Redistricting knot stays unsolved

Senate Democrats, House GOP differ over Denver, Eastern Plains

DENVER – Republicans and Democrats moved further away from a compromise on new congressional districts Monday with only two days left to reach a deal.

House Republicans and Senate Democrats have rival plans, which they moved forward Monday. Any compromise would have to happen by Wednesday, when the Legislature adjourns for the year.

“We will miss a historic opportunity to draw these districts if we fail in these next 48 hours, and that is unfortunate,” said Speaker of the House Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch.

McNulty’s side introduced a new map Monday that moves further away from a compromise position by changing lines in the Denver suburbs. The new Republicans’ map would be better for Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora, and worse for Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Golden.

Meanwhile, Democrats pushed their map, which the Senate debated late Monday night.

The two maps are basically the same on the Western Slope, but they differ greatly in the Denver area and the Eastern Plains.

In the House, McNulty said that “circumstances beyond our control” have derailed the negotiations. He cast the problem as a House vs. Senate issue, rather than a partisan problem.

“It is unfortunate that we are where we are today, because it is not the fault of this House,” McNulty said.

But House Democrats voted against the GOP bill Monday.

Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, said Democrats insist on drawing competitive districts.

“The map introduced by House Republicans today again deliberately tweaks Colorado’s congressional lines in a way that will likely create five permanent congressional seats,” Heath said.

In other redistricting news, Rep. J. Paul Brown’s bill about courts’ role in drawing maps has died.

With House Bill 1276, Brown sought to tell judges to keep the Western Slope and Eastern Plains in their own districts, in case the courts end up deciding the issue.

But the House did not act on the bill Monday, and a bill needs at least three days to pass all its required votes.

Also Monday:

b Sen. Ellen Roberts finally got a vote on a symbolic resolution to protect local governments.

Roberts proposed Senate Joint Resolution 5 at the beginning of the year, in order to remind her colleagues not to pass burdensome legislation down to local governments. But it sat on the calendar all year before the majority Democrats – who control the agenda – finally brought it up Monday.

“I always heard in the House that things move slower in the Senate, so 89 days on the calendar is proof positive of that,” Roberts said.

Her resolution passed 34-0.

b Gov. John Hickenlooper signed House Bill 1146, which tries to crack down on homeowners who claim agricultural tax breaks they don’t deserve.

The new law allows counties to tax up to 2 acres around a home at the residential rate instead of the much cheaper agricultural rate. Some homeowners have qualified for the lower rate merely for letting a few animals graze on their land once a year.

jhanel@durango herald.com

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