Leg­isla­tive ses­sion has tough is­sues to con­sider

A cold political cli­mate could hin­der bill move­ments

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Joey Bunch

“To quote Shake­speare, this ses­sion could be much ado about noth­ing; there will be a lot of the­ater, but not a lot of leg­isla­tive ac­tion.”

Eric Son­der­mann, political an­a­lyst

State Rep. Justin Everett lugged three large bags up Grant Street from the state Capi­tol to­ward his leg­isla­tive of­fice in a nearby build­ing Tues­day morn­ing.

“Mov­ing in,” called out the com­bat­ive con­ser­va­tive from Jef­fer­son County who is likely to be at the cen­ter of par­ti­san skir­mishes in the cham­ber the next four months.

The Colorado Gen­eral As­sem­bly be­gins its 120-day ses­sion Wed­nes­day morn­ing, and leg­is­la­tors and reg­u­lar state­house spectators pre­dict a frigid political cli­mate be­tween Repub­li­cans and Democrats en­trenched in their po­si­tions on the ma­jor is­sues.

“To quote Shake­speare, this ses­sion could be much ado about noth­ing; there will be a lot of the­ater, but not a lot of leg­isla­tive ac­tion,” said Eric Son­der­mann, an in­de­pen­dent political an­a­lyst.

“It will be a very political year over­all, with the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion and a pitched bat­tle for con­trol of the leg­is­la­ture that will come down to a few seats. Both sides have big things they want, but as for a deal that can be struck, color me du­bi­ous.” Among big bat­tles ex­pected: • The state bud­get: Democrats con­tend that with­out ex­empt­ing a hos­pi­tal provider fee, ex­pected to top $750 mil­lion next year, from the Tax­payer’s Bill of Rights, the state will have to is­sue re­funds to tax­pay­ers and miss op­por­tu­ni­ties to spend money in­stead on trans­porta­tion and education or other ex­penses. Repub­li­cans want to pre­serve the in­tegrity of TA­BOR, and the GOP thinks the bud­get is big enough to cover an ad­e­quate side of state govern­ment.

• Trans­porta­tion: Repub­li­cans will try again to pass $3.5 bil­lion in bonds for roads and bridges. Democrats and the state Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion say they don’t have a stream of rev­enue to re­pay with­out cut­ting into other projects and ex­ist­ing main­te­nance.

• Con­struc­tion-de­fects li­a­bil­ity: Busi­ness in­ter­ests say law­suit abuse is dis­cour­ag­ing con­struc­tion of af­ford­able hous­ing by scar­ing off de­vel­op­ers. Democrats say pro­tect­ing home­own­ers’ rights is paramount.

• Guns, abor­tion rights, doc­tor-as­sisted sui­cide, oil and gas de­vel­op­ment and the min­i­mum wage: New bills are ex­pected to bring new ac­ri­mony to past par­ti­san and ide­o­log­i­cal fights.

San­dra Solin, a lob­by­ist for a busi­ness coali­tion called Fix Colorado Roads, is hope­ful law­mak­ers can find com­mon ground on roads and bridges.

“It’s dif­fi­cult to re­call an is­sue where all four cau­cuses have agreed on a prob­lem the way they do to­day about the grow­ing trans­porta­tion cri­sis,” she said. “It’s a prob­lem that is neg­a­tively im­pact­ing our econ­omy, our qual­ity of life and our safety.”

Theresa Mangino of Den­ver, a

home­less per­son who called her­self a “ci­ti­zen ac­tivist,” roamed the Capi­tol on Tues­day morn­ing to talk to leg­is­la­tors. She hopes they can put aside their dif­fer­ences on a likely bill to erad­i­cate Den­ver’s ur­ban camp­ing ban.

“They can play pol­i­tics, but dis­re­spect­ing hu­man life should rise above that,” she said. “I wish leg­is­la­tors had to leg­is­late like it was their judg­ment day. They can fool vot­ers, but they can’t fool God.”

Son­der­mann said the fights within the party could be more in­ter­est­ing than the fights be­tween the par­ties. Democrats have just a three­seat edge in the 65-mem­ber House. Repub­li­cans cling to a one-seat ma­jor­ity in the 35mem­ber Se­nate.

That means just one or two ob­sti­nate mem­bers could hold their party’s bills hostage to win con­ces­sions. Be­yond that, House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst and Se­nate Pres­i­dent Bill Cad­man are term-lim­ited af­ter this year, so other leg­is­la­tors will be look­ing to forge al­liances for them­selves and break those of their chal­lengers to move up in the lead­er­ship shuf­fle next year.

For the state­house staff that as­sists law­mak­ers from both par­ties, pol­i­tics is back­ground noise, not march­ing or­ders.

The 25-mem­ber staff in the House each year walks a line of non­par­ti­san­ship, said Mar­i­lyn Ed­dins, a chief House clerk since 2004 and a House staff mem­ber since 1983.

“When we come into this build­ing, we check our political opin­ions at the door,” she said.

Build­ing main­te­nance worker Chris Martinez pol­ishes the brass rail­ings in front of the Se­nate cham­bers. Martinez has worked at the Capi­tol for 11 years and says that he and his co-work­ers will be in­tro­duced on the Se­nate floor on open­ing day. Kathryn Scott Osler, The Den­ver Post

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