DENVER, CO - JANUARY 13: Rep. Dave Williams, right, on the House floor during the first legislative day of the 73rd General Assembly at the Colorado State Capitol on January 13, 2021 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo By Kathryn Scott)

Despite a lot of razzing, or maybe because of it, a bill by Rep. Dave Williams, R-Colorado Springs, on allowing a lieutenant governor nominee to run for another office won a 44-19 vote of approval from the House Monday

Williams told the House State, Civic, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee on March 18 that his bill, House Bill 1092, was about as non-controversial as could be.

The State Affairs Committee is known as the “kill” committee, where the majority party sends bills that it wants eliminated. Williams is a member of that committee, but his bills are no stranger there, and usually his bills don't make it out.

HB 1092 would allow the lieutenant governor candidate from a major party to simultaneously run for another elected office. In the bill’s original form, should the candidate win both offices, that person could make the choice of which office to accept. An amendment offered by Williams would mandate the person accept the lieutenant governor position.

Williams pointed out that there has been precedent for running for multiple offices at the federal level. Now-President Joe Biden simultaneously ran for Vice President in 2008 and for his Delaware Senate seat. He won both. Former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan of Wisconsin ran for Vice President in 2012 as well as for his House seat, allowed under Wisconsin election law. He retained his House seat after his running mate, Mitt Romney, lost the election.

In Colorado, once the gubernatorial nominee from a major party is chosen through the primary, that nominee has seven days to announce their choice for lieutenant governor. Williams explained that during the vetting process, qualified candidates who may be running for other offices withdraw.

For example, in 2018, State Treasurer Walker Stapleton picked Rep. Lang Sias of Arvada as his running mate on the gubernatorial ticket. Sias had to drop out of his run for re-election to his House seat when that happened.

“We should create more choice in the system. If there’s an ability for those [gubernatorial] nominees to look at a broader population, who are we to stand in their way?” Williams asked.

How hard would it be for someone to tell the party’s standard-bearer “No, I won’t run with you?” Williams called the process fundamentally unfair.

While the State Affairs committee greenlighted HB 1092 on a rare 8-3 vote, Williams wasn’t quite out of the woods. As it turns out, his bill didn’t address a side issue: campaign finance laws.

Under state law, a candidate cannot have more than one campaign finance committee, and Williams’ bill as introduced did not address that issue.

With regard to the governor and lieutenant governor nominee, the campaign finance committee is a joint one, although the lieutenant governor files as a candidate separately.

Williams came back with an amendment for the bill’s debate on March 26, with an amendment requiring the lieutenant governor candidate to close the campaign finance committee for the lesser office.

The bill won crucial support from Rep. Chris Kennedy, D-Lakewood, who chairs the state affairs committee, as well as Speaker of the House Alec Garnett, D-Denver.

“I’m as surprised as all of you to be speaking in favor of a Dave Williams bill,” Kennedy told the House, to laughter. He said he appreciated what Williams was trying to do, which Kennedy called a reasonable bill. Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver, jokingly called for a new State Affairs chair.

During a question from Rep. Kevin Van Winkle, R-Highlands Ranch, Williams walked behind him to stand to his left, on the Democrats’ side of the chamber.

That caused Rep. Kerry Tipper, D-Lakewood, who chaired the debate, to tell Williams he looked good on that side of the aisle. Williams responded with a quote ala Groucho Marx: “I don’t know if I want to be part of an organization that would have me as a member.”

HB 1092 now heads to the Senate, where it will be sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chris Holbert, R-Douglas County.

Mental health treatment

Rep. Andy Pico, R-Colorado Springs, would allow for auricular acudetox by professionals who are not licensed for mental health services.

If your first reaction is “what’s that?”: Welcome to the club.

Auricular acudetox is a form of acupuncture, administered in the ear, used to treat substance abuse and mental health issues.

Pico’s bill, House Bill 1146 would clarify a 2020 law to ensure that those performing auricular acudetox do not have to be licensed as mental health practitioner or as an addiction counselor.

HB 1146 won unanimous approval on March 18 from the House Public & Behavioral Health & Human Services Committee and unanimous support from the House on March 29. It now heads to the state Senate.

Three members of the El Paso County delegation scored a win in the House on March 29, with approval of House Bill 1112, which would allow local school boards to establish scholarship programs for their graduates.

HB 1112 is sponsored by Democratic Rep. Marc Snyder and Republican Rep. Mary Bradfield, and in the Senate by Democratic Sen. Pete Lee.

Under the bill, districts can use gifts, grants and donations to fund those scholarships, as well as property taxes from mill levy overrides. Priority should be given to low-income and/or first generation students, the bill states.

The House approved the bill on a 53 to 10 vote on March 29. It now heads to the House.

Election code cleanup

Sen. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs, won Senate approval for two bills in the past week, succeeding in getting an election-related bill passed where virtually all other Republican-sponsored measures have failed.

Senate Bill 160 is a cleanup of local election codes related to special districts. Those are the bodies that, for example, manage libraries, hospitals, fire protection, flood control, water and sewer management and cemeteries.

SB 160 allows those special districts to either establish separate districts for directors or consolidate into a single-district board, which would allow all voters to elect all directors.

The bill won unanimous approval from the Senate on March 30, and now heads to the House, where Snyder will be its sponsor.

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