DENVER The bipartisan effort to draw new congressional districts for Colorado collapsed Monday when Senate Democrats walked away.
The Democrats plan to introduce one or two bills this week that would map out new congressional districts, bypassing a bipartisan committee that stalemated last week.
Top Republicans and Democrats created the panel in December, hailing it as a truly bipartisan effort that could prove the two sides can work together. Senate President Brandon Shaffer, D-Longmont, did not completely shut the door on the group Monday.
If the committee can reconvene in a constructive way, Im open to doing that. But what Ive seen to this point makes me feel like the best way to proceed is to have a public hearing associated with a bill thats introduced, Shaffer said.
When the Democrats introduce a map, it will face public hearings just like any other bill.
Democrats revealed maps this month that enraged Republicans by splitting the Western Slope and Eastern Plains in half. In turn, Democrats charged that Republicans on the 10-person panel could not answer questions about their own GOP maps and had no authority to negotiate a compromise.
Speaker of the House Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, said he was disappointed in the Democrats withdrawal, even though he had not yet decided whether to leave his own members in the committee.
Republicans were ready to draw a brand new map in public last week, McNulty said.
When it comes down to it, our members were there. They were ready to draw a map. They pressed the Democrats on drawing a map in front of the public that night, and the Democrats were the ones who balked, McNulty said.
But the Democrats point-man on redistricting, Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, said Republicans were unfamiliar with their own maps and were taking orders from McNulty, who does not serve on the committee.
When you dont have authority, there is no place to start talking. That group had no authority to negotiate, Heath said.
Finger-pointing aside, Mondays move makes it likely that the competing maps will be introduced into the Legislature a GOP map in the Republican-controlled House, and a Democratic plan in the Senate.
If the Legislature cannot agree on a map by the time it adjourns May 11, it could return later this year in a special session. Also, a judge could end up drawing the new map, which is what happened the past three decades.
The Legislature is supposed to draw new districts every 10 years, after the Census.
Reach Joe Hanel at firstname.lastname@example.org.