Speaker of the House Rep. Julie McCluskie gives a speech during the Colorado for All Inauguration swearing-in ceremony for Gov. Jared Polis and Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023, in Denver, Colo.(Timothy Hurst/The Denver Gazette)

Democrats on Saturday invoked a little-used rule to limit debate, effectively shutting down a filibuster by Republicans, after two days in which lawmakers made little progress on two gun bills.

Under Rule 14, a simple majority vote can limit debate on a bill to no more than one hour from the adoption of the motion. It's a non-disputable motion — meaning it cannot be contested — and Democrats easily won the motion on a 39-19 mostly party-line vote, with one Democrat, Rep. Matthew Martinez, D-Monte Vista, voting with the Republicans. 

Speaker of the House Julie McCluskie, D-Dillon, called for Rule 14 to be involved for both Senate Bill 170, which seeks to expand the state's red flag law, and Senate Bill 168, which allows victims of gun violence to sue firearms manufacturers and dealers in civil court for damages.

The House on Friday spent nearly nine hours working on Senate Bill 168. The debate was put on hold late Friday night while caucus leaders negotiated for two hours but reached no agreement.

The House adjourned just after 11 p.m. without finishing its work on the bill. 

On Saturday, instead of resuming debate on SB 168, legislators moved on to Senate Bill 170, which adds district attorneys, teachers, school counselors, college faculty and health care professionals, including those in behavioral health, to the list of people who can seek an extreme risk protection order. 

Republicans launched into another filibuster that lasted more than nine hours, with no end in sight. At around 5:30 p.m., Democrats called for a recess, returning at 6 p.m. with the motion to limit debate.

Also on the calendar for Saturday: Senate Bill 169, which raises the age limit for purchasing firearms from 18 to 21. 

In a statement Saturday night, Democrats pointed to the last two days of filibusters by Republicans as obstruction and that they were done with it. 

“Coloradans are demanding action, not delay tactics," said the statement from McCluskie and House Majority Leader Monica Duran, D-Wheat Ridge. "An overwhelming majority of Colorado voters elected us to govern responsibly because we made clear commitments to prevent gun violence, make housing more affordable, protect access to abortion and reproductive care, invest in our students, and mitigate the devastating impacts of climate change - and we must deliver, they said.

“We take seriously the importance of our democratic process and of authentically engaging with the minority party on bills. At the end of the day, the smallest minority in 60 years does not have the right to stop votes on legislation that the vast majority of Coloradans desperately want to see passed. The rules of the institution exist to respect the will of the voters. To allow unprecedented obstruction at this scale from a small group of minority party members puts our democracy at risk, and we will not allow that. Too much is at stake.”

It's unknown when Rule 14 was last invoked; it's hinted at almost every year when filibusters are launched.

House Minority Leader Mike Lynch, R-Wellington, called the decision "an historic and appalling move by the majority to silence the voice of the minority."

The legislature is the place for honest and lengthy debate, Lynch added, "and this drastic step removes that ability for the minority to represent their constituents effectively."

Calling it a dark day for the democratic process, "it is not enough [for Democrats] to have the votes to pass legislation already; now, the tyranny of the majority is complete."

In a series of tweets shortly after the vote, House Republicans were predictably outraged.

House Democrats "have made the DRASTIC & HISTORIC move to leverage the HOUSE RULES to silence the @CoHouseGOP minority. Coloradans never intended for one party to gag and stifle the other; this a sad day for THE PEOPLE’S HOUSE! —> DON’T SILENCE THE MINORITY!"


At the House microphone, Rep. Mike Weissman, D-Aurora, the co-sponsor of SB 170, said he was committed to the work of passing the bill. "I understand that people in this chamber disagree with this policy," but the city has been impacted horribly by gun violence and that was his motivation for bringing the bill forward. Fellow co-sponsor Rep. Jennifer Bacon, D-Denver, also addressed the step taken to wrap up the debate.

"It's okay to support this bill. It's okay to believe we have to do something. It's okay to say...you have a right to own a gun and we will give you the highest level of deference" before taking it. "BUt nobody believes somebody in crisis needs to have a weapon...I can believe in the Second Amendment...I'm sorry it feels like a violation, but I do highly respect the boundaries of this nation's founding document."

She acknowledged the consternation over the rules change. 

The first to the microphone from the Republican side was Rep. Stephanie Luck, R-Penrose, who called for the 38-page bill to be read at length, "in honor of" the minority and the Senate Republicans who sued the Senate Democrats in 2019 over computer reading of bills at length. The Colorado Supreme Court ruled largely in favor of the Republicans, who said the computer reading of a bill of more than 1,200 pages was unintelligible and did not meet the spirit of the law. 

Rep. Jennifer Parenti, a co-sponsor of SB 168, hinted at the behind-the-scenes negotiations taking place over the last two days, and dissension within the ranks of House Republicans over strategy.

She said she was part of the negotiating team trying to come to agreement with House Republicans.

But "on multiple occasions, agreements were made and then broken. This didn't happen because we can't agree with Republicans, it's because they can't agree with themselves," she tweeted.

The last of the Republicans to speak on SB 170 was Rep. Ken DeGraaf, R-Colorado Springs. "I pray to God we are spared from the history we've set in motion," he said.

He was then gaveled silent by debate chair Rep. Chris deGruy Kennedy, D-Lakewood, who told him time had expired.

SB 170 passed on a preliminary voice vote.

Then lawmakers were on to wrap up work on SB 168. Republicans immediately asked for the bill, just 10 pages, to be read at length.

The measure passed, also on a preliminary voice vote, and the House wrapped up its business just before 11 p.m. 

The House is holding a rare Sunday session to vote on the two bills and work on the third, SB 169, which raises the age limit for purchasing firearms from 18 to 21. 

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