Politics loom large in first days of Legislature

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DENVER — Republican senators spent a lot of time last week complaining that politics were going on in the Colorado Legislature.

It started on Monday when Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs, complained that newly named Senate President Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, was attempting to hide away a bill to reverse last year’s new law requiring background checks on all gun purchases.

Turned out, however, that it was nothing more than a clerical error by nonpartisan staff that delayed the bill — by one day — from being introduced.

Cadman apologized to the full Senate for his tirade, sort of, saying there was no “malice” but still claimed that such a thing could happen.

Carroll said the whole “misunderstanding” could have been avoided if Cadman had only asked.

Then on Wednesday, several Republican senators held a press conference to complain that an over-proportionate number of their bills was being sent to a “kill committee,” known as the State, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee, a panel that GOP lawmakers created nearly 30 years ago to do away with Democratic measures they didn’t like.

Carroll said there was a perfectly good reason why that happened.

“Every bill will get a full, fair hearing, but we are not going to move the state backward and have no obligation to pass bad laws for Colorado,” she said.

Among the “bad laws” Carroll was referring to were Republican-sponsored measures to reverse a law approved last year to increase to 20 percent renewable energy standards for rural electric associations.

As expected, the Democratic-controlled committee killed it on a 3-2 party-line vote.

Other bills related to that issue still will be considered in the Legislature, including a measure by Rep. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction, to reduce that standard to 15 percent. Scott’s measure, HB1113, also would reduce the 30 percent standard on investor-owned utilities such as Xcel Energy, to 15 percent.

That measure was sent to the House Transportation & Energy Committee.

The Senate State Affairs Committee also killed a bill Wednesday that would prevent anyone who receives state benefits from accessing those benefits at automated teller machines in marijuana stores. The law already bars that in liquor stores and strip clubs.

A left-leaning blog, FreakOutNation, claims the bill, whose House sponsor is Rep. Jared Wright, R-Fruita, was based on a false news report that said the marijuana shops that opened on Jan. 1 were accepting food stamps and electronic benefit transfer cards, which can be used in ATM machines.

That report was published on the political satire website, National Report, the week before Sen. Vicki Marble, R-Littleton, introduced the bill. Marble, however, said she came up with the idea in August.

Senate Republicans said that the majority Democrats aren’t giving those and other bills fair hearings by sending them to the state affairs committee, which is made up of lawmakers who represent districts that are considered safe when it comes to their re-election bids.

Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, admitted that Republicans used to do the same thing when they were in charge, but said things should be different when Democrats have such a slim majority.

Democrats control the 35-member Senate 18-17.

“Yes, there’s a majority and a minority, but they’re divided by the finest line possible,” he said. “Shouldn’t we be giving both sides of the aisle equal attention to issues?”

Lundberg complained that the Democrats have sent half of their measures so far, 19 of 39 bills, to the kill committee.

The last time there was an 18-17 split in the Senate in 2004, a year when the GOP had the majority, 22 bills that were introduced by Democrats were sent to that kill committee. All but two of those measures died.



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So the moral of this story is politicians will be political.

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