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Colorado Senate squabbles continue as GOP bills sent to 'kill committee'

January 15, 2014 Updated: January 16, 2014 at 9:49 am
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photo - Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch
Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch 

DENVER - Calling Tuesday a "perfect storm" that led to a misunderstanding, Sen. Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs, backed away from his accusations that Democrats had intentionally delayed introduction of a bill to repeal background checks on all gun sales.

"I believe in my heart there is an absence of malice but that doesn't change the fact that it happened," Cadman said.

Senate President Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, pledged to work with Cadman and said the confusion was caused by two bills that were swapped in the order they were introduced.

But the growing conflict between Senate Democrats and Republicans carried into Wednesday afternoon. Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, said almost half of the bills introduced this session by Senate GOP members have been sent to the State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee. This vaguely defined committee is known affectionately - by whoever happens to be the majority party - as the "kill committee."

Lundberg and a number of Republicans with bills assigned to the place legislation goes to die held a news conference at the Capitol Wednesday calling for the committee to refer legislation to appropriate committees where it would have a more fair hearing.

In the course of the afternoon, the State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee killed three Republican bills: one that would have allowed Coloradans to purchase health insurance plans from other states; one that would have prevented federal benefits for the poor from being used at ATMs in pot shops and strip clubs; and one that would have repealed a controversial bill from last year that created renewable energy standards for rural electric cooperatives.

Carroll didn't back down from her decision to assign legislation bills to the State Affairs Committee.

"Every bill will get a full, fair hearing, but we are not going to move the state backward, and have no obligation to pass bad laws for Colorado," Carroll said in a prepared statement responding to concerns raised during the news conference.

It's a long held practice at the Capitol that certain committees are used by the majority party to kill legislation before it can arrive at the House or Senate floor.

But Democrats also hold a majority in every committee in the Capitol, so it's unlikely that unfavorable legislation would see the light of day anyway.

All three of the Republican bills in State Affairs were defeated in 3-2 votes with Republican Senators Bernie Herpin of Colorado Springs and Ted Harvey of Highlands Ranch supporting their colleagues bills.

Lundberg said that while it's a long-standing tradition for State Affairs to be used as a kill committee by those in power, he's never seen it used to the extent it has been this session.

Of 39 bills introduced by GOP members, 19 were assigned to State Affairs.

Three of those were postponed indefinitely on Wednesday - a procedure that ensures the legislation won't progress further.

Harvey asked his fellow committee members to approve Senate Bill 35, which would have repealed all of a bill from last session - Senate Bill 252 - that required large rural electric cooperatives to increase their renewable energy use to 20 percent of their portfolio by 2020.

SB 252 was at the center of a fairly large campaign last year to urge Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, to veto the bill. Hickenlooper signed the bill, but put together a task-force to study the impact the legislation might have and bring recommended changes to lawmakers in 2014.

Harvey said because that group failed to bring forward any changes, he is requesting the bill be repealed.

Several people testified Monday, including county commissioners from rural counties, that the mandate would increase energy costs for their constituents, and be harmful to local economies.

Investor owned electric companies in Colorado already are required to meet a 30 percent renewable energy standard by 2020. Municipal owned energy companies, such as Colorado Springs Utilities, are exempted from the mandates. Rural electric cooperatives were originally exempted as well.

Ironically, SB 252 was sent to the State Affairs committee in 2013. Harvey said that's because the bill's author, former Senate President John Morse, didn't think it would pass out of the more knowledgeable Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee.

Regardless of the reason, the bill passed out of the "kill committee," perhaps disproving the reputation of the place legislation goes to die.

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Contact Megan Schrader

719-286-0644

Twitter: @CapitolSchrader

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