DENVER – Republicans shut down the Colorado Senate floor Monday morning as they read a 2,000-page bill in an effort to halt controversial legislation they say has been rushed through committees and to the governor’s desk.
The effort is the latest of several backlashes against Democratic-backed measures that have rankled Colorado’s conservatives and rural residents. Earlier this month, Montezuma County commissioners declared they wouldn’t enforce a “red flag” gun bill working its way through the Capitol, and petitions in other parts of the state have been circulated to oppose a measure that would have Colorado join the national popular vote interstate compact.
In November, Democrats claimed a trifecta of power in Denver with the election of Gov. Jared Polis and by securing majorities in the House and Senate. They have set the tone for a progressive session with bills to tackle high health care costs, gun control, expanding school sexual education, repealing the death penalty and expanding local control of oil and gas development.
But Senate Republicans are particularly protesting the past two weeks of legislation, which have seen bills repealing the death penalty, rewriting the state’s oil and gas regulations and mandating family leave all introduced and assigned to committees within days.
Senate Bill 181, a broad rewrite of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s mission that drew hundreds of oil and gas workers to the Capitol last week, has particularly rankled Republicans, said Sage Naumann, a spokesman for Republican senators.
“You will be hard-pressed to find any legislation that has the impact that does going through three committees in one week,” Naumann said Monday.
At 9 a.m., Senate staff began reading House Bill 1172 – a “recodification of title 12 of the Colorado Revised Statutes” – and by 2 p.m., gibberish filled the chamber as multiple computers were added to read the bill at 650 words a minute.
The goal of the reading is to simply slow the legislative process down, Naumann added. A spokesman for the Senate Democrats could not be immediately reached for comment.
With a Democratic majority to secure votes and no filibuster, Republicans have few tools of protest at their disposal – except for reading a bill, Naumann said.
Democrats in both chambers have repeatedly faced criticism this session for ignoring rural Colorado residents. In the House last month, Republican lawmakers delayed for hours a vote on a bill that expands comprehensive sex education, claiming that Democrats hadn’t given rural residents the chance to testify – although legislators had heard nearly 12 hours of testimony in committee.