The Colorado legislature adjourned on Wednesday, and the days following shine a light on what exactly happened in the 120 days that lawmakers quarreled under the gold dome in Denver.
Beyond passing a Colorado budget and settling on transportation funding, lawmakers also attempting to address several contentious issues in the final days of the regular 71st General Assembly such as:
· Oil and Gas Drilling Regulations
· Addressing the Incarcerated with Mental Illness
· Enticing more Teacher to Colorado
· Counties Ability to Levey Retail Marijuana Sales Taxes
· Public Schools and Gun Training
Less than 24 hours following the end of the regular legislative session, there were already rumors that that Governor Hickenlooper was considering calling a special session. A special session would deal with topics that the governor felt lawmakers didn’t address thoroughly enough, particularly transportation funding and the soon-to-be-shuttered Colorado Energy Office.
Before drilling down into the 71st Colorado General Assembly, what’s the likelihood the Governor John Hickenlooper will call lawmakers back to the Capitol?
While not probable, a Colorado special session is still possible… Governor Hickenlooper told reporters on Thursday that he’d take the weekend to consider whether or not to call back legislators in an effort to accomplish more on issues like transportation, funding the state energy office, health care policy and rural broadband internet — the legislative outcomes of which he was disappointed in.
Hickenlooper has called just one special session, in 2012 after the Republican-controlled House ran out the clock on a bill to establish civil unions on the next-to-last day of the regular session, taking down more than a dozen other bills with it. That special session – as reported by the Colorado Statesman - lasted just three days, the minimum required to pass legislation.
According to the reporting of ColoradoPolitics.com, special sessions are rare — and short if they do occur. They’re almost always less than a week.
In an editorial this week, the Colorado Springs Gazette advocated that the governor should call a special session but to address only one issue… Transportation.
“The game of chicken needs to stop. Call a special session to focus on highways, bridges, roads, and nothing more. If politicians can't do this, voters will do it for them,” Gazette Editorial Board.
More media resources addressing the possibility of special session:
· A special session for wind power?
· Hickenlooper delays decision on special session for transportation funding, other topics
· Hickenlooper not ready to decide whether or not to call special session
· Governor delays decision on special session
Legislative Wrap Up
The 2017 Colorado legislative session owes much of its success to a moderate bloc of lawmakers in the divided General Assembly who put aside suggestions that compromise is a dirty word in politics, according to the Denver Post.
In the state Senate, where Republicans hold a one-vote majority, the centrists — and sometimes even the GOP leaders — shifted the power dynamic to build coalitions with Democrats that influenced the success or failure of legislation. The party of “no” became the party of “maybe.”
A year after the 2016 session ended in gridlock, the two parties reached agreements to preserve the hospital provider fee program, generate $1.9 billion in new money for transportation projects, break the impasse on addressing the state’s construction-defects law, increase the local share of money for charter schools and spend $26.8 billion in the budget.
Arguably, the most covered point in the 2017 session was when three Republican lawmakers in the Senate Finance Committee defeated the session’s top priority — a sales-tax hike to support $3.5 billion in road and transit projects — even though it had the votes to win approval if it made it to a full vote.
Despite considering calling a special session, Governor Hickenlooper called the 71st General Assembly “the most productive” since he took office in 2011.
Read more from the press concerning the 2017 legislative session:
· The 10 biggest takeaways from the Colorado legislature
· Colorado Municipal League: ‘No damage was done’ in 2017 session’s final hours
· Legislative session ends with flurry of deals, near deals, and no deals
· Black Democratic Legislative Caucus hosts wrap-up on 2017 session
· Denver NORML Calls the 2017 Legislative Session a Win
· Advocate for small businesses gives Colorado General Assembly a grade of B- for session
· Five(ish) takeaways from the 2017 legislative session
· Colorado Senate Democratic leader learned significant lessons about compromise
· Republicans in Colorado Senate willing to negotiate at critical junctures
· Speaker Crisanta Duran on supporting undocumented immigrants, the I-70 reroute and finding money for roads
· House GOP leader Neville pivots from expectations to be a principled dealmaker
· Colorado schools were a hot topic at the state Capitol this year. Here’s what lawmakers did.
· A style change in the Colorado Republican Senate helped advance critical issues
· OPINION: The grand betrayal of Colorado Senate Republicans
Colorado courts made news this week with reporters focusing on decisions inside the court and threats from outside.
Pipe bomb suspect sends letter to judge - A man accused of stashing several pipe bombs in his downtown Denver hotel room sent a handwritten letter to a district court judge involved in his case. (Read more)
Lawmakers cheer judge’s ruling to free Rene Lima-Marin- But on Tuesday, 18th Judicial District Court Chief Judge Carlos Samour, Jr., ruled on a pending writ of habeas corpus and ordered Lima-Marin, 38, released after finding that he was being “unlawfully detained. … No other remedy will result in justice in this case,” Samour wrote in a lengthy decision. (Read more)
Judge denies new trial in Sir Mario Owens murder case - In a long-awaited order, Senior District Court Judge Christopher Munch concluded that the juror was not trying to deceive and that she performed her duties impartially. As a result, Munch ruled that Owens should not receive a new trial for the murder, which prosecutors later cited in a separate case to win a death sentence against Owens. (Read more)
Denver DA hosts meeting after not filing charges in officer-involved shooting - Face-to-face with the community, Denver District Attorney Beth McCann explained her decision Tuesday night not to charge officers who shot and killed a man seven months earlier. (Read more)
Flight attendants accuse Frontier Airlines of discrimination against mothers - Frontier Airlines got hit with another round of discrimination complaints today, as a pair of female flight attendants filed a federal complaint alleging the Denver-based carrier does not provide them adequate space to pump milk following pregnancy leave. (Read more)
Lawsuit filed in wake of Firestone explosion seeks damages - A lawsuit filed on Monday by homeowners seeks damages from natural gas producers and housing developers for the recent fatal home explosion in Firestone. (Read more)
Governor and Attorney General at Odds
Gov. John Hickenlooper is on a legal collision course with Republican Attorney General Cynthia Coffman over an appeal of a Colorado Court of Appeals decision emphasizing health and safety in permitting drilling.
The Democratic governor chose not to recommend an appeal in the case, while Coffman is moving forward with an appeal, despite the governor’s decision.
Without the appeal, according to ColoradoPolitics.com, state oil and gas regulators would take another look at a request from a group of teenagers backed by high-profile environmental groups to suspend fracking until drillers can prove it is safe.
The issue – as reported in the Denver Post - is whether the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission will be more protective of people and the environment at a time when industrial operations increasingly clash with Colorado’s booming Front Range communities. A recent fatal house explosion caused by a severed underground oil and gas industry pipeline has piqued concerns, and Hickenlooper has vowed public safety will be paramount. The court ruling would make the COGCC more protective.
The case arose in 2013 when attorneys for Xiuhtezcatl Martinez of Boulder and other teenagers asked the COGCC to consider a new rule. They proposed that Colorado not issue any new permits for oil and gas drilling “unless the best available science demonstrates, and an independent third-party organization confirms, that drilling can occur in a manner that does not cumulatively, with other actions, impair Colorado’s atmosphere, water, wildlife and land resources, does not adversely impact human health and does not contribute to climate change.”
Even left-leaning Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett said an appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court would be prudent. In a Facebook post he stated: “I am 100% pro-environment and as concerned about fracking as anyone. But as a lawyer who has practiced for 35 years and appeared many times in the Colorado Appellate courts, I think it is a mistake not to seek Colorado Supreme Court review of the court of appeals decision in the Martinez v. COGC[C] case and the pressure being put on the Governor in that regard is misdirected.”
Read more concerning media reports of the legal conflict between the Colorado governor and attorney general:
· Colorado attorney general appeals oil and gas case in defiance of Hickenlooper
· Attorney General Coffman appeals Martinez decision over Governor Hickenlooper’s objection
· Colorado’s governor said he didn’t want to appeal a controversial oil-and-gas ruling. The attorney general did it anyway
· Coffman challengers Salazar, Weiser call attorney general’s appeal decision ‘tone deaf,’ ‘misguided’
John Suthers on Shortlist for FBI Director
Despite an outpouring of media speculation this week, Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers won’t be the new director of the FBI after all. Local and national media had speculated that Suthers was among eight candidates interviewed for the director position over the weekend… That turned out not to be the case.
The mayor’s name was thrown into the mix last Friday when Fox News reported him as among 11 candidates to lead the FBI. He was recommended to the post by Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., who made a personal pitch last week to Vice President Mike Pence for the former prosecutor, state prisons chief and attorney general.
Suthers’ surprise candidacy immediately spurred a wave of support from Republicans across Colorado, as well as Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, according to ColoradoPoliticals.com.
In an editorial, this week from the Gazette, the paper gave a Suthers nod an enthusiastic thumbs-up saying, “When Trump chooses an appointee, we will keep our mayor or lose him for the sake of the country. Either way, Colorado and Colorado Springs will win in the long run.”
Read more concerning the Suthers FBI Director rumors as reported:
· No comment from Suthers amid reports he's no longer being considered for FBI Director
· Report: Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers not on list of possible candidates for FBI director
· Colorado’s John Suthers makes Donald Trump’s list of James Comey replacements
· Report: Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers on White House shortlist for FBI director
· A Coloradan reportedly is on the short list to replace FBI chief Comey
· Colorado Springs mayor John Suthers makes shortlist of Trump’s possible Comey replacements for FBI
· John Suthers characterized by Colorado leaders as the right guy, a tough guy and stooge in FBI consideration
During the final week of the session, Colorado lawmakers either visited or revisited several topics that received a moderate amount of media attention.
Firestone-area lawmakers plan 'energy summits' to address oil, gas pipeline safety
Erie officials seek probe into fracking setbacks after Firestone explosion
Why so negative? Colorado lawmakers seek to rebrand controversial tool that limits spending on schools
Unpaid school library fines in Colorado? “No transcripts for you!” is now a thing of the past
Chalkbeat taps its readership for legislative highlights on the ed beat
Gov. Hickenlooper considers Lima-Marin pardon request
Rene Lima-Marin’s release from prison hits snag amid federal immigration hold over residency status
Colorado inmate Lima-Marin’s release now on hold; immigration authorities want him
Jailed, mistakenly released, and jailed once again, a judge finally set him free. ICE was waiting
Colorado Jails and Prisons
Colorado will no longer lock up people who are suicidal or in mental health crisis
New law allows counties to consider retail pot sales tax
Transportation in Colorado called a glass half full, but lawmakers contributed only a sip
State legislators set to probe I-70 project through Denver as environmental impact gets more attention
LETTERS: Still work to be done in legislature; motorists have demands too
SIGNED: Revamped public-records mediation gets OK of full House
Coalition tracks Colorado lawmakers’ path toward more open government
ICYMI: Digital records bill tops open-government accomplishments of 2017 legislative session
These issues will have a profound impact on the Colorado and many areas of law. The Legislative Policy Team of the Colorado Bar Association is your resource and connection to the State Legislature. As we work on the issues and bills these coming 6 months we are working to improve Colorado Law and the practice of law. Please don’t hesitate to reach out should you have a question or comment on a bill, or issue under the dome.