Colorado set to adjourn 2022 legislature with business left unfinished

Lawmakers are attempting to pass some 200 bills left on the calendar before the 73rd Colorado General Assembly adjourns on Wednesday. Tuesday saw a flurry of activity as both chambers moved bills through their final passage.

 

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Despite being outnumbered in both the House and Senate, Republicans repeatedly drew out comments and requested bills to be read out loud at length this week, tactics that will likely continue on Wednesday.  

Procedural motions on the last two bills considered before adjournment on Monday took almost four hours.  

One of the bills moving through the legislature in the final days of session is Senate Bill 235, an appropriations bill requiring the Departments of Health Care Policy and Financing (HCPF) and Human Services to consult with county departments on developing best practices for public and medical assistance programs.

The bill is under consideration in the House after passing Third Reading in the Senate and would allocate $1,000,000 to contractors involved in the two-year assessment to program development. The legislation would develop a funding model over the next two years for those county programs that will inform the Joint Budget Committee on its 2025-26 fiscal year appropriation to assistance measures.

“It comes down to the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. And we have all this little pot of money, especially after Big Daddy federal government backfilled us,” said Representative Rod Bockenfeld (R – Watkins) who used all of his allotted time to debate the bill’s adoption.

“We got this big pot of money. We got to figure out a way to spend it because if you don’t spend it, guess what happens?” Bockenfield went on. “It goes back eventually to the taxpayers because it resets your spending base for the coming year. By golly, we’re going to figure out a way to spend it somewhere. We’ll just go do a study. 

“Let’s do a study in HCPF. Let’s hire a third party, charge him a million dollars. I’d rather do that than return another million dollars to hard-working taxpayers of the state of Colorado. That’s the logic that we have down here, folks. We’ve got to figure out how to spend money. Oh yes, we do. We’ve got to figure out ways to spend money because we can’t leave a dime on the table.”

Three other Republicans joined Bockenfeld in objecting to the bill prior to its adoption with no Democrats rebutting. 

The very next measure to be considered was Senate Bill 219, which outlines regulations for licensed dental therapists in the state. 

The bill was also read aloud in full at the request of Republicans who then introduced an amendment that would increase the number of required hours from 1,000 to 2,000 for licensed dental therapists to practice under the direct supervision of a dentist.

Six Republican representatives made statements in favor of that amendment, including Representative Matt Soper (R – Delta) who called for a Division (procedural head count) vote that was lost.

With some 200 bills on the House calendar on Wednesday, many Republican-sponsored bills, like SB 235, have bipartisan support but protracted delays could result in their failure to pass.

As of Thursday, 256 bills have passed, 127 of which have been signed by the governor. 112 bills have died so far. In comparison, lawmakers passed 508 of the 635 bills introduced in last year’s session. 

Tuesday’s House session extended into the late evening hours before adjourning. The constitutional clock on the current legislative session is expected to expire today at midnight local time.