DENVER (KDVR) — Colorado lawmakers are back to work at the state Capitol. Some legislators are sticking with their plans and working quickly to get things done, while others are urging their colleagues to slow down a bit.
Members of the House of Representatives got right to work after gaveling in, both parties seemingly ready to work through this weekend. That was not the case in the state Senate.
“Members, a few announcements to help clarify rules for our approach on rules during the special session,” House Speaker Julie McCluskie said during her opening speech on the House floor.
Representatives were able to gavel in, introduce eight bills and go to their respective committees.
“I hereby call to order the House of Representatives for the first, and hopefully last, extraordinary session of the 74th General Assembly of the state of Colorado,” McCluskie said from the well.
No Republican efforts passed out of committee Friday, while several items sponsored by Democrats passed their first committee.
One bill would add $30 million in funding from the general fund and repurposed state dollars to the state’s emergency rental assistance fund. With state and federal dollars already in the fund, the new legislation would boost the fund to $65 million.
Another measure that passed would increase the earned income tax credit in the state for this year.
There is also a bill that would assemble a task force that will examine the impacts of property tax changes statewide and administrative changes for the Department of Treasury.
Colorado Senate focuses on property tax relief
The Senate noticeably has fewer bills, but they started with the main reason for the special session: property tax relief.
“This bill, which is Senate Bill 23B-001, is probably the crux of the conversation that we will be having,” Senate President Steve Fenberg said during the bill’s committee hearing.
Senators took up the property tax relief measure that would use $200 million from the general fund to deliver property tax relief and prioritize backfilling fire and school districts.
Fenberg stressed the proposal will provide short-term relief without using surplus money normally refunded under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. While the measure strikes some similarities to proposals in Proposition HH, new TABOR refund dollars would not be used. There would be a small decrease in the residential property rate reduction, bringing it down to 6.7%.
The senior homestead exemption will not be included in the package. A separate, bipartisan measure that would have included that piece failed in committee.
The property tax relief bill passed out of committee without Republican support, but Senate Democrats do need help from their colleagues across the aisle. In order to begin floor work on special orders Friday night, Democrats need at least one Republican to vote with them to take up special orders.
Senate Democrats moved to go over both bills Friday night on the special orders calendar, but Republicans pushed back and voted against the move. Democrats then took a subsequent vote, as Senate rules allow, opening the door for work to continue on the floor after they said Republicans failed to ask for a roll call vote.
Both parties are accusing the other of playing political games.
“You’ve been asking for a special session for months,” Fenberg said of Republicans. “Now we’re here and you don’t want to take up and debate a bill that really isn’t controversial. It should, in my mind, be unanimous.”
“I urge a no vote on this second attempt at special order,” said Sen. Bob Gardner, an El Paso County Republican. “It’s not political theater. It is about the process. It is about giving things due consideration.”
Friday night, the bills on the earned income tax credit and the Department of Treasury were being heard on the floor.
Before 9:30 p.m., the Senate agreed to lay over the special orders until Saturday at 10 a.m. The House was still at work.
Lawmakers were hoping to finish this weekend.