The legislative session is now running downhill at a fast clip in these last two-and-half weeks. Closing day is May 7. The chambers are powering through readings, taking voice votes, and moving bills along — toward the governor’s desk or onto the scrap heap.
The needy and the government
Fort Collins Democratic Senator John Kefalas won another round of support for his Aid the Needy Disabled bill. It passed a second-round voice vote today in the Senate, where voting action paused only briefly for a short speech in support of the bill by fiscal conservative Loveland Republican Senator Kevin Lundberg.
“I don’t cast many votes for entitlement bills,” he said. “But I supported this bill in committee and I support it here now. Just as an explanation for my Republican colleagues on this side of the aisle: this is a bill that provides support for the most needy in our society, men and women who are unable to care for themselves. I do believe in a role for the government to provide a safety net for the most needy, That’s what this is. Full stop.”
Johnny Van kept the dogs on a leash
The Senate voted unanimously to honor John Vanderhoof, longtime Colorado statesman who was governor from 1973 to 1975. Governors Dick Lamm, Bill Ritter and John Hickenlooper delivered speeches. All three underlined Vanderhoof’s dedication to civility and cooperation, a lesson to remember in the coming closing days at the capitol, they said, when pressures mount to grandstand and win ideological points.
“Johnny Van was speaker of the house when I came here in 1967,” said Lamm. “He was coming in after tumultuous days here. There were fistfights on the floor of the House. One lawmaker brought a gun. Another crawled up into the gallery so he wouldn’t lose control of his bill… There was none of that when Johnny Van took over.”
This may be a first: Colorado lawmakers in the House voted by broad bi-partisan majority to increase penalties on oil-and-gas operators who violate state health-and-safety rules. The House voted 40 to 22 in favor of Louisville Democratic Rep. Mike Foote’s proposal to allow the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to raise maximum fines from $10,000 to $15,000 per day for companies that fall out of compliance. The point of the law is to deter noncompliance, bring operators within compliance standards quickly and punish operators exhibiting a pattern of violations.
Senator Jessie Ulibarri, celebrated Senate passage of his wage-theft bill. The bill now heads with momentum to the House. In 2011, according to a press release for the bill, 5,200 workers contacted Colorado’s Department of Labor with wage theft complaints. Employers violate minimum wage laws, for example, refuse to pay overtime, mischaracterize employment contracts to avoid paying full-time wages or granting benefits and they withhold tips.
“If workers go unpaid, they lose their dignity, and employers who undercut workers get an unfair advantage,” Ulibarri said in a release. “Wage theft is bad for business, and it’s bad for workers.”
The House unanimously passed two new restrictions on marijuana, sending the bills onto the Senate for review. A first bill seeks to outlaw edibles that mimic candy or other food products and that might see children munching them up unawares. Another bill aimed at limiting possession of high-octane marijuana oils. Current laws restricting possession to an ounce don’t discriminate between less-potent leafy pot and high-concentrate oil products.