"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."
Dickens' immortal opening lines from "A Tale of Two Cities" aptly suit Colorado's 2019 General Assembly session, too, with the line you most identify with depending on your party.
According to the Office of Legislative Legal Services, 598 bills were introduced in the 2019 session.
Around 77%, or 460, passed and headed to Gov. Jared Polis.
As of May 7, Polis had signed 150, so he's got a lot of work ahead of him for the next month. Under state law, he has 30 days to sign or veto any bill sent to him during the last 10 days of the session, with a final deadline of June 2.
Perhaps owing to a large first-year class of House lawmakers, that chamber introduced more bills in 2019, unusual in a year when the budget package, School Finance Act and supplemental bills all originated in the Senate.
The House brought forward 335 bills, the Senate 263.
The 2019 numbers pale in comparison to 2018, when the House and Senate ran 721 measures, the high-water mark for the past decade.
But, owing to the trifecta of Democrats controlling the House, Senate and governor's office, Polis has more bills awaiting his decision in 2019 than Gov. John Hickenlooper had in 2018 — 28 more, to be exact (460 for Polis compared to 432 in Hickenlooper's final session).
Hickenlooper vetoed nine bills in his final year, including three on marijuana that resurfaced in 2019:
- House Bill 1028, a bill that allows those on the autism spectrum to use medical marijuana, which Polis signed on April 2;
- House Bill 1090, which allows marijuana businesses to be publicly traded, which is awaiting Polis' signature; and
- House Bill 1230, which sets up on-site locations for people to consume marijuana, also awaiting Polis' signature.
Polis has yet to veto any bills from the 2019 session and has not said whether there are any he doesn't support.
The State, Veterans and Military Affairs committees in both the House and Senate remain the most active at killing bills, despite claims that those committees wouldn't be "kill" committees this year.
Legal Services reports that a total of 28 bills — 19 House bills and nine Senate measures — met their demise in a state affairs committees when those committees were the first assignment.
But one striking difference between past sessions and 2019 does stand out: In the previous four years, the state affairs committees were responsible for killing dozens of bills sent over by the Democratic-controlled House or Republican-controlled Senate.
That reached a high in 2018: 87 bills were killed in state affairs committees when they were the first committee in the second chamber. In 2019, it was just two, again likely owing to Democratic control of the General Assembly.
One other thing stands out in the Legal Services' write-up of 2019 bills: something called "no action."
A total of 24 bills died on the calendar for lack of final action, the most since 2014. That's 17 House bills and seven from the Senate. They included measures on rural economic development (SB67), the controversial immunization bill (HB1312), local rent control (SB225), and a bill requiring the Department of Personnel and Administration to set up a task force on prevailing wages for state contractors (HB1227).
And in case you're wondering: Republicans in the Senate asked 18 times for a bill or the previous day's journal to be read at length, beginning with the marathon on March 11 over the 2,023-page bill, primarily technical, that recodified Title 12 in state statutes (HB1172).
That led to a lawsuit and an injunction granted to Senate Republicans over how Senate Democrats set up the process for that reading, with five computer programs all reading different sections of the bill simultaneously. Republican Sen. Owen Hill of Colorado Springs made the most requests, with nine.
In the House, Republicans made 14 requests for bills to be read at length. As a joke that most Democrats didn't find funny, Democratic Rep. Don Valdez of La Jara also made one request on April 30 for a reading at length, on a bill reauthorizing the state's recreational marijuana program, at 220 pages.
Republican Rep. Steve Humphrey of Ault had the most requests in the House, at three.
House Republicans are now suing over several requests they claimed were improperly denied, tied to the red flag bill (House Bill 1177), although House Majority Leader Alec Garnett of Denver noted that the requests were suggestions and not proper motions.
The lawsuit also challenges the House Democrats' decision to have a bill read at length simultaneously by multiple staffers, rendering the reading more or less unintelligible.