STATE-ASSEMBLY-01132021-KS-222

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 13: Senators gather in their chambers on 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)

Democrats in the state Senate on Wednesday effectively killed a bill that sought to mandate new schools be set back a minimum of 2,000 feet from oil and gas facilities.

Senate Bill 21-114 from Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer, R-Brighton, last week cleared the chamber’s Transportation and Energy Committee on a 4-3 vote, with Democratic Sen. Rachel Zenzinger of Arvada joining the panel’s Republicans in backing the measure. The vote came after Kirkmeyer added an amendment that sought to address concerns raised by environmental advocates during the hearing.

But Sen. Faith Winter, a Westminster Democrat who chairs that panel, said ahead of the vote she believed Kirkmeyer still had work to do for engaging stakeholders representing school districts and their advocacy groups.

Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder, on Wednesday picked up on that thread, first offering a motion to move consideration of the bill away from the full Senate and back to the committee stage to be considered by the chamber’s education panel.

That move drew a chorus of criticism from Senate Republicans, including Sen. Bob Gardner, who noted Democrats vehemently opposed a similar move that earlier this month would have sent a different bill back to the committee level for reconsideration.

“Folks over here came down and said, ‘Why are you disrespecting the Health and Human Services committee? We did great work, your motion disrespects the work that we did and the full and complete hearing that we had,’” the Colorado Springs Republican said. “So let me ask you, why are you disrespecting the Transportation and Energy committee and all of the fine work they did and the full and complete hearing that day? Or were those arguments just cynical and self-serving?”

Fenberg countered that he was fine moving in a different direction.

“If we would like to take this bill to a vote, that’s fine let’s do that. I don’t think people are prepared to support this,” he said. “Do we want to give it more time to see if there is a path forward or do we want to just force it and have a conversation and probably have the bill not pass?"

After a brief break to allow GOP lawmakers to huddle, Fenberg then moved for the Senate to lay over consideration of the bill until mid-September at Kirkmeyer’s request. That move effectively guaranteed lawmakers will not take up the measure this legislative session. Kirkmeyer asked members to vote against it.

“This bill just says what is fair for new oil and gas facilities — that they have to be set back from public schools to protect our kids and educators — that schools, public schools should have the same responsibility, in fact they do have the same responsibility, to ensure the protection of our kids and our educators,” she said. “That's what this bill is about and it deserves to have a fair hearing on this floor.”

Despite Kirkmeyer’s pleas, the chamber approved the layover by voice vote.

Kirkmeyer made one final effort to overturn that decision, offering an amendment to the Senate Committee of the Whole’s report that would have shown her bill was approved. That amendment failed 19-16 on a near-party line vote with Zenzinger voting with the Republicans.

Kirkmeyer said in an interview after the vote she was disappointed, but not surprised, that her bill was killed. Still, she pledged to keep working on the issue and find ways to protect children and educators.

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