No agreement on Colorado redistricting
DENVER — Legislators in the House and Senate spent hours Monday going through the motions of approving competing bills drawing new congressional districts as the hope of a compromise map both sides could agree on diminished with every passing moment.
Because the Colorado Legislature is in the final days of this year’s session, any bill redrawing those lines needed preliminary approval in either chamber by midnight. Without that, any proposed map would automatically die, which is what happened to the Democrats’ version of the map in the Senate.
Though neither the majority Republicans in the House nor the Democrats who control the Senate expect a compromise to come anytime soon, each said it was necessary to keep a bill alive just in case.
“We will have a live bill title in the hopes that something might break that allows us to draw Colorado’s seven districts,” House Speaker Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, said on the House floor. “We will miss an historic opportunity to draw these districts if we fail in these next 48 hours, and that is unfortunate.
“I am sorry that because of circumstances outside of this chamber, we’re not able to draw a map,” he added. “We will pass this map, we will send it to the Senate. We could have got there (reached a compromise), we should have got there. It is unfortunate we didn’t get there.”
Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, said the two sides haven’t come to an agreement because Republicans have continued to insisted on a map that gives their party an advantage in five of the state’s seven districts.
None of the GOP maps do what the Democrats believe is best, create as many competitive districts as possible to ensure that no one can be a lawmaker for life, he said.
Despite the lack of a compromise, lawmakers in the House are expected to give final approval to their version of the map today, and send it off to the Senate. In the Senate, meanwhile, lawmakers failed to vote on their measure by midnight, effectively killing it.
That happened, in part, because Republicans appeared to be filibustering the measure as a way of killing it. In the end, however, it was the Democrats who ended up doing that themselves.
Senate Majority Leader John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, said it was clear no bill would make it through the Legislature. The only other option left open to them was to try to create a good legislative record for the courts to consider, and file a lawsuit as quickly as possible in state court.
If a House map does reach the Senate, it still could be amended to mirror the Democrat’s map. If that happens, it likely will face a similar death, and will clear the way for a possible lawsuit in either federal or state court, depending on which suit is filed first.
Lawmakers still have until midnight Wednesday, the last day of the session, to reach a compromise. If they fail to do so, a special session could be convened or the matter would have to be settled in court.