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State senator’s pregnancy, imminent labor forcing Senate to look at rules update

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DENVER - The state Senate of Colorado has made history plenty of times over the years and it is about to do so again.

As far as historians know, Sen. Brittany Pettersen’s (D-Jefferson County) imminent labor is the first time a lawmaker will give birth during the General Assembly’s annual session, which starts Wednesday.

“I’m due in the three weeks,” Pettersen told FOX31 political reporter Joe St. George.

“We don’t have any rules about what to do when somebody is having a baby,” Pettersen said with a smile Tuesday.

As of now, extended absences are only allowed if a lawmaker has a chronic illness. If they aren’t classified as having one, statute says a lawmaker can’t get paid.

“My pay might get docked,” Pettersen said, adding, “We were told, 'You can’t bring your kids on the floor of the Senate.' And that’s really hard for working moms."

The good news for Pettersen is her party controls the chamber and leadership is working to fix issues.

“We want to make sure she is fully supported,” Sen. President Leroy Garcia said.

One rule that can’t be updated -- at least right away -- is the constitutional requirement that senators vote in person.

Majority Leader Steve Fenberg hinted some votes might be delayed.

“We will at times move a vote to a different day maybe when Sen. Pettersen can be there,” Fenberg said, adding, “We need to modernize this work place just like any other work place."

Pettersen said she initially expected to be out for two weeks but in talking with other mothers, she’ll likely need more time.

Pettersen said she will be on standby for any emergency votes.

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