DENVER– Freshman Pueblo Senator George Rivera was baffled. He came to work at the capitol Monday to find a waiver on his desk signed by Senate President Morgan Carroll and Majority Leader Rollie Heath effectively giving him an extension to introduce his bill aimed at repealing the state’s gun-purchase background check law.
But Rivera said he hadn’t requested a late-bill waiver. He thought he filed the bill on deadline. During the tumultuous recall election last summer that landed him in office, he had promised voters angry over new gun laws that he would make this bill a priority. He held the bill in his hand walking around the capitol on the first day of the session last week, waving it proudly in the air and searching out possible co-sponsors. Now it looked like the bill wouldn’t even be introduced until mid-April. What had just happened? Rivera is a former police officer with no legislative experience, a fact he readily admits. So he asked his experienced Republican colleague, Minority Leader Bill Cadman.
“I asked Senator Cadman if this is normal,” said Rivera. “The more he looked into it, the more it appeared this was just a unilateral application of a late waiver on my bill, which there was no need for.”
Tuesday morning, Cadman took to the front of the Senate chamber and let loose on the Democratic leaders. He spoke about the promise of bipartisan cooperation that launched the session, a promise which now appeared already broken. “The majority party has a constitutional right to stop our bills. You do not have the right to silence those who sent us here,” he said.
But Cadman reportedly never asked Democratic leaders Carroll and Heath about why the bill was delayed before his floor speech.
Senate Majority spokesman Doug Schepman told the Independent that Cadman had it wrong from the beginning. The delay was just a way to guarantee the public would have time to weigh in.
“[T]he delayed bill form was signed to follow through on President Carroll’s commitment before the session to accommodate all public comment on high-testimony bills,” he wrote in an email. “This was a courtesy that allows for adequate planning for the committee hearing.”
Schepman added that Carroll and Cadman have spoken multiple times since giving friendly opening day speeches on working together this session and so it was odd that Cadman never raised the issue of Rivera’s bill with Carroll until making his speech on the Senate floor.
“It’s political theater,” said Schepman.
Cadman apologized Wednesday. He suggested in an extemporaneous floor speech that his reaction was the result of “a perfect storm” — an instinctive response to suspicions generated during last year’s heated debate over the gun laws.
“There was definitely something wrong in what happened that led us to yesterday. I believe in my heart there was an absence of malice… We have to work together to make sure what we saw with that situation and those bills never happens because the fact that we don’t know how to stop it yet means that it will happen…”
In a prepared statement yesterday, Carroll said the bill’s delay was well within Senate rules and that she hoped for greater and more open communication.
“I will rise above this outburst and continue to welcome Senator Cadman to talk with me anytime. My door is always open.”