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Morse holds town hall conversation via telephone

July 22, 2013 Updated: July 22, 2013 at 9:20 pm

State Sen. John Morse spoke to callers Monday night for an hour answering questions about everything from seniors and veterans issues to gun control and police funding.

The call-in telephone conference was billed as a town hall meeting of sorts where Morse and State Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver, fielded questions from callers.

Morse is facing a recall election on Sept. 10 in which voters in Senate District 11 will decide whether he should be removed from office. More than 10,000 signatures from voters in his district, which includes Manitou Springs and part of Colorado Springs, were collected to force the election, in part because of Morse's support of gun legislation that mandates background checks on sales and bans magazines that hold more than 15 bullets.

"What a recall is a way to nullify a prior election," Morse said, answering whether he would resign his post in the face of the recall. "I'm not going to abrogate my responsibility to the people. I think this is really just about outside interest groups who are just trying to bully legislators."

Morse was president of the Senate during the 2013 legislative session, leading Democrats as they pursued an aggressive agenda that included gun bills, in-state college tuition for high school graduates who came to the country illegally and civil unions.

But Morse said the bill he was most proud of was Senate Bill 1, which extends the federal earned income tax credit to state income taxes, giving middle- and lower-income families more of a break on their state income taxes.

That bill, which Morse co-sponsored, doesn't take effect however, unless Congress passes the Marketplace Fairness Act, which would bring considerable revenue to the state from online sales.

During Monday night's phone-in, callers could listen to the conversation but questions were screened by staff members before they were put on the live line to talk with Morse.

The questions about gun laws included whether background checks were enforceable and whether the government would retain records that could be used to track gun owners.

Morse said law enforcement will rely mostly on voluntary compliance with the background check law, but said when a crime is committed, law enforcement will use records to track the gun to the seller for a possible violation of the law. It's a misdemeanor to sell a gun without a background check, but not a felony, Morse said. He also said background check records would still be held by licensed firearm dealers rather than by the government.

Jennifer Kerns, spokeswoman for the group attempting to oust Morse, said she wasn't able to listen to the town hall, but said she thinks it's telling that he didn't hold one in person.

"He really hasn't been seen publicly, other than a couple of fundraisers, since June, and I think that speaks volumes about his lack of popularity in the district," Kerns said.

Contact Megan Schrader


Twitter: @CapitolSchrader

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