After Colorado’s Republican House leadership, in an extraordinary procedural move, cut off debate on several pieces of legislation to prevent a vote on a civil unions bill this week, the state’s governor is set to announce a special session so that the legislation can still receive a floor vote.
Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper was expected to announce when he’ll call lawmakers back to Denver for a special lawmaking session to once again consider civil unions for same-sex couples. Hickenlooper said he’d call the special session after the civil unions measure failed in a late-night standoff in the Republican House.
With the end of the legislative session occurring on Wednesday, all legislation that needed a full House vote had to be placed on the agenda and debated Tuesday night.
The Republican House leadership was caught off-guard when a GOP-controlled House Judiciary Committee approved the bill last Thursday and had actively tried to put off a floor debate since then, hoping to run out the clock. They also knew that at least five Republicans supported the civil unions bill so if the legislation had moved to a vote it was expected to pass.
On Tuesday night lawmakers could not agree on which legislation to give priority as the GOP continued to filibuster the civil unions bill. Then, in what has been called an extraordinary move, Republican Speaker Frank McNulty said they had reached an impasse and adjourned the session, ending debate and preventing the bill–and almost 30 others–from coming to the floor.
Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, said the bill was heard late because the speaker pro tem, Rep. Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, was considering sponsoring the bill and asked him to wait until after the GOP state convention in mid-April. Priola said he wanted to make sure he didn’t have a primary opponent. Although Priola supports the bill, he did not sign on as the House sponsor, a role Ferrandino accepted.
“They have done this to themselves,” Steadman said. “They have brought dishonor and ill repute to the House. They ought to be ashamed.”
As mentioned above, the Tuesday night fracas took down around 30 other bills, among them a $20 million water projects bill, and legislation that would have set precise legal penalties for driving while under the influence of marijuana.
A poll released in the last few weeks found 75% of Colorado voters support recognizing gay couples with marriage (47%) or civil unions (28%). Only 22% said there should be no legal recognition for same-sex relationships.