Colorado lawmakers killed a bunch of bills in their first days back to work after a more than two-month hiatus, and they expect the “bloodbath,” as many have called it, to continue.
Rep. Jonathan Singer, a Longmont Democrat, said the House Public Health Care and Human Services Committee alone killed more bills in two hours than probably in the last two years combined.
“These are gut-wrenching decisions,” he said. “There’s not going to be a lot of dry eyes at the end of this.”
Singer had a list of what he wanted to get done this year — his last in the House. But the pandemic had other plans. Lawmakers will likely deep-six more bills than they pass as they try to wrap up their 2020 session in just three weeks.
The legislature, which recessed in March because of the coronavirus pandemic, resumed Tuesday. It’s unclear if lawmakers will change their projected end date after shutting down the Capitol on Friday and Saturday amid Denver protests over the George Floyd killing.
Leaders say the bills that stay have to have essentially no financial cost, be urgent or related to the coronavirus, and not require a lot of time.
Bills that can move quickly are those that don’t have opposition or are already at least halfway through the process. Wednesday’s lengthy debate on remote voting, which Republicans opposed, painted a clear picture of why the Democratic majority can’t afford to schedule many controversial bills if they want to finish in three weeks.
That’s why some of Democrats’ biggest priorities are being sidelined, including gun safety bills, the public health insurance option, and paid family and medical leave.
Here are nine of the most high-profile bills that were killed in committees this week:
Bill: Safe2Tell, House Bill 1005
What it would do: The bill would make improvements to the state’s Safe2Tell tip line, which allows users to submit anonymous reports about issues related to safety of a student or someone else in the school system. The bill carried a $50,000 price tag to develop training materials, a process that would have a crisis operator answer crisis calls and an educational campaign about using and misusing the program. It came out of the interim school safety committee.
How it died: The bill was postponed indefinitely on a 3-2 vote.
Bill: Human body composting, House Bill 1060
What it would do: The bill would allow Coloradans to compost bodies after death as an alternative to burial or cremation.
How it died: The Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee postponed it indefinitely.
Bill: Colorectal cancer screening, House Bill 1103
What it would do: The bill would require insurers to provide colorectal cancer screenings for Coloradans who are 45 and older.
How it died: The Senate Committee on Health and Human Services postponed the bill indefinitely on a 5-0 vote.
Bill: Gay or transgender panic defense, House Bill 1307
What it would do: The bill would prohibit using a person’s actual or perceived gender, gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation as an argument in a criminal case, including if the victim made unwanted sexual advances. Sponsors opposed killing the bill because it is bipartisan and carries no cost. Though it’s hard to track how many times such a defense has been used, advocates said the bill was about sending a message.
How it died: The Senate Judiciary postponed the bill indefinitely on a 3-2 vote.
Bill: Phone use while driving, Senate Bill 65
What the bill would do: The bill would establish penalties for people who use their phones while driving except through a hands-free device.
How it died: The House Transportation and Local Government Committee postponed the bill on an 11-0 vote.
Bill: Citizenship status, Senate Bill 108
What the bill would do: The bill would prohibit landlords from asking tenants questions about citizenship status or disclosing that information to anyone.
How it died: The House Business Affairs and Labor Committee postponed the bill indefinitely on a 10-0 vote.
Bill: Gray wolves, Senate Bill 121
What the bill would do: The bill would create a management plan for reintroducing gray wolves in Colorado. Sponsor Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, introduced it because she felt a ballot measure seeking to reintroduce gray wolves failed to adequately address potential issues.
How it died: The Senate Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources postponed the bill indefinitely on a 4-0 vote.
Bill: RTD, Senate Bill 151
What the bill would do: The bill would add more oversight and transparency to the Regional Transportation District board and its management structure amid concerns about the transit system’s operation and dropping ridership.
How it died: The Senate Judiciary postponed the bill indefinitely on a 5-0 vote.
Bill: Behavior analysts in schools, House Bill 1058
What the bill would do: This was part Democrats’ mental health agenda along with expanded behavioral health training for educators — another bill that has been laid over.
How it died: The Senate Education Committee postponed the bill indefinitely on a 5-0 vote.
Also nixed were bills to expand multilingual ballot access, ban exotic animals in traveling circuses and require the use of plain language in hospital bills.
The two chambers have also laid over bills until lawmakers are long gone — known as letting them die on the calendar. That list includes bills to prohibit restaurants from using polystyrene to-go containers, limit single-use plastics and prohibit selling flavored nicotine products.
A number of draft bills that weren’t introduced before the break are unlikely to see the light of day this year, including one to automatically clear past marijuana convictions and another to limit driver’s license suspensions over unpaid court fines.
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