LEGISLATURE-RESUMES-05262020-KS-067

Rep. Kevin Van Winkle, right, can be seen through the glare of the plastic partition while talking with Rep. Patrick Neville as Colorado lawmakers return to the state Capitol on May 26, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. Legislators came back after a 10-week pause due to fears about the spread of the coronavirus.

When Colorado House Speaker Alec Garnett and state Senate President Leroy Garcia drop their gavels for the first time — on Jan. 13, as originally scheduled — the work to pick up the pieces will be much in mind, if delayed.

The General Assembly will deal with swearing in new members and other constitutional and statutory obligations, and then temporarily recess until Feb. 16 as lawmakers bend the calendar in favor of pandemic safety.

They've reserved the right to come back at any time before that if emergency matters require immediate legislative attention. 

Lawmakers are expected to talk about vaccines and the price of health care, stimulus and stop-gap measures, animal welfare and managing wolves, broadband internet and turning regulations and federal dollars into green energy.

That's just a start.

What Gov. Jared Polis, the master planner, wants in the new year is a $1.3 billion Colorado stimulus package. The budget proposal he's rolled out has $220 million for transportation and infrastructure projects, and an additional $140 million to incentivize business growth. Wishing and having are two different things, because the legislature decides who are the haves and have-nots. 

In the coming weeks, even with the delayed true start, hundreds of bills will be introduced, ranging from large and controversial to stipulated agreements, and resolutions to make an official statement from the chamber. Throw in committee meetings ranging from two minutes to all night. These are the ingredients of how the sausage gets made.

Last year's session was truncated and notable, suspended in March and called back in May. The "fast, free and friendly" session, as it was billed when lawmakers resumed under pandemic precaution, was a whole lot more.

They had 36 fewer days in the last session, and still heard more bills (651) than they did during the normal times with a booming economy the year before (598).

Lawmakers still made history: passing a sweeping police integrity bill, advanced family medical leave, passed an immunization records requirement, and steadied a budget rocked by the pandemic and shutdowns ordered by the governor.

At the end of the regular session then-House Majority Leader Alec Garnett, soon to be House Speaker, said, “Sometimes we make history in this building and sometimes history makes us.”

History isn't done with Colorado yet, and a major infusion of federal money and new policies from the Biden administration could have a huge impact on what needs to happen at the Capitol. Not getting that aid just means a different set of problems.

All the while, insiders tell Colorado politics, there's an eye toward "tweaking" the laws on health care and energy regulation that already have passed to make them better or, possibly, water them down.

Insiders predict an arbitration conversation to potentially roll back the hard-won construction defects laws, along with changes to consumer arbitration laws that could issue a stealth blow to the recovery.

Getting rid of "spring forward and fall back" Daylight Saving Time will come and go as it always does, the minority Republicans will run doomed message bills on guns, elections and abortion that fall on the altar of the Democratic majority in the House and Senate.

Dave Davia, executive vice president and CEO of the Rocky Mountain Mechanical Contractors Association, is one of the co-authors of a sweeping new plan called "Road to Recovery," put out by the Colorado Business Roundtable and the Common Sense Institute think tank.

The times call for stability, he said. The economy runs on confidence and certainty.

“That’s what our focus should be,” he told Colorado Politics. “That’s what the legislature’s focus should be. I don’t think we’re out of the COVID instability, and I think you factor in that with what’s going on at the national level with partisan change and maybe partisan change in the U.S. Senate, we have to start to get some certainty."

Colorado Politics senior political reporter

Joey Bunch is the senior correspondent and deputy managing editor of Colorado Politics. His 32-year career includes the last 16 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and he is a two-time finalist.

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