GOP Injects Partisanship Into Interim Committee Process
(Oct. 15) – Today, Republican members of the Legislative Council Committee struck down multiple bills that would have helped rural Colorado, taking an unexpectedly partisan turn in a process that is usually relatively routine. The bills put forth by the interim committees were the result of months of bipartisan work.
The Legislative Council committee met to review legislation that was endorsed by bipartisan committees during the 2018 legislative interim. The committee was supposed to review whether the proposed bills fit within the scope of each committee’s charge, not on the policy or fiscal impacts. Regardless, multiple bills were killed, mostly on partisan lines.
“After months of deliberation and bipartisan work, it is frustrating that we were unable to move forward today,” said Senate Democratic Leader Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo. “While there will be opportunities to take action during session on these issues, we can’t afford to waste any time – particularly on opioids and substance abuse. It’s going to take years to make a dent in the crisis, and every day we don’t act means we lose more Coloradans to addiction.”
Legislators from the Opioid Committee pleaded with Legislative Council members to advance a comprehensive, bipartisan package addressing significant gaps in confronting this epidemic which disproportionately impacts rural Coloradans. But the Republicans voted down three of the five bipartisan bills on party lines despite bipartisan support from the Opioid Committee.
“We are facing the greatest public health crisis of our time, and it is essential that we take action to help our communities address this growing epidemic,” said Rep. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood, who chaired the committee. “It’s devastating to see Washington style politics taking place here, when we need to be focused on saving lives.”
“I’m extremely disappointed with the partisanship demonstrated in today’s committee hearing,” said Senator Matt Jones, D-Louisville. “Legislative Council was not tasked with judging the merits of these bills. We were simply tasked with voting on whether or not these bills fell under the purview of their respective committee. If those on the committee felt they needed more information, they were more than welcome to attend the meetings this summer.”
Republicans also killed two of the three bipartisan bills proposed by the “Alternatives to the Gallagher Amendment” Committee, which was formed to find ways to mitigate the negative impacts that the Gallagher Amendment is having, primarily in rural Colorado. Fire districts, school districts, and local governments across the state have raised the alarm about the dire situation they are in as a result of the amendment and the growth on the Front Range.
“What our committee heard across the state was that it’s fundamentally unfair that property values on the Front Range are negatively impacting rural fire protection and other critical services,” said Rep. Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo, who chaired the interim committee. “The issue isn’t going away; these communities will face real impacts if we can’t figure out a way to come together and solve this problem next session. It’s ridiculous that months of bipartisan work, solving real issues for Coloradans across the state, was overturned by partisan politics today.”
Republicans also killed a bipartisan bill from the Early Childhood and School Readiness committee to help early childhood educators; a bill from the Wildfire Matters committee to enhance fire service capacity with a Fire Commission; and four bills from the Mental Health Disorders in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice Systems committee.