Colorado’s Senate Strategy, a Report from the United We Move Conference

Colorado’s Senate Strategy, a Report from the United We Move Conference

By Sue Ballenski, Fort Collins Chapter

The 117th Congress starts with all new legislation and some new faces on Jan. 3, 2021. CCL’s national strategy for 2021 is to focus on the Senate, specifically on working with Republicans to pass a Carbon Fee and Dividend (CF&D) bill. As of this writing in mid-December, control of the Senate hangs in limbo with the Georgia runoffs. But regardless of the runoff results, we know the margin of control will be narrow and our efforts to be bipartisan crucial. Dr. Danny Richter, CCL’s Vice President of Government Affairs, provides insight into our national focus in his December Lobby Training #2: Primary & Supporting Asks video on CCL Community.*

In Colorado, John Hickenlooper (D) will replace Cory Gardner (R) as the state’s junior Senator. Sen. Michael Bennet remains on since he was not up for re-election this year. The combination of Hickenlooper and Bennet promises an interesting mix as these two men have known each other for many years. Bennet worked on Hickenlooper’s 2003 election for Denver's mayor and continued as Mayor Hicklooper’s chief of staff. Hickenlooper later encouraged Bennet to take over as Superintendent of Denver Public Schools, an important step in Bennet’s public career. Politically, both men tend to be pragmatic centrists working bipartisanly in the past.

On climate, both Bennet and Hickenlooper recognize global warming as serious and have stated their commitments to taking action. In terms of carbon fee and dividend (CF&D), Bennet has been receptive, but has not taken any stated position. Hickenlooper, who was first introduced to the proposal by Former Secretary of State George Schultz, has embraced the concept and recognizes that a carbon fee is necessary to drive innovation. Potentially, Hickenlooper could encourage Bennet to take a stronger stand on CF&D, and together, they could be a force working together to build momentum for CF&D across both blue and red western states..

With two climate-action friendly Senators, our primary objectives can shift to: 1. ensuring that both Senators are firmly on board with CF&D, and 2. getting their help with identifying who would be useful in swaying Republican senators through endorsements or lobbying. This work would include getting their feedback on ways to influence Mitch McConnell, if he returns as Majority Leader.

During the December CCL Conference, Colorado CCL volunteers attended a breakout session and were asked how to accomplish these two primary objectives. Workgroups came up with an initial list of ideas for endorsements and approaches, summarized here:

  • Encourage relationship building with:
    • Senators and officials from Colorado River Compact states
    • Influential and independent-minded Senators like Murkowski, Collins and Romney
    • Any previous relationships from governorship (frequency builds relationships)
  • Gain support from businesses - endorsements and lobbying
    • Ski Areas
    • Developers
    • Insurance companies, particularly after the wildfire losses
    • Oil and gas, particularly those companies that have expressed support for CF&D
    • Agriculture and ranching, tying back to water
  • Identify supportive natural resource related entities - endorsements and lobbying
    • Water resource agencies and administrators; there may be an opportunity to create a multi-state coalition around climate change and water issues
    • Wildfire, also with the possibility of working with other Western states
  • Others - endorsements and lobbying
    • Homeowner associations, particularly those in urban-wildland interfaces
    • Emergency preparedness agencies and companies, particularly wildfire related
    • Coordinate with other state liaisons to look for opportunities
  • Ideas to lobby Mitch McConnell and other Republicans
    • Consider referencing “Seven Principles for Tax Reform” as it lines up with CCL’s approach
    • Emphasize:
      • The border adjustment, especially as the EU considers their border adjustment
      • The regulatory pause since this may resonate
      • The Armed Services

Take Action:

The state coordinators are working to turn these ideas into a set of chapter-level or cross-chapter initiatives. If any of these areas particularly appeal to you, you can contact Jim Hooton and/or David Kline directly.

In addition to this Senate strategy oriented toward influencing Republicans, Colorado CCL is also considering how best to continue our conversations with progressive organizations. Stay tuned for future articles on this topic.

*To access the “December Lobby Training #2: Primary & Supporting Asks” presented by Dr. Danny Richter, you’ll need to be logged in to CCL Community. (If you need help with that, click HERE.) Once logged-in, search for the title of the presentation.