The actions taken on the night before the last day of the second session of the 68th General Assembly on the floor of the Colorado House of Representatives were quite different to say the least. No one, including all of the staff and all of the lobbyists with years of institutional knowledge, had ever seen anything like it. As usual, in the waning days of the session, we were working through a big pile of bills, most that could have easily been calendared earlier in the session.
Any bill must get through second reading debate and approval on the day before the last day because second and third readings cannot take place on the same day. There were several bills that had come over from the Senate that were scheduled for second readings. Many of these bills had been heard and approved earlier that day by appropriate committees. These bills did not have time to be calendared and were put on a list of special orders.
One such bill was the bill authorizing civil unions in Colorado, SB 02. As is customary, the majority leader started the second readings calendar by moving to proceed with General Orders and a vote was taken which failed because the Democrats and two Republicans wanted to bypass general orders and go directly to special orders to debate the civil unions bill.
To me, it is only fair to start with the bills first in line. The same motion was made and failed about four times in a row. We had plenty of time to get through general orders and debate the special orders, and this procedural prank wasted valuable time. Frustrated, Speaker Frank McNulty, recessed the House and met with the minority leader privately. The House was then called back to order and the motion for general orders was passed unanimously.
With Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg in the chair of the Committee of the Whole, we made decent time on second readings and were within three bills of hearing my bill, SB 116, which outlaws the addictive designer drug bath salts, when one of the Democrats made an unprecedented procedural move and made a motion to rise and report. This motion means that all debate on second readings is halted and House votes on what has been done as the Committee of the Whole.
I have only seen this motion made by the majority leader or the assistant majority leader. It was another attempt by the Democrats to move into special orders. Chairman Sonnenberg immediately recessed the Committee of the Whole and nothing happened as time ran out and bills not heard on second readings died. So went civil unions and outlawing bath salts as well as the water projects bill that is so important to Southwest Colorado.
The last day was spent amending Senate bills to incorporate and pass bills that were lost the night before. The bath salt ban was put into another bill, and bath salts will thankfully be illegal in Colorado. The governor called a special session and civil unions and the water projects bill will be heard then. Stay tuned for the rest of the story.
J. Paul Brown represents House District 59 in Colorados General Assembly. The district encompasses San Juan, Archuleta and La Plata counties and parts of Montezuma County. Contact Rep. Brown at (303) 866-2914 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.