Senate Republican leaders talk major issues left in final full week of session


Senate Republican leaders Monday reviewed the last major issues remaining with one last full week to go in Colorado’s 2018 legislative session: transportation, the state pension plan and the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. They also put a solid nail in the coffin for a bill that, as introduced, would jail teachers who go out on strike.

Senate President Kevin Grantham of Cañon City told reporters in the Monday briefing that he is still talking with the House on Senate Bill 1, the Republican caucus’s top priority bill for 2018. The measure is scheduled for its first hearing in the House on Wednesday.

Republican Sen. John Cooke of Greeley, one of two prime Senate sponsors of the transportation measure, said he was disappointed that the House put off the hearing on the bill until this week, leaving little time to come up with a compromise before the General Assembly adjourns on May 9.

Cooke raised concerns about proposed amendments coming from the House, such as dropping the amount of transportation funding to around $200 million, down from the $495 million already devoted to the measure through the state budget. Grantham also downplayed an effort to look for more funding outside of the existing state revenues already planned for the bill.

“We don’t need it,” he said. “We can commit (those existing state dollars) now and can do those projects now.”

He also noted that at the 111th day of the session, there are no proposals introduced to raise funds through a voter-approved measure.

Grantham also commented on a story broken by Colorado Politics last week, in which Gov. John Hickenlooper weighed in on a Senate compromise on a bill to reauthorize the state’s Division of Civil Rights and Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Hickenlooper told Colorado Politics in a statement that he disagreed with a Senate change to the commission’s appointment structure, which would hike the number of commissioners from seven to nine and allow legislative leaders to appoint four of those members.

“I’m glad the governor weighed in on the 108th day of the session,” Grantham grumbled. “If he has ideas, where has he been?”

Grantham added that the bill doesn’t have everything he wants, nor does it have everything Democrats want, but that he is still committed to a bipartisan solution from both the Hosue and Senate.

One Colorado’s Daniel Ramos told Colorado Politics Monday that while they appreciate the Senate’s efforts to improve the version that came out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, they remain concerned that the bill in its current form “will not adequately protect Coloradans who bring claims of discrimination and wish to seek justice,” and encourage the governor and General Assembly to keep at it. Several groups also called for the General Assembly to go back to the “clean” bill, that merely reauthorizes the commission and division for the next nine years, including the Colorado Plaintiff Employment Lawyers Association, Colorado Working Families and the Good Business Colorado coalition.

The Republican-sponsored measure to jail teachers who go out on strike will be heard Monday afternoon in the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee, but its chances of getting out of the Senate are poor, Grantham indicated.

As introduced, the bill would jail any teacher who goes out on strike in contravention of a court order. The Senate sponsor, Sen. Bob Gardner of Colorado Springs, told reporters he would amend the bill to put the onus on the teachers’ unions rather than on individual teachers.

The measure already has a “no” vote from Senate President Pro tem Jerry Sonnenberg, who is likely to be the crucial swing vote in the State Affairs committee. Sonnenberg’s wife is a teacher in the Sterling school district.

Grantham and Cooke also opined about a proposed “red flag” bill that will be introduced by House Democrats later Monday morning. A “red flag” law, as enacted in other states, allows law enforcement to confiscate firearms from those deemed mentally ill.

“I haven’t liked what I’ve seen so far,” Grantham said, and questioned how long an “emergency protective order,” which allows the confiscation, would be in place. He also raised concerns about due process.

Cooke, a former sheriff in Weld County, said that if the bill is aimed more at confiscating weapons than dealing with mental health issues, he won’t support it.

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