The Colorado House of Representatives is comprised of 65 representatives, 33 of which are Republicans and 32 of which are Democrats. The State Senate is comprised of 35 representatives, 15 of which are Republicans and 20 of which are Democrats. The Speaker of the House is Frank McNulty and the President of the Senate is Brandon Shaffer. The Colorado legislature convened on January 11, 2012 and adjured May 9, 2012, however issues such as placing limits on driving while under the influence of marijuana and civil unions were left unsettled requiring Governor John Hickenlooper to call a 2 day special session which convened May 14th.
The 2012 session opened with the Colorado House of Representatives passing HR 1003, a resolution that urges Congress to call a constitutional convention to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The resolution passed 33-31 on a party line vote, with one Republican and one Democrat crossing the aisle. HR 1003 began a trend in both the House and Senate of close party line votes.
SB 93, a bill which requires hospitals to disclose to patients any services that are not provided because of religious objections, narrowly passed the Senate on a party line vote of 20-14 and died in the House. In another attempt to pass legislation that would authroize religious expemptions, the Senate introduced SM 3 which would have authorized religious exemptions for employers who do not provide birth control in their insurance plans. The Senate failed to pass SM 3 on a 5-20 vote.
With HB 1130, the Colorado House addressed another controversial issue and voted to place penatlies on violent offenses against fetuses. The bill would authorize an individual to be charged with homicide and assult for commiting a crime against a pregnant woman that results in the death or injury of her fetus, in addition to the charges for the underlying crime against the woman. The bill passed the House on a party-line vote but died in the Senate. This bill follows a national trend seen in bills from states such as Alaska, New Hampshire, Tennessee, and Maine.
The legislature also addressed regulations on guns in HB 1048 and HB 1064. HB 1048 repeals state background checks for gun buyers. Representative Mark Waller, the bill's sponsor, said “Colorado is one of only a few states that has a state background check. We’re spending money unnecessarily on the co-program when the federal government already does it. In the first year it would save $1.5 million and every year after that around $2 million.” Whereas, Representative Rhonda Fields opposed the bill stating, “you eliminate the opportunity for our local law enforcement to determine if there’s any warrants out for someone’s arrest or if there are restraining orders out there.” The contentious issue passed in the house 37-28 and died in a Senate committee.
The Colorado House also took up the issue of voter identification requirements. HB 1111 would require all voters to present a valid identification card prior to voting. Proponents of the bill argue that requiring identification would decrease voter fraud, whereas opponents argue that it will disenfranchise voters. Eleven states currently have similar laws. As of 2012, 32 states have pending legislation to enact or strengthen voter ID laws. Colorado's HB 1111 passed the House 33-31 on a strict party-line vote but ultimately died in the Senate. SB 147 was an attempt to protect voting rights by prohibiting the distribution of false information relating to an election and voter eligibility.
The 2012 legislative session came to a end on May 9th leaving the issue of driving while under the influence of marijuana undecided. SB 117, which specifies that it is a misdemeanor to drive a vehicle with more than .5 nanograms of Delta 9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) per milliliter of blood, was passed in the Senate 18-17 during the regular session. However, the House did not address SB 117 prior to the adjournment of the session and as a result the House took up the issue of driving while under the influence of marijuana during the special session which convened on May 14th . The House passed HB 1005, which is an amended version of SB 117. HB 1005 died in a Senate committee and Colorado was unable to pass a law regarding driving while under the influence of marijuana.
In perhaps the most controversial bill this year, SB 2 attempted to authorize civil unions throughout the state. The bill passed the Senate 23-12 with 3 Republicans crossing the aisle to vote in favor of authorizing civil unions. Republican Senator Kevin Lundberg said “there are many, many citizens in Colorado from my district, from your district, that do not agree with changing the meaning of marriage in Colorado. And Senate Bill 2 does change the meaning of marriage.” Democratic Senator Morgan Carroll on the other hand said “if you do not want or believe in a civil union, don't get one, but, please, don't hold back everybody else from having full legal equality." The bill was brought up in the House during the special session as HB 1006, however it ultimately died in committee.
Sophia Luby is a student at Emory University majoring in Political Science and Spanish and a current intern with Project Vote Smart. For more information on internship opportunities with Project Vote Smart, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 1-888-VOTE-SMART.