescription drugs and sell them to lower-income and uninsured Coloradans.
  • Ritter signed on March 22 Senate Bill 97, which divides a $34 million tobacco settlement between the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and "rural health care, mental-health and drug-and-alcohol counseling for inmates, and immunization programs."
  • Ritter signed into law on February 6 the bipartisan House Bill 1048, "creat[ing] a more sophisticated way to show achievement than the current snapshot of scores on statewide assessment tests," according to The Denver Post.
  • Sen. Ron Tupa (D-Boulder) introduced Senate Bill 53, which, according to the Post, "sets a commission to create smooth transitions from preschool up to college."
  • The bipartisan House Bill 1256, which the Post reported "would allow in-state tuition at Colorado colleges for those who move to the state because of an economic-development initiative," passed the House on February 28.
  • Ritter signed on March 12 House Bill 1132, sponsored by Rep. Buffie McFadyen (D-Pueblo West), expanding water-court judges' jurisdiction by allowing rulings on large water transfers to take into account the environmental effects of the transfer on the quality of the water.
  • House Bill 1281, also sponsored by McFadyen and signed by Ritter on March 27, will "require[] large, investor-owned utilities to produce 20 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2010. Smaller cooperative utilities would have to produce 10 percent of their power from alternative sources by then," according to the Post.
  • Ritter also signed on March 27 Senate Bill 100, sponsored by Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald (D-Coal Creek) and McFadyen. As the News earlier reported, the measure "[r]equires large investor-owned utilities to provide a report to regulators every two years identifying renewable resource zones where new wind, solar and other renewable energy projects are hampered due to a shortage of transmission that would deliver electricity to populated areas."

Furthermore, despite reporting Suthers' comment about the "fundamental differences" between Democrats and Republicans, the News article did not feature any examples of controversial Republican legislation from the current legislative session. Among them:

  • Senate Bill 143, the "abortion ban" bill, sponsored by Sen. Scott Renfroe (R-Greeley) and Rep. Kent Lambert (R-Colorado Springs), would have made it a felony for doctors to perform abortions except to save the life of the mother. Like the rejected South Dakota ban it was modeled after, it contained no exceptions for victims of rape or incest.
  • Senate Bill 71, sponsored by Sen. Dave Schultheis (R-Colorado Springs) and Rep. Kevin Lundberg (R-Berthoud), would redefine the statutory definition of murder to make "killing a fetus in certain circumstances a class 1 felony." In committee, Democrats criticized the measure as "a bill against abortion."
  • Senate Bill 69, also sponsored by Renfroe, would have prohibited "law enforcement agencies from maintaining a statewide concealed handgun permit database."
  • Senate Bill 138, the so-called "religious bill of rights" for public schools, sponsored by Schultheis, would have allowed parents or students to "opt out" of a class if they objected to "the use of specific course material [in public schools] that is inconsistent with his or her religious beliefs." In addition, the bill originally contained a provision that would hold "individual members of local [school] boards personally liable for lawsuits brought under the act if the local board fails to adopt policies and procedures to implement the act or to ensure compliance with the act."
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