It all comes down to this. Three days remain in the 2012 legislative session, and they promise to be as exciting and action-packed as any legislative finale in recent memory. Lots of unfinished business remains, and all eyes are on the House calendar as SB 2, the Civil Unions bill, makes its way to the House floor. Will this be the year for committed couples hoping to win legal recognition for their relationships? Will parliamentary procedures thwart the will of a majority of House members? Or will the clock run out without a final vote on SB 2? We'll know by Tuesday or Wednesday night.
CIVIL UNIONS MAKE DRAMATIC ADVANCE
The biggest news coming out of the Capitol for the last two weeks has been the forward march of progress with SB 2. The second and third reading debates of SB 2 on the Senate floor were some of the best we've seen all year. Passionate, respectful and sincere, supporters and opponents made their positions known.
Here's the video from my closing remarks at the end of the third reading debate. The day before I had paraphrased a famous speech from a Shakespeare play, and the next day opponents of SB 2 spent much of their time quoting scripture (click here for a sample). This context should help you appreciate the video clip below:
|Senator Pat Steadman on Civil Unions|
SB 2 is now pending before the House Appropriations Committee, its last stop before being referred to the floor for a vote of the full House. The Vice-Chair of the Appropriations Committee, Rep. Cheri Gerou (R-Evergreen) has publicly stated that she will vote in favor of the bill, something Rep. Mark Ferrandino and I have known for some time, as we both have served on the Joint Budget Committee with her and have discussed this issue on several occasions. The House Judiciary and Finance Committees each approved the bill last week with one Republican representative joining with the Democratic members to pass the bill. Rep. BJ Nikkel (R-Loveland) and Rep. Don Beezley (R-Broomfield) have expressed satisfaction with the votes they cast in favor of the bill, votes some might call courageous, but votes these legislators saw as doing what was right for their constituents and the people of Colorado. Either way, they've earned a lot of respect. And sadly, neither is running for reelection.
Here are some links to further news coverage of SB 2:
Senate Gives Initial Approval
Supporters Brace for Crucial Committee Hearing
Passage of Civil Unions Bill Could Go Down to Wire
MORE REASONS FOR 3 DAYS OF NAIL-BITING
SB 2 isn't the only source of drama in the last three days. Believe it or not, the School Finance Act is still pending in a Senate committee. HB 1345 was held up in the House as negotiations were taking place around the third grade literacy bill, HB 1238. Earlier last week, the literacy bill won unanimous approval in the Senate and was sent back to the House for concurrence with carefully negotiated amendments. With this significant accomplishment secure, the House finally sent the School Finance Act over to the Senate. We'll act on it in Senate Appropriations Committee on Monday. Due to the dictates of Amendment 23, the legislature must pass a School Finance Act each year.
Election law reforms will also be one of the big showdowns of the final three days. A lawsuit filed by Secretary of State Scott Gessler against Denver's Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson drew attention to Colorado's peculiar law about not sending mail ballots to registered voters who failed to vote in the previous general election, even those who had signed up to be on the list of permanent vote-by-mail status people who requested to always get a mail ballot. Secretary Gessler said he was trying to save money by not mailing, but Denver's Clerk says she's trying to honor voters' wishes and keep them enfranchised. Lest there be any doubt, I think she's right and he's wrong. HB 1267 is the bill trying to resolve the issue, but its chances aren't looking good. Several other election related bills are caught up in the crossfire.
The Lower North Fork Fire has become a lightning rod issue in the final weeks of the session. Gov. Hickenlooper has drawn praise for his responses to the Colorado Forest Service controlled burn that got out of control, but questions around the state's potential liability, sovereign immunity and damage caps have prompted the introduction of two bills in the House, one of which was just introduced last Thursday (HB 1361). And for the record, the other (HB 1352) was introduced on April 26, the day SB 2 passed the Senate.
Also in the race to the finish are some notable bills you may have heard about, including:
- HB 1286, incentives and promotion for film industry in Colorado
- HB 1317, new Parks & Wildlife Commission merger
- SB 46, school discipline & safety, reforms to "zero tolerance"
Finally, my prolific "to do" list still runneth over. A complete list of all the bills I am sponsoring this year and their current status can be found on my website by clicking here. Besides SB 2, several of my bills are still pending somewhere in the process:
- SB 105, collateral consequences of criminal convictions
- SCR 1, referendum to repeal unconstitutional provisions
- SB 104, consolidation & accountability for drug treatment funds
- SB 163, CCJJ study of drug sentencing reforms
- HB 1281, Medicaid provider payment reform pilot program
- HB 1273, child care tax credit for hospital-based facility schools
- HB 1223, earned time incentives for inmates
- HB 1315, reorganization and funding for Colorado Energy Office
- HB 1353, mitigate shortfalls in Tier 2 severance tax programs
- HB 1360, transfer $4 million to economic development commission
All told, I was the sponsor of 12 bills introduced in the Senate this year, and 21 bills introduced in the House. Of those, Gov. Hickenlooper has already signed 13 into law, and 4 more are now on his desk or soon about to land there. 14 of the bills I carried this year were initiated by the Joint Budget Committee. Two of the House bills I agreed to carry were defeated before they ever got over to the Senate, and one of my Senate bills was defeated in a Senate committee. In all likelihood, a few of my bills still pending in these last three days may never cross the finish line. We'll find out soon.
My final Town Hall meeting with Rep. Cherylin Peniston in Westminster is this coming Saturday. I'm doing some traveling and relaxing during May and early June, but will start filling the calendar with fundraisers and community events as the election campaign season gets going.
HD 35 / SD 31 Town Hall Meeting with Rep. Peniston & Sen. Steadman
Special Post-Session Wrap-Up on State Budget & Our Work in 2012
Saturday, May 12, 2012, 10:00 am
Westminster Grange Hall, 73rd & Osceola St., Westminster
STAY IN TOUCH
Thanks for reading my update, and stay tuned until next time. And if you haven't checked out my website, be sure to visit www.PatSteadman.com because we're adding new content all the time. Use the links below to follow me on Facebook and Twitter, and please feel free to drop me a line! It's easier to represent your interests when I know what's on your mind. Let's stay in touch!