Civil unions battle to resume at Capitol
DENVER — It was supposed to be about jobs and the economy.
Instead, this year’s legislative session was about power plays, partisan battles and a lot of shouting.
And things aren’t expected to be much different when lawmakers return here Monday for a special session to discuss civil unions and a slew of other issues.
The 2012 legislative session that ended Wednesday did so amid much political posturing, particularly over the civil unions issue and what not passing it could mean for either party in the fall elections.
House Speaker Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, said this week’s special session may not be as openly contentious, but he’s not expecting a different outcome on granting same-sex couples the same rights and responsibilities married heterosexuals have.
“Coloradans are concerned about kitchen-table issues, and social issues like this don’t fall into that category,” he said. “Our strong record of what we were able to do on job creation and economic recovery is what we will be sharing with voters between now and Election Day. It is with that focus, I believe, we will earn a larger majority in November as we look to come back for the following legislative session.”
In the final days of the 120-day session, McNulty and House Minority Leader Mark Ferrandino, the Denver Democrat who sponsored the civil unions bill, had numerous heated exchanges over the issue.
Each used various parliamentary maneuvers in an effort to get the bill before all 65 House members, or not, as the case may be.
Ferrandino said he and Sen. Pat Steadman, the other Denver Democrat who sponsored the civil unions bill, likely would introduce the same measure in the special session, but this time starting in the House. Late last month, the bill easily cleared the Senate.
The two are the only openly gay men in the Legislature.
“He knows the majority of the members who support this in the House,” Ferrandino said of McNulty. “He should let it come to the full floor of the House and not stack a committee ... to kill the bill.”
Beyond the civil union issue, McNulty characterized the rest of the session as a highly successful one for Republicans, saying the Legislature approved most of its jobs and economic development agenda.
Among them are bills that restrict new government regulations on businesses, reduce government fees on businesses, and allow more regional tourism projects to be funded by the state.
The first two of those measures, however, were greatly watered down from their original versions and the last one was vetoed by Gov. John Hickenlooper.
A bill McNulty didn’t mention, one that was part of the Republican’s jobs agenda when the session began in January, was the so-called Colorado Timber Act.
That bill, introduced by Rep. Laura Bradford, R-Collbran, was designed to bar local governments from enacting ordinances that limited the use of pine beetle-damaged wood in construction projects.
It turned out, however, no local government has or was considering such a ban.
“While they talk about jobs, we hadn’t seen pretty much any jobs bills that actually did anything to create jobs,” Ferrandino said. “The rhetoric from the right is about jobs and the economy, and then they killed one of the most important jobs-and-the-economy bills over a social issue, I think that ... shows the true colors of the leadership of the Republican Party.”
Ferrandino was referring to a measure that would help save businesses money in their unemployment insurance, a bill that was one of 29 measures that the GOP leadership sacrificed in order to kill civil unions. Hickenlooper included that measure in his call for a special session.
Bills that did get through this year’s session include a measure protecting election ballots from public disclosure until all votes have been counted, a measure placing more oversight on governor-appointed public trustees, and a measure earmarking unused money from the senior property tax exemption for programs for the elderly.
Bills that failed include a measure allowing coal mines to sell captured methane and get credits under the state’s renewable energy standard, one reducing late fees on vehicle registrations, and a measure allowing video lottery terminal casinos in the state.