March 7, 2012

(Denver) – A bipartisan bill that saves Colorado taxpayers more than $164,000 a day was finally signed into law today, but not without some grandstanding in which House Speaker Frank McNulty ensured that he wrung every last possible dime out of Colorado taxpayers.

HB12-1005, sponsored by Rep. Dan Pabon (D-Denver) and Sen. Ted Harvey (R-Highlands Ranch), allows counties to invest public funds in securities that have less than two triple-A ratings. When the credit rating of the United States government was downgraded last year, counties and local governments were forced to put their public funds in accounts with lower interest rates.

Every day the bill didn’t pass cost Colorado taxpayers $164,383, according to an estimate by the nonpartisan Colorado County Treasurers Association.

Even so, the bill languished for a nearly month in the House because the Republican leadership failed to bring it to a floor vote. After the House finally moved the bill on Friday, the Senate acted as quickly as it could on the measure, moving it through committee, second- and third-reading votes in less than 48 hours, ending with final Senate passage this morning.

Recognizing the importance of timely action, Gov. John Hickenlooper, who was out of town, instructed Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia sign the bill this afternoon, as soon as it got to his desk.

But first, the bill required the pro forma signatures of Senate President Brandon Shaffer and Speaker McNulty.

Shaffer signed at 2:59PM. McNulty kept the lieutenant governor waiting till 5:31PM, long after financial managers in Colorado’s 64 counties could make any immediate changes to their portfolios.

“What part of this does McNulty not get?” Rep. Pabon asked. “There’s no opposition to this bill. It passed the House unanimously. It passed the Senate unanimously. The lieutenant governor went out of his way to make sure it would be signed right away. Speaker McNulty just thumbed his nose at the executive branch, the legislature and, most of all, the people of Colorado.”

The bill was approved unanimously by the House Finance Committee on Feb. 2 and was calendared for second reading on Feb. 8. The Republican House leadership, which controls the House calendar, let it gather dust until a second-reading vote on March 2 and final passage on a 65-0 vote on March 5.

Over the 26 days the bill was parked in the House, Colorado taxpayers lost $4,273,958. McNulty (R-Highlands Ranch) never gave a reason for the first delay or today’s 11th-hour stunt.

“I think the speaker owes us an explanation,” Rep. Pabon said.

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