Special session ends with three bills passed in three days
Colorado State Capitol
DENVER — State lawmakers brought a quick end to the special legislative session on Wednesday, adjourning in the shortest possible time having passed three bills in three days.
Gov. John Hickenlooper, who called the special session last week after several bills died as a result of House Republicans shutting down debate in order to avoid a vote on a measure to legalize same-sex civil unions, put a positive spin on the session’s limited accomplishments.
“It was important for the General Assembly to finish consideration of important bills that died last week when the House recessed to avoid voting on civil unions,” Hickenlooper said. “With the exception of civil unions, each of the bills we put on the special session call received an open debate and a final vote just like they deserved.”
On the first day of the special session, House Speaker Frank McNulty sent the civil unions measure to the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee knowing that the panel would kill the measure before it could reach the full House for an up or down vote.
Monday night, after three hours of debate, the panel did exactly that, angering supporters of LGBT rights but also galvanizing social conservatives who, on Tuesday, rallied around McNulty.
On Wednesday, as the special session came to a close, McNulty again called it a “waste of time and taxpayer money.”
Passing on Wednesday was a major water projects bill that both Democrats and Republicans agree will create jobs and protect water supplies for towns and agriculture through $61 million worth of loans and grants from the Colorado Water Conservation Board.
But, according to McNulty, that bill could have been salvaged before the end of the regular session last Wednesday and wasn’t, he contends, so that Hickenlooper would have political cover for calling the special session on civil unions because other work was also left unfinished.
“From our perspective, two of the bills that passed today could have been passed last Wednesday by being attached to other pieces of legislation,” McNulty said.
“The Governor clearly called this special session for his own purposes. There’s no doubt the Democrats are attempting to change the focus from a bad economic situation for the president, and in this case they decided to use same-sex marriage to do that.”
Another bill that passed Wednesday aims to shore up Colorado’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund by allowing employers to receive credit within their individual accounts for repayment of principal-related bonding amounts.
House Minority Leader Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, who sponsored the civil unions bill, said he didn’t want the controversial outcome on that bill to diminish the legislature’s other accomplishments — but he also didn’t shy away from a parting shot at McNulty.
“After Speaker McNulty blew up civil unions and 29 other bills at the end of the regular session, we came together in a bipartisan way to rescue the most important measures,” Ferrandino said.
“It took a special session to finish our cleanup of the Speaker’s mess, but we improved the state’s water infrastructure and saved employers money on unemployment insurance, and both of those bills will mean more jobs for Coloradans.”
A third bill that passed Wednesday changes registration procedures for Special Mobile Machinery Fleets to allow owners of 10 or more pieces of rental special mobile machinery to register their fleet once per year, cutting some so-called “red tape” for businesses.
In the Senate, lawmakers debated reviving a bill to create a “pot DUI” measure that died Tuesday because the lawmaker who would have cast the deciding vote in favor of the measure was out of the state and unable to vote; but after caucusing separately, Democrats and Republicans both came to the conclusion that it wasn’t worth extending the special session a fourth day to pass the measure.