May 10, 2022 - News

Democrats cut deal as Colorado legislative session grinds to an end

Illustration of several versions of the elephant from the Republican Party logo stampeding and kicking up dust.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Gridlock. Disarray. Frustration. Exhaustion.

Threat level: The final hours of lawmaking this week at the state Capitol look more like the TV show "Veep" than "The West Wing" as Republicans in the state House ask for bills to be read at length to delay the Democratic agenda (and even some bipartisan bills).

  • The House worked through the night into Tuesday morning, spending more than 20 hours on the floor before taking a break around 7am.

What's happening: The tactics are not supported by all Republicans, and Democrats rejected the strategy, saying slowing them down wouldn't deter them.

  • "If there are big priorities, we are not going to allow the 'Lord of Flies' caucus to prevent us from passing very important bills for Coloradans," Senate President Steve Fenberg said, referring to House GOP lawmakers.

Yes, but: Hours later, House Democratic Speaker Alec Garnett relented and made major concessions to kill or neuter eight bills, per the Denver Post, in order to move along a handful of less controversial measures.

  • The legislation cut in the deal includes a measure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provisions to allow government workers to unionize.

Be smart: Democrats control the entire lawmaking process in Colorado. But at the end of session, when the clock ticks toward adjournment, minority Republican lawmakers gain clout.

  • Many advocates in the lobby blame Democrats for waiting too long to introduce legislation and take votes.

Quick take: The image of governing through obstruction is not pretty, particularly when must-pass legislation to fund schools and deliver pandemic relief dollars hangs in the balance.

  • State Rep. Patrick Neville, who formerly served as the GOP caucus leader, said it's a bad look. "I don't know if we have an agenda," he told Axios Denver.

What to watch: Democratic leaders began floating the idea of a special session to finish their work if Republicans try to run out the clock ahead of Wednesday's midnight adjournment.

  • A special session costs taxpayers about $30,000 a day.
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