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Lawmakers on both sides call General Assembly session unprecedented

May 9, 2013 Updated: May 9, 2013 at 7:20 pm

Colorado Springs lawmakers held three out of four leadership positions at the Capitol this session, and all agreed Thursday it was an unprecedented, epic and historic 120 days whether for better or worse.

'You saw some of the biggest debates, longest legislative fights that I've seen here in over a decade, ' said Senate Republican Leader Bill Cadman, of Colorado Springs.

Senate President John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, said the intense agenda was a symptom of need.

'Colorado faces a lot of problems, as does the country, as does the world, so we took those problems on, head on, and worked on common sense solutions, ' Morse said. 'There's no such thing as taking on too much when you're trying to make life better for working Colorado families. '

But Cadman said it was too much and said Democrats will face the consequences in the 2014 election.

'This was such an aggressive agenda that they believed they had to do it now so they could get a little bit of breathing room. So people would forget, ' Cadman said. 'Our job is to make sure they don't. '

A recall effort is underway for Morse in Senate District 11.

The recall is led by a group opposed to gun laws that Gov. John Hickenlooper signed into law earlier this session mandating universal background checks for gun sales and banning high-capacity magazines that hold more than 15 bullets. Morse will hit the term limit for his Senate seat in 2014.

Hickenlooper stood behind his fellow Democrats Thursday, saying he would sign the bills put on his desk, although saying there are a few - like renewable energy standards for rural electric companies - that he is still looking at.

'This is the first time where I think we checked every box, ' Hickenlooper said in a press conference laying out bills in comparison to his State of the State Address.

He admitted session was more partisan than it has been in years past, but he said 'so many of these bills were negotiated by both sides into a better form. '

It was a session dictated and directed by Democrats who held the power in the House, Senate and the Governor's Office. The party worked almost in lock-step to pass historic bills that have failed in the past, including civil unions and in-state tuition for undocumented students.

It was a session of uncharted territory too, with a new section of law added to state statutes devoted to regulating recreational marijuana.

It was also a session dominated by an extremely vocal Republican minority who spent hours debating bills to delay what they called a liberal agenda driven by special interests.

More than 440 bills passed through the House and Senate to land on the governor's desk for consideration.

Republicans say they sponsored only a third of those successful bills.

'When our issues or our ideas come to the table we were constantly shut down, ' House Minority Leader Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs, said.

Or shut-out, he said.

Waller said he was repeatedly denied requests to work on an elections bill that is expected to be signed by the governor Friday and would create same-day voter registration and deliver mail ballots to every registered voter.

Morse and House Speaker Mark Ferrandino said they did their best to include Republicans in the process and foster bipartisan bills.

'We work across the aisle as best we can. But, at the end of the day, 'no' is not an option and we've got to move forward, ' Morse said.

There were flashes of bipartisanship.

Cadman and Morse teamed up to pass a bill that increases the state's government immunity cap to ensure victims of state negligence can be better compensated.

Hickenlooper signed Senate Bill 23 in April.


Contact Megan Schrader


Twitter: @CapitolSchrader

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