DENVER (AP) — On the last day of the 2022 session, Colorado’s Democratic-led Legislature scrambled Wednesday to pass key bills to tackle the fentanyl crisis and promote more affordable housing after overcoming a filibuster effort. from House minority Republicans who introduced dozens of bills. limbo earlier this week.
Governor Jared Polis and his fellow Democrats pledged at the start of the four-month session to address rising crime and skyrocketing inflation, key issues highlighted by minority Republicans heading into this year’s midterm elections.
A series of crime-related measures and bills to reduce utility rates for residents and businesses passed the Statehouse earlier in the session. Lawmakers also prioritized bills to spend nearly $2.6 billion in federal pandemic aid in Colorado at risk of losing it.
But after achieving the historic passage earlier this session of a law enshrining abortion rights in state statute, expanding preschool education, and accelerating constitutionally mandated tax refunds to residents this year instead of next, efforts to increase penalties for users and dealers of the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl and other problems continued after the Republican minority delayed them earlier this week, reports The Colorado Sun.
A bill designed to promote and fund affordable housing for the workforce was still pending, one of several measures addressing the growing housing unaffordability in the state.
Lawmakers approved a bill to improve security for Colorado’s top election official and other state officials in the wake of growing threats against public servants. Democratic Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a debunker of fraudulent claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from President Donald Trump, has received thousands of threats since that election.
On Tuesday, lawmakers approved an election security bill, backed by the state’s county employees association, to toughen procedures and training for county employees with access to voting equipment. It was inspired by allegations that Mesa County Republican Clerk Tina Peters played a role in the theft of election data from that county’s voting machines.
Peters, this year’s candidate for secretary of state, denies the allegations. The bill was fiercely opposed by Republicans, who successfully struck down a provision, on free speech grounds, that would have barred election officials from spreading “disinformation” about the election.
The Sun reports that delaying tactics by House Republicans, including extensive reading of the legislation before debate, thwarted Democrats’ plans to speed passage of dozens of last-minute bills.
The impasse was resolved after a 20-hour session that ended Tuesday in which Democrats offered key concessions, including amending a bill to give collective bargaining rights, but not the right to strike, to thousands of county public employees. The Colorado Municipal League strongly opposed the bill, citing its potential cost to localities.
With fentanyl overdose deaths soaring across the country, Colorado lawmakers fought for weeks to craft a bill that would lower the possession threshold for felony charges, expand prosecutors’ ability to file those charges and provide certain defendants with treatment opportunities in prisons and upon release.
Lawmakers approved a bill Tuesday to pay $600 million of Colorado’s $1 billion debt to the federal government after its unemployment trust fund dried up during the coronavirus pandemic. Republicans tried unsuccessfully to pay the full amount, mindful of the increased cost to employers contributing to the fund and, as with other Democratic spending, warning that Colorado’s record budget of $36.4 billion for the next fiscal year is a unique bonanza fueled by federal funds. pandemic aid.
After the Boulder County wildfire in December that destroyed more than 1,000 homes and businesses, lawmakers passed several bills boosting the state’s firefighting resources and fire mitigation planning that, due to climate change and the great western drought, have become a year-round threat in Colorado.
Senate Democrats on Wednesday dropped a last-minute proposal, backed by Polis, to seek stricter building codes statewide for urban areas that abut wildlands to address that threat. Republicans, longtime advocates of local control by municipalities, opposed the surprise proposal that was added to the fire mitigation legislation.
An ambitious bill to give new authority to state regulators to tighten industry compliance with greenhouse gas emissions standards was dropped this week. But lawmakers passed other climate-related bills to tighten industry reporting of toxic air pollutant emissions, increase monitoring of methane emissions from oil and gas facilities and electrify fleets of school buses, among others.
This story has been updated to correct that lawmakers have passed a bill that tightens security around election equipment. Another bill was also passed to beef up security for Colorado’s top election official.
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